Top down change is by no means a new
concept in business. At its very basic premise top down change simply means
that a decision is being made from the top, embraced by top management, and
shall be implemented throughout the company beginning with management all the
way down the line. Pretty straight forward, huh?
There is another version of top down
change that is oftentimes not discussed in day-to-day business operations and
certainly not the most pleasant of concepts. This version of top down change is
removing and/or replacing your human equity all together, thus forcing change
that may scare an organization to its core. However, if managed correctly, the
outcome can be hugely successful.
I recently consulted with a client where
such a change was the last resort. A shakeup to the organization so-to-speak.
Jim, the ceo of a midsize manufacturing company, has seen little in the area of
sales and revenue growth for well over one year. The sales team has been walking
around with their heads held high, a bit of a chip on their shoulders, as if
everything is fine. Revenue is flat and even on a year-to-date basis, yet the
company goal is to grow nearly 25% over last year. Jim began to look at himself
as to the cause for being flat. Was he not leading the company the right way?
Was he not participating enough with the sales team? Was he not providing the
proper leadership to his sales manager, Neal?
Jim worked with his other management
team members and his outside advisors constantly trying to determine the “why’s” of what was happening from a sales standpoint. More and more the answers were
coming back that Neal, although a good sales person and seemingly good guy, was
not a good sales manager. And, his poor leadership qualities, and the lack of
mentoring he was providing his team was the root cause for the lack of sales.
He led his sales people to believe they were doing fine. He managed by numbers
with no emotion. Neal would often say “keep making your calls, make your
numbers, and everything will happen in time”. However, he did not teach (or
coach) his sales team to push down on the gas pedal, or to change up their
individual styles when making calls. Neal may have been a good sales person,
but not a good leader, and he allowed his sales team to become complacent. And,
the sales people didn’t seem to care.
Jim gave Neal and the sales team several
months of his own coaching starting with team huddles every two weeks, moving
to every week, and then twice per week. He shared stories from customers, stories
from other departments from within the company, all based around the need to
enhance overall sales performance. Days and weeks went by all the while Jim
growing more and more frustrated. The sales team was not responsive to what was
becoming clear: sales were now declining.
The day finally came in early-May when
Jim, his fellow executive team (not including Neal) and his advisors realized
they needed to make a change. This would not be a pleasant change in the
beginning, but if executed properly, a change that would turn the company back
toward positive sales and an increase in revenue. A top down change was needed.
Jim engaged a professional recruiting
agency with experience in his industry. He utilized this firm to select a new
sales manager and two new sales team members. He then made the top down change
a reality. In keeping with his planned two-a-week meetings with Neal and the
sales team, Jim walked into the conference room right on schedule like many
meetings prior, with one exception. His executive team was with him.
In a swift and deliberate move Jim
announced that Neal and his sales team were all done as of that moment. They
were fired. Jim explained that meeting after meeting with the sales team had
been documented. Performance charts were being tracked. Communication with
clients was being had by the executives and the clients were ready to buy but
were not being contacted by the sales rep. Each sales person, including Neal, had
failed not only the company, but themselves. It had been obvious for a long
time that they were the wrong team for this company. A top down change was
needed and a top down change was happening.
This approach to top down change can be and
is dramatic. It is a last resort toward making needed improvements. Now, nearly
sixty days later, Jim could not be more pleased with the new sales team. In his
words “they get it”. Client communication is improving, the new sales team
members are excited about their roles and the prospects ahead, and revenue has
already begun to increase.