“Reconstructing the company’s narrative”
Time has taught me that a Company is like a living organism, independent from its legal or financial entity or the market.
The Company has its own sense and therefore, when we have to understand it we must respect that entity. When it is time to Manage a Change we cannot do that without taking on the company’s history as something different or superior to the history of each of the persons who shape it.
It may be a view that is somewhat psychoanalytic or a view that is quite systematic, but it is the way that I have always approached a company when I have been assigned a new project: to attempt to reconstruct its narrative until I find a moment in the past when something was different from what was expected, when something went wrong, or was missing, or was superfluous, when something was done wrong or simply was not done.
This way of working is surprising to the managers who request a “Management of Change”, sometimes it is even disconcerting. When they see me coming in, after having signed the corresponding contract, they expect me to jump on the last Management Panel, the sales figures, that I arrange interviews with customers, Banks, suppliers; that is, that I should act (operate). That I should make things run and that they should be clear, concise and measurable.
And the truth is …. I do not do anything of the sort. The first thing that I do is ask questions.
When I start a project of changes, I do that in a way like a journalistic exercise, where I feel the need to talk with all the participants in the history of the company.
And when I say all, I include the shareholders, who are surprised that they are being questioned instead of being the ones who give orders and instructions, and I go to the oldest employees who are completely lost in the organization chart, those people whose voices have not been heard since many years because they have been forgotten in some corner of the structure.
And I ask simple things like: ‘how do you think that you all have arrived at this point? who is the boss?, what is your business?; what would you do, or not do if this business would be yours?’ …
And it is a magic moment when the silence is as eloquent as words.
To see how the high placed executives hide behind overflowing agendas to avoid getting questions instead of answers, as they believe is their right … To hear how the oldest employees remember strongly and with pride all that was done right in the past .. To see how those persons who treasure a fundamental part of the ‘know how’ get emotional but they do not even have a business card … To feel how those in mid-management answer ‘exactly what they think is expected from them’, wanting to avoid the questions and talk about something else …
If it would not be because it happened to me so many times I would think that it is something out of the ordinary but you can believe me when I say that I have seen it dozens of times and that cannot be an isolated occurrence.
At the end of this process I treasure on many sheets of graphic paper the lost story of a company that has problems. At the end of this process I feel that I have sufficient history in my notes to decide from what point the healing should start, the new history, the different road.
And while that collection of data is running, I never, ever cease to wonder: “how can it be that things that are so evident are so completely forgotten?” ‘how can it be that no one feels responsible for keeping, like a diligent parent the History that has woven the fabric of the life of a company, only because he does not have a place on the Balance sheet or on a Management Scorecard?
And always, always I end up thinking that there is no greater orphanhood that that of a Company without an owner!