Light & Oxygen

I am a medically licensed Wilderness First Responder. Through my training I learned most bacteria, viruses and protozoa can be killed with light – UV light to be exact. One of the best ways to kill water-borne pathogens is to expose them to UV light for about a minute. I also learned that many of the most dreaded bacteria: staph, e. coli, listeria die when exposed to oxygen. Light and oxygen, two abundant and simple remedies for potentially awful infections.

As I thought about this, I realized the same is true for the “infections” that can make a business ill.

We’ve all been exposed to the following corporate conditions:

  • Poorly aligned or communicated strategies.

  • Programs and projects not tied to specific business strategies or objectives

  • Internal groups working at odds with each other

  • Compensation plans that don’t support the corporate strategy

  • Poor customer satisfaction scores

  • Poor employee satisfaction and high turnover

  • Failing initiatives

  • Cost overruns

  • Under-performing teams and programs

  • A culture not aligned to the business mission

The list goes on and on. But in most cases these infections can be cured. (1) Bringing these problems out into the open (exposing them to light), and (2) honestly and candidly talking about them (providing oxygen) can cure most business ills.

A Great Example of Light and Oxygen at Work...

Several years ago, I was working with a global systems integrator that was experiencing sluggish sales in one of their segments. They simply were not meeting their objectives. If you asked around the company, the sales organization blamed product management, product management blamed the pre-sales engineering team, pre-sales engineering blamed finance, and on and on it went. I was asked to look at the entire end-to-end sales process and try to get to the root causes of the problem – lackluster sales.

The first thing we did was to survey everyone in the organization that had something to do with the sales process and solicited their input as to the causes and existence of the problem. We compiled the data and then presented it back to all the participants and the senior executives responsible for the various functions. We brought the problem out into the open and got everyone to publicly admit we had a problem. We applied light.

The second thing we did was to conduct a multi-day facilitated workshop to review the identified issues and develop high-level approaches to address each problem area. We invited representatives from each of the organizations involved in the end-to-end sales process. We started with creating problem statements and then high-level solutions for each. We insisted that all participants speak openly, honestly and without repercussion. We applied oxygen.

The outcome was the formation of a multi-disciplinary project team with representatives from all affected groups and over the course of the next 6 months, we fixed all of the identified issues. Sales got back on track and the organization was able to meet its objectives. Light and oxygen.

Obviously, I’ve simplified the story for the purposes of this post but the approach and the lessons have proven successful time after time. Get the problem out into the daylight. Gather people who are smart and motivated to fix the problem. Get people communicating honestly and openly. Get executive support to address the root causes and then execute, execute, execute. And remember, light and oxygen can cure most pathogens especially business illnesses.

Twelve Oaks Advisors can help you. We’ve helped many CEO’s solve their tough business challenges. We bring objectivity, integrity, experience, expertise and a structured approach to identifying the root cause of your “infections” and help you develop SMART approaches to quickly get the results your business needs. Our process is simple. It starts with a 15 minute conversation. Together we decide what to do next.