03 December 2005

CEO Alignment Meeting

O1 has been experiencing a significant change ever since we conducted individual interviews of all the top team members. Two of the top team members dedicated themselves to quit smoking in the office to increase their effeciency and productivity at work. Mr. Yogi always told me how changes in the client environment suddenly take shape when the entire team has to prepare for an intensive retreat.

Our next step was to design the agenda of our 3 day offsite retreat. However, one crucial stepping stone needed to be covered which we did today. The top 3 Directors who are part owners of the company needed to be aligned so that they would come across as one face in front of their team when we go off to the retreat in a few days. They would all have to be in agreement about the company's goals for the next two years, their strategies, and the financials needed to support their vision. So, this meeting was called for after we shared the 50-page data report of what all the team members said on their interviews, without identifying who said what of course.

The Director alignment meeting lasted for a total of 6 hours over 2 sessions of 3 hours each. It is important to have one session in the evening and the next one immedietely the next day in the afternoon, so as to not lose the flow.

Session 1 had the following outcomes:

I. Basic principles presented by Mr. Yogi about the following:

1. The role of consultants as facilitators and not experts
2. The importance of the collection of ideas rather than individual opinions

II. Message to the Directors by Mr. Yogi:

1. The Directors of the company are in total control of the entire effort
2. "The need to change at the speed of imagination" in the fastest changing city in the history of mankind
3. Directors need to work out what they expect out of their team

III. Conversations between the Directors before embarking on the retreat:

1. Discussion about an opening presentation by the Directors to get this message out "we have tremendous potential if we act as one"
2. Questioning whether certain employees can keep up with the next level as the organizational performance goes up
3. The initial thought about keeping an Assistant to the Directors who can run the company under them i.e. a Manager of Operations
4. Brief outline of the role of the external consultant following the retreat
5. An open talk on where the Directors opinions differ
6. Set policy stating Directors convene before any major decision is made
7. Expectations of Directors themselves as a team
8. Company goals in terms of high priority

The major outcome was that of setting out the goals for the company, which the Directors would share with the group in the retreat. It was interesting to see the three of them interact like they have never done before as they admitted themselves. It is a simple enough concept, but coming together to discuss goals of the company can be a frightening prospect when you know that a lot has to change to be able to achieve them in the first place. It was a stormy session but extremely fruitful. Directors realized that all three of them had different theories and numbers on where the company's profitability stands the next year. They worked late as they had to get one number to be able to present it to the team at the retreat. At the end of our session, the Directors were given an assignment to lay down each of their job duties and responsibilities, to take care of overlaps and areas of confusion.

Session 2 of the CEO Alignment Meeting brought the Directors closer together, and created a self-belief at the thought of achieving goals for the Company.

Session 2 had the following outcomes:

I. Reactions to the Data Report:

The Directors' reaction to the 50-page report (it is not as long as it sounds) ranged from shocking to amusing. There were statements made by some team members that did not ring true for the Directors in charge. These statements uncovered the lack of clear communication downward, upward, and sideword throughout the organization. There were also some brilliant ideas suggested by the team at changing ways and methods of the key business processes. The Directors had a great attitude of being open to all the ideas in the report that they had never before come across. There were a lot of repetitions about major issues related to communication, clarity of roles, and job design that resonated with them. The data report brought out issues that were swept under the carpet for a while in the past.

II. Strategies for Company Goals:

The goals for the company were finalized, including main strategies to achieve them for next year. Goals included profitability, sales revenue, branding, customer success, and revamping the organization. These are very ingenious goals and a lot of innovative and creative strategies were offered by the Directors. This would serve as the starting point for building action plans at the retreat. Most importantly, the team will know that these goals come from a united Director team.

III. Job Responsibilities of the Directors:

Each Director noted down their job responsibilities and their professional committments to the growth of the company. A significant outcome of this exercise was to reduce overlap, and to be aware of what each Director could afford in terms of time and energy for actions of follow-up after the historic retreat. Moreover, the job responsibilities of Directors will be clarified and communicated to the team either during or as a follow-up to the 1st O1 Team Transformation Retreat.

So here is another advantage to an external facilitator, where the top team sometimes needs to be led to where they have to go. The belief that consultants are not therapists in the workplace will soon disappear as the new wave of Organization Development enters the future. As facilitators and not experts, Mr. Yogi truly believes that detailed measurement to find out if change really occured is not necessary if the change becomes so dramatic that the entire organization would know what made the real difference.


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