“Perhaps we should also consider the other two?” continued the first speaker. The next answer followed a bit quicker: “Yes, we should.”
The above scene took place a few weeks ago. I had just taken three entrepreneurs through our one-day strategy workshop. At Roos & van de Werk we use a structured format that helps management-teams shape their strategy: A3SP. During the day we investigate present issues and opportunities (What are we going to do tomorrow?) as well as matters of long term importance such as a company’s core values, its BHAG, and its long term business goals. (Where are we headed and why?)
These one-day strategy workshops are a lot of fun. Especially for me since I just have to guide my clients through the process. Our clients get to do the hard work – the actual thinking and deciding – themselves. Regardless of how well prepared they are this can be a quite a task.
This particular session was not much different. These three business partners had started their own professional service company a few years ago. Their hard work, creativity and companionship had seen it flourish. Now they were ready to take the next leap: expand into Europe, take on the leading competitors in their industry and expand their line of services. We really had a lot of fun.
Afterwards we sat down for a beer and peanuts to evaluate the day’s results. Happy faces all around. “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your own work today?”, I asked. 8, 8.5 and another 8. A pretty good job.
However an uneasy silence fell over the table. I noticed two words at the bottom of my notes: “all aboard?” At the start of the workshop I had made a list of all things that bothered them, things that kept them awake at night, things that needed attention fast. I call it my purge-list. All of the items had been purged – except this one.
“How about this item”, I asked, “didn’t we forget anything?”
Yes, we did.
As it turned out all three of them already decided for themselves that three of their employees did not qualify to be a part of the future of their company. They had to be let go. But nobody had voiced that opinion yet.
Like many other tough decisions, firing people is never easy – even if all involved tacitly agree that it’s something that should be done. But it ain’t over untill the fat lady sings even if it may take a while.
That’s why we make purge-lists. And have a beer afterwards.