An executive with whom we have had a long standing relationship telephoned, with some sense of urgency. There were several issues confronting him, and all during the busiest time of his business cycle. We were able to clear our desks of all urgent matters, postpone the important issues until we had a clear head and energy to focus, and went to his office as fast as we could.
And there it was: a list of challenges that would daunt any executive. And time was of the essence.
To start off, there was a major disruption in the distribution cycle. Cost overruns and shortages had resulted from lack of quality control on the packaging materials and special colours that were required. The introduction of e-commerce - especially the web portal - was just not working according to plan. There was still a huge percentage of clients out there - both the old, regular ones and the new, younger ones - that insisted on using the mail system.
And lastly, the COO was threatening to take many of the key personnel and set up a competitive service, based out of the south pole. Team spirit was lagging. We had a mess of problems, all of which had to be solved by Christmas Eve.
Well, we took a deep breath and observed this executive, whose reputation has been untarnished and whose accomplishments are renown. Then we noticed his eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! And we asked for more background.
Well, it seems there had been a special effort made by one of the distribution team, one named Rudolph, who had gone the extra mile - with subsequent fame. Other senior team members were upset! Do we reward individual effort? Or do we encourage team effort? A core issue is integrating new technology. Not all children had access, and there was still a variety of addresses and the usual mountain of letters. How do you standardise 'belief'? Meanwhile, elves were light in processing skills - many of them simply transferred from production with limited training.
There was a huge increase in good little girls and boys all over the world, necessitating more wrapping paper, but market research had only realised how many good people were out there a bit late. It seems that the year had started off a bit naughty, not nice. Projections were off! At that refreshing observation, we knew something was up, as our client exclaimed and shivered with delight. He had a broad face and a round little belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
But truly the biggest challenge was Mrs. Claus, who actually handled operations. She had been doing so much of the work and not getting any of the recognition for years....centuries. From organising the letters into orders, feeding the reindeer, making grog for the elves and negotiating with Liptovský Mikuláš for Santa's drink; Mrs. Claus needed to be rewarded.
We deliberated, we discussed, we argued. Traditional approaches are often hard to give up. Calling in the key elves and Mrs. Claus, we hammered out an action plan to get through the immediate crisis... but things will need to change in the future. Staff training, quality planning, and team recognition are imperative.
Would our client accept this performance challenge? Everyone waited with bated breath. But with a wink of his eye and a twist of his head, he soon gave us to know we had nothing to dread. He spoke not a word, but went straight to work...he sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew, like the down of a thistle. But I heard his exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
And we realised once again, it is all about leadership, recognition, teamwork, and belief.
May your year be full of peace and adventure, prosperity and fun, love and involvement. Thank you all for a challenging and rewarding year. And happy millennium. This third thousand years has got to be easier.
Mari Novak and Steven Kelly are partners at KNO Slovensko. Their column appears monthly. Send comments or questions to email@example.com.
25. Dec 2000 at 0:00 | Steven Kelly