Evans Incorporated

“Why is My Organization Not Winning, Displaying Confidence!?!” – Part 3: Turnarounds and How to Make Them Happen

Author: Emad Elias, MBA, PMP

This post is a part of a four part series on Confidence.

Part 1: What is this thing called confidence?

Part 2: What does losing look like?

We have all heard of turnaround stories such as those at Gillette, or IBM, or in the National Football League, the Philadelphia Eagles and most recently, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Perhaps the most amazing turnaround is story of Martha Stewart actually being incarcerated for a white collar crime and recently being named to the Board of her company again.  Certainly, the obvious things we’ve highlighted as patterns of winners were quite apparent in these turnarounds as these patterns are laced in the fabric of all success stories.  What is perhaps not so obvious is that there was not one formula that worked for all of them.  Quick fixes and lurches toward success were common on their way to making a choice of will rather than trying to exercise a theory or carry out an experiment.  What happens is that someone, or a small group of people, come to a conclusion that there is something of value to salvage and even restore.  This takes tremendous will and confidence.

We’ve described how a key component of establishing a habit of winning takes a conscious decision to make an investment and tie this investment to an expectation of better performance and results.  This decision entails a willingness to be wrong, to take irrational risks in many cases.  Turnarounds often begin with the shaping of a culture that provides an environment that supports the team such that fundamentals are re-emphasized and processes are examined across the enterprise, but not just within a division or in a silo.  Further, solution development is made the responsibility of all levels of the organization or team, not just the top managers.  The Circle of Trust and Confidence (depicted here) shows how trust is the cornerstone of building this kind of culture and how changing levels of talent, process change and communication progress in direct proportion.


Without being cliché about ideas such as empowerment and motivation theory, it cannot go without saying that top managers or sponsors must show their clear and visible sponsorship.  It must be clear that they fully trust those individuals at the middle layer of an organization.  In terms of work getting done with the most efficiency, middle managers must feel they can take the necessary initiative it takes to compensate for a pattern of “sickness” that has recently invaded the environment.  Asynchronous work must take place that is aligned with objectives that have been determined through collaboration and input from all.  If front line workers see that their ideas have not only been heard, but many of them are actually being implemented, respect will grow like antibodies that kill the “sickness” that previously occupied its host.  The result is that confidence breeds across teams and organizations.

So how long does all this take?  The answer is more than one cycle or season.  In the process improvement world, few organizations attain high levels of maturity.  The rule of thumb is that it takes 18-24 months just to reach a level where most processes move from being ad hoc to being standardized.  Many times, false victories are claimed as some short term objectives are met.  Just as likely a scenario is when teams and organizations invest in a “tiger team” of competent people to devote some portion of their time for a limited duration.  The result, many times, is a decline in performance as the impact of lower productivity due to the temporary loss of these normally high performers takes its toll.

To find out how to Groom a New Culture for Confidence read part 4.

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