August 2013

Strategic Clarity for Fast-Changing Times

by Juan Riboldi

Case Summary

Situation: Lack of strategic focus resulted in declining revenues and morale

What We Did: Clarified the company’s strategic vision to focus all employees on the company’s goal.

Outcomes: Achieved 20% revenue growth in six months to end with a record year, and attain the company’s vision in 18 months.

Years of intense innovation and aggressive sales had led this technology startup rise above established competitors to become the industry leader in the office equipment automation industry. No sooner they attained a dominant position, however, they found themselves trying to pursue too many initiatives all at once. In such target-rich environment, people lost their focus. As results flattened, morale began to decline.

Sales had become complacent despite missing goals. Engineering energies were diffused into multiple projects and promises. Customer Support felt disengaged and underappreciated. Politics flourished among peers vying for positions. It was no longer the company it once was, and Jim, the CEO, was well aware of the situation.

The entire management team decided to attend Ascent Advisor’s Executive Briefing. As they felt a need for change, their entire management came to the event. At a critical point in the seminar, Ascent Advisor posed to Jim the question: “What is your company’s strategy?”

Jim, known by his peers for his strategic savvy, deferred the answer to his management team. We challenged the managers then to state, in a few words, their company’s strategy. As they attempted to describe their company’s strategy, it became obvious that even among leaders they could not answer this question consistently.

The managers of his company began stating several high-priority projects. Ascent Advisor captured their answers on a flipchart, as the list of strategic initiatives went on and on. After filling three full flipcharts with over 30 strategic priorities, the point became painfully obvious—they lacked focus.

Jim engaged Ascent Advisor to refocus the company back into an aggressive growing mode. Jim set a record high revenue goal that at the times seemed unattainable. Key players were clearly not onboard with the stated goal. Moreover, they distrusted the motives behind the goal.

To address low trust, Ascent Advisor helped each department create a compelling vision. Groups of employees engaged in creative collaboration to envision the company’s future success as if it had already happened. Story telling created a vivid narrative of the company’s amazing story of success.

Gaining the commitment of the employees was crucial to the success of the strategy. The envisioning events brought back a renewed sense of purpose across the organization. The shared vision became the rallying point for going forward as a united team. Ascent Advisor translated the vision of success into a focused business plan. The company’s strategy was defined in very simple terms so everyone could easily understand it.

To create a focal point around the goal, Ascent Advisor setup an office as the company’s “Locker Room” where managers gathered weekly to report their progress in front of a whiteboard tracking the company’s goals. Standing around the whiteboard reported the performance against goals weekly. The Locker Room helped regain the competitive winning spirit.

Even with the increased focus on goals, the actual numbers did not show immediate improvement. In fact, some numbers were disappointingly lower than expected. Failure at that point would prove devastating. After weeks of noticing that field sales continued to fall further behind their goals, managers from other departments made commitments to make up the difference by redoubling their efforts. As they did, everyone began pulling together. Even field sales picked up their game, producing in the end a remarkable comeback.

Applying the Ascent Process reversed this company’s downward trend into a 20% revenue growth in only six month without additional resources. The company’s revenues continued on a sharp upward swing to achieve their best year ever. Profitable growth continued for the coming months, taking this company to achieve their strategic vision in 18 months.

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Cameron Wilkinson | Director of Business Development
801.900.6002 |