A.  Situation:

The senior management team of the three year old company faced a challenging stage in their evolution.  The team had been very focused on getting the company started up – ensuring that it not only survived but became an established success.  This required a significant commitment from them in terms of their time, energy and approach to the job.

However, now that the company was established, a new set of challenges had become apparent.  The initial work of setting up new processes, finding initial customers, and recruiting new employees was now changing to focus on more maintenance, support and development. The organisation was moving into a different phase of its life cycle.

The team needed to work in different ways that did not necessarily tie in with their skills or interests.  For example:

  • the significant increase in the number of staff and customers was putting pressure on their management style
  • the rising speed and complexity of their work was increasing their workload
  • the change from being the ‘new kid on the block’ to an ‘established pace setter in the marketplace’ required a different self-image and different expectations.

Coping with these changes was also putting additional pressures on their mid and long term personal expectations.  It was clear to everyone in the management team that if nothing was done about this within the next couple of months, things would begin to unravel on them.

B.  Approach:

Pre-work:  Each senior manager was interviewed to gain an understanding of their personal journey, concerns and interests with the company/team, and their ideal outcomes from the work.  Based on the results of the interviews and general discussion, it was felt that a one and a half day workshop was required that would:

  • confirm their need for support – ie. a team/company in transition
  • help them to understand what it means to be an effective, sustainable and rewarding team.
  • help them to clarify and enhance their awareness of the issues, create space to consider their challenges and opportunities, and crystallise some ways forward.

It was essential that the company, and the management team, were able to make the  ongoing changes necessary for the organisation to continue to grow sustainably.

It was clear from the initial discussions with the team that there was a high degree of trust between the team members.  This provided an excellent basis from which to address each team member’s specific perspectives and interests.  With this in mind, they each presented a summary of their pre-work interview.  This helped build awareness, within the team, of each individual’s perspective on where the team and company was at, where it should be going and how they should be achieving these objectives.

The next step was to go deeper with what really interested each member about the team and the company.  From this work it became clear that while the team spent most of their time and effort on the operating company, it was actually the holding company (acting primarily as a shell) that captured their imagination and potentially represented their long term interests.

In order to address the holding company’s potential to the team, the proposed agenda was changed. Creative exercises and facilitated discussion were used to identify a vision, some working principles and time lines for the holding company.  This work was essential as it revealed the way forward for the team and provided a context for their work with the operating company. It was then a straight forward process to review the Mission Statement of the operating company and develop working principles, time lines and responsibilities.

The next stage of the workshop started the process of taking the above work out into the world with a focus on key external and internal relationships.  The first step was to review current theory on relationships and their importance to any living organisation.  The second step involved creative exercises and role play on ‘how relationships work’.  Finally, the group focused on the operating company’s most important internal and external relationships.

While working with the company’s key accounts:

  • priorities were reviewed
  • responsibilities were confirmed and assigned
  • necessary marketing was clarified
  • performance reporting was reviewed and updated.

While clarifying the internal relationships:

  • key lines of communication were identified and prioritised
  • responsibilities were reviewed and adjusted.

C.  Results

The workshop provided the groundwork for the management team to begin the process of managing their evolution. They were now prepared to move from a start-up company that was working hard to establish itself, to a sustainable, effective and rewarding ‘living’ team that valued and acted on each team member’s interests and contributions.

The workshop also addressed the essential nature of relationships in a living system.  This has increased and enhanced the team’s awareness of their key internal and external relationships, while supporting and developing them in line with the team’s and company’s vision and working principles.

Of course, this work is ongoing and the senior management team is aware that they must continue to develop it in their day-to-day work.

‘I, ( we ) really appreciate the time you spent with us, and I know it’s going to help’. Director, Business Development
‘We need to take the time to have these extraordinary conversations more often.  We get so busy that we often lose sight of our vision, principles, goals etc.  We have sent out our Mission statement and Company Principles outline to our larger team. We have asked for feedback from everyone..so we shall see how it goes!!   Hope you made it back ok and thanks again for a job well done’.  Director, Sales
‘It all looks very good and I’m sure will benefit us a lot!  I really do appreciate the time and effort that you put in on our behalf, I think that we all enjoyed the exercises as well.  You can count on me for a glowing recommendation should you need it’.  President & General Manager


Six months after the workshop:

The opportunity of the Holding Company has been elevated significantly:

  • there is now seed money flowing into it
  • some specific opportunities are now being actively pursued
  • the team will meet in the next two months to discuss next steps.

Operating Company:

  • some responsibilities have been realigned which has reduced travel
  • the President is spending less time in day-to-day responsibilities – looking more at larger issues and opportunities in the Holding Company
  • the company continues to grow and attract excellent customers.

Key external relationships:

  • based on the prioritisation of key accounts, responsibilities have been realigned – this is ongoing.

Internal relationships:

  • a monthly conference call has been set up to include all operating company staff.  There is a different theme each month that addresses an aspect of the company vision and goals.  Part of the process is to confirm individual interest and commitment.
  • There is an active focus on ensuring that the company vision and principles are in line with our people’s interests and goals.