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“I count myself hard to impress. But I was highly impressed after reading several sections of The Advantage-Makers. The material offers a wealth of excellent information and advice, allowing readers to move from research-based evidence to decidedly practical action steps.”
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Advantage Maker Case Studies

The following case studies are examples of the Advantage Maker Strategy in action.

1) Productive Collaboration to Stop Losing Money and Make Profits
2) Creating a Rapid Adaptation Culture that Pays for Itself
3) High Stakes Organizational Leadership to Stop Internal Competition
4) Don't Waste your Money on Teamwork!
5) Time to Market Reduced by Six Months and Increased Revenues by Improving Cross-Functional Team Performance
6) CEO Performance Credibility Regained!
7) Standing up to the Executive Heat
8) Executive at Risk of Losing His Job and the Corporation was at Risk of Losing Millions
9) Strategic Executive Team Offsite Brings Team Together

Advantage Maker Strategies involve leadership, team, organizational, business strategy and customer issues. Learn more about our methodology >>

Case Study #1: Productive Collaboration to Stop Losing Money and Make Profits
The CFO of a large paper industry company had identified serious conflicts in the organization that was affecting performance and morale. Business was down. Customers were upset and customer satisfaction was below acceptable standards. A customer audit revealed that customers not only had their own complaints but that the employees were complaining to the customers that other parts of the organization were to blame for the lack of service, poor quality and delays in product availability.
Before
After

The Attempted Solutions before calling Steven Feinberg, Inc.: The CFO had worked with the CEO to give 'teamwork and pep talks' to improve morale, with the hope that it would translate into performance and profitability. His attempted solutions, while well-intended, simply maintained the problem. The CEO's "play nice, work harder, do better" dictum didn't help either. Both execs were results oriented, bottom-line, action- focused managers, even though their styles differed. The real issue was invisible to almost everyone in the organization.

Steven Feinberg worked with CFO to analyze and identify the underlying structure that was driving the counterproductive behavior and that resulted in dissension, conflict, and bad performance. The real performance structure was invisible, and unexpected to the execs, as it is to many. Having identified counterproductive, competing objectives of different departments and the real driving forces, a specific, concrete recommendation was made to impact the results. This included aligning the different departments on an agreed-upon target and agreed-upon objectives, shifting the incentive system to support the alignment and a communication and influence strategy to minimize future conflict of cross functional team members. Clear, specific leadership suggestions were made to leverage their talents and influence the organization's behavior.

The results generated $4 million dollars in additional revenue over a 2-year period, cross functional complaints and conflicts were dramatically reduced, and customers obviously voted with their pocketbooks.

Case Study #2: Creating a Rapid Adaptation Culture that Pays for Itself

The IT Director of a large High Tech Silicon Valley business was charged with enabling the organization to rapidly adapt to turbulent market changes. He was charged with doing this in the midst of an uncertain economic downturn, a RIF in the organization, a hiring freeze, and a requirement to do more with less in shorter time frames while implementing a major multimillion dollar system wide ERP project. The organization was composed of very smart technical people, who had their way of doing things, the management team valued their peoples' intelligence and abilities but they were not responding to the outside forces that required change.

The management team was comprised of mostly junior level managers in terms of management experience, although each individual manager was technically proficient, very smart and cared about the organization's effectiveness. The Director was an accomplished, seasoned organizational leader and wanted to move the organization to a new level of performance.

Before
After

The attempted solution before calling Steven Feinberg, Inc.: Management recognized they had to impact the performance culture. The organization had been successful in the past but very inner focused. Management tried to inform everyone of the changes that would be required to perform in a more difficult business environment. Priority list of projects and issues were identified, but without resolution for months. Two major groups maintained that their priority was critical to the business success. In fact, these groups were right in the past environment, but business had changed and the groups hadn't.

A number of false starts to get an executive sponsor to champion the ERP program across business divisions.

An organizational assessment was performed. It was discovered that a non-adaptive culture was maintained by an underlying organizational structure that kept the organization and management team fragmented with competing goals. This had not been seen by the managers, they were looking in the wrong places. Working with the IT director, individual managers and the team, the organization became aligned and moved forward. The managers became more skilled and made the tough decisions that needed to be made.

The IT director employing influence skills finally found an effective executive sponsor to champion the project.

The organization increased its adaptability and accelerated its performance achieving its strategic objectives under schedule. The Director calculated a $1.5 million dollar cost savings value of the Advantage Maker program.

In addition, he said the most likely scenario would have been for the management team to fall apart, become divisive and raise conflict to an unworkable level. This not only didn't occur,  but they succeeded and will continue to succeed. They are now a more flexible organization able to handle change and the managers grew in depth and scope.

Case Study #3: High Stakes Organizational Leadership to Stop Internal Competition
A high tech firm with international sites was in disarray. They were losing money, had a history of 7 layoffs reducing from 1500 to approximately 400 people. There was fear by the remaining engineers that the revenue targets were not achievable, which would prompt another round of layoffs, and the market and economy were bad.

They had talented design engineers located across the globe; however, they competed with each other for survival. Each thought they were the only site that mattered and the only site that was making money.

In fact, each site that thought that way was losing money and eventually did close. The current structure was not feasible and the management team was viewed as polarized with low confidence in their ability to lead the organization to success. Tentative organizational decisions led to tentative behavior.
Before
After

The attempted solution before calling Steven Feinberg, Inc.: The Senior Executive had a vision for the future that was compelling, depending on how well the remaining engineers aligned. A strategy was needed along with an implementation process. The attempts before bringing Steven Feinberg, Inc. on was to keep romancing the future while everyone was unwittingly denying and distorting the current reality. Contentious issues were avoided, hoping they would disappear when they saw what a great future could be if they only just got along and made decisions that would optimize the entire division instead of individual business centers. The groups continued to justify their pet projects and acted in their local best interest.

In collaboration with the Senior Executive and VP HR we ran a strategic offsite. Ground rules were established and adhered to, a new organizational structure was agreed upon with roles and responsibilities explained, and leadership behavior for the transformation clarified. A road map and action plan with accountabilities was thoughtfully constructed to build momentum, forward movement, and alignment. Decisions that had caused problems in the past, because they were all locally determined, were now based upon an established hierarchy of importance. Managers knew what was most important and could make trade offs, keeping in mind the overall strategic objective.

The offsite was a success not just in the meeting, but because it designed an ongoing implementation plan. It was not a fly-by meeting; it addressed reality. Managers who had been at prior offsites said this was fundamentally different. It was real, it was functional, and it worked. Momentum was built and, paradoxically, instead of dissension between the managers, they worked well together. A message to the employees to enroll them in the new plan was constructed with complete and congruent buy-in by all managers. The Senior Executive and VP HR said it was the home run they wanted. We established a performance structure that would work.

Case Study #4: Don't Waste Your Money on "Teamwork"!
The engineering team, comprised of several specialties, of a high tech firm was in disarray, morale problems were high, performance suffered, and retention was a major question. The business environment was difficult and the product was late.
Before
After

The Attempted Solutions before calling Steven Feinberg, Inc: The CEO and VP of Engineering attempted to provide the engineers with interesting technical problems, social events to celebrate small wins and tried to respond to many requests to keep them happy. Things didn't improve. The CEO and VP of Engineering requested a team-building exercise to improve morale hoping that would turn things around in the organization.

An initial assessment was performed and feedback provided to the CEO. The business climate was growing worse, the engineers had serious personality conflicts with each other, distrust, finger pointing and blame were the everyday realities. The recommendation was counter to what the executives expected.

First, the CEO was surprised when we advised them to not spend the money on the team-building exercise for the divisive group of engineers. As a general rule, it is important to hear what employees' concerns are and engineers are usually very smart and insightful into the people issues even if they are not very skillful at dealing with the conflicts. However, the executives were being over-accommodating, bending over backwards with an open door policy that the engineers misused. Whenever they didn't get their way, they would run to the next open door amongst the executives until someone would take up their cause whether or not it made good business or organizational sense. We advised the entire executive staff to stop taking up the individual causes and have the employees speak to one key executive when they had a complaint.

In addition, we pointed out that although they hadn't said they were going to leave, we predicted they were all going to leave in a few months. Therefore, it would be a waste of time, money, and attention cycles to invest in a team-building exercise. In fact, as predicted, they did all leave within 6 months. The CEO said it was good sound advice--not to throw good money after a bad situation and then requested that we do other work that contributed to the organization.

Case Study #5: Time to Market Reduced by Six Months and Increased Revenues by Improving Cross-Functional Team Performance
A high tech firm in the semiconductor industry needed to improve its time to market and product roll out process. Their competitors were ahead of them and they were falling behind.
Before
After

The attempted solutions before calling in Steven Feinberg, Inc.: In the product development process they tried to include everything everyone wanted, and kept getting scope creep in their projects. Tough decisions were always deferred. Diverse views were acknowledged which seemed appropriate and was consistent with the organization culture. These were really smart technical people, but they didn't know how to resolve conflicting points of view. Each thought they knew what reality was and what could be; yet no effective action was taken to break the logjam. Even though they called meetings to improve the process and had been doing so for over a year, they could never have the meeting in the meeting. Lots of conversations occurred before and after meetings, but much time was wasted in group meeting.

Steven Feinberg worked with several of the VP's and the cross-functional teams that were going in different directions. I helped the leaders influence and leverage the action to produce a positive momentum, accelerated the resolution of conflicts and establishing a high performance process. They were surprised that their diversity of opinions were actually preventing them from creating the solution they had intended. Everyone finally agreed that they needed an 'agreed upon method' to make progress. We designed a collaborative process that enabled them to discuss the controversial issues in the meeting and reach resolution. The approach resulted in a 6-month reduction in time to market on products. Windows of opportunity were no longer closing on them. Conservative estimates of millions of dollars were added to the bottom line.

Case Study #6: CEO Performance Credibility Regained!
The credibility of a CEO of a high tech start up was being challenged. His attempted solutions were well intended; however, they were backfiring on him. He wanted a team environment in which the best collaborative ideas won and action would be quick and responsive to the business needs. Instead, there was a great deal of infighting, non-performance, and finger pointing.
Before
After
The attempted solutions included before calling Steven Feinberg, Inc.: The executive reasoned with everyone to look at the big picture, asking them to do what was right for the organization and to focus on the work at hand instead of the divisive interactions. Social events were attempted to break down the interactional barriers. Small wins were celebrated.

While all of the executive's attempted solutions had the right intent and were generally supportive, they were insufficient to move the organization. Using an assessment instrument and behavioral science tools for influence, we highlighted simple, direct steps that re-established the choices that needed to be made and the cost of the non-performance. The CEO established a hierarchy of values that people needed to adhere to and follow. Accountability which had been assumed was now measured and evaluated; incentives were aligned with accountable performance. This resulted in a profitable course of action with people doing what he asked in a timely manner. This renewed the CEO's hold and demonstrated his ability to influence across the organization.

Case Study #7: Standing up to the Executive Heat
A technically talented senior executive was perceived as not providing the leadership necessary for his department, as well as not adding sufficient strategic value as a member of the executive staff. Although recognized as smart and productive, he was being cast as not having the strength to stand up to aggressive executives.
Before
During and After
Attempted Solutions before Steven Feinberg Inc.:The senior executive had worked with an executive coach who agreed with him that the other executives were too aggressive and made him feel right that he was unjustly being cast as ineffective. This didn't change anything. During executive staff meetings, this executive continued to be very quiet, waiting for the appropriate time to speak and searching for the right thing to say without offending anyone. By the time he found an opening in the conversation, he was in a defensive mode and his comments were often experienced as too little, too late.

After assessing the executive's approach and failed attempts to influence, we collaboratively designed an innovative program for him to learn to acquire 'executive street fighting skills'. In one-on-one meetings, we practiced skill building and role played many difficult encounters of how to shoot from the hip accurately. The transformation from observer to initiator was unmistakable; aggressive executives would now back off, where before they had backed him into a corner.

While still retaining his values, he looked forward to the encounters where before he only had disapproval of their aggressive behaviors. His ideas were now well received and he provided sound business judgment.

Instead of focusing on feeling right, I provided him with the right course of action.

Case Study #8: Executive at Risk of Losing His Job and the Corporation was at Risk of Losing Millions
A senior executive, "described as a bull in a china shop," was causing major disruption in the department and putting the company at risk for a major law suit. The HR department assessed the situation and found the executive to indeed be pushy and alienating, but determined legal action wasn't warranted. Even so, the potential for litigation was still a viable threat and could still cost the organization a significant amount to settle, along with the potential embarrassment and disruption to the organization.
Before
During and After
The HR department assessed the situation, trying to talk sense into all involved. Patience was beginning to wear. They tried to calm those involved in the complaint, and there was discussion about getting rid of the exec, or sending him to a leadership training course. All of these 'make nice' or 'get rid of' approaches weren't working. I designed a customized assessment for this sensitive situation. Working with the executive, the department members, and the head of HR and legal, we designed a plan that would address the concerns of all involved; the corporation, the department members, and the executive in trouble. I worked with department members and with the executive to re-establish trust and improve performance. The manager realized he was shooting himself in the foot, made a bold apology, and learned how to achieve different results without being a 'bull in a china shop.' Remarkably, his team moved from thinking, "Let's get rid of this person," to, "He's a great boss that we really want to work for."
Case Study #9: Strategic Executive Team Offsite Brings Team Together
A senior management team was not moving in the same direction and needed to get on the same page and establish an implementation plan. Their complaint was that this had been going on for way too long!
Before
During and After
Attempted Solutions before Steven Feinberg, Inc.:The CEO had tried for several years to get everyone on the same page, yet still some team members focused only on where they were going, while others argued about their immediate difficulties. The attempted mediations had become political and divisive.

Working with the CEO and HR executive, we designed a strategic offsite that would get everyone on board and moving in the same direction. Employing a proprietary, productive, collaboration methodology, I orchestrated a two-day meeting to address the strategic and execution issues for the organization. At the end of the offsite when the CEO thanked everyone, he also said he finally felt we had achieved his goal and was astonished that the method we used had helped in such an accelerated manner. The CFO, who was a 20-year seasoned manager, added that in her entire career, she hadn't been to another offsite that had addressed contentious, high stakes in a such a meaningful, inclusive and effective manner. She said most team offsites were "kumbiya focused," while in this meeting we engaged in strategic dialogue that produced results and paradoxically had bonded the team together at a higher level of functioning and trust.

Contact me today for a consultation on how you can apply the Advantage-Maker Strategy to lead you to a more profitable course of action.

"The biggest mistake I made was not using your services sooner!"
Chuck Fox, CEO Chameleon Systems

I design and develop advantage-making programs that have turned around organizations, teams, and leaders in multiple industries and business environments.

Learn more about my:
>> book : "The Advantage Makers" published in September 2007 by FT Press
>> services : how I can help you achieve success in your business
>> methodology : how advantage maker strategies work
>> speaking services : keynotes, workshops, and seminars
>> case studies : companies I've helped with advantage making programs

My clients include Fortune 500 firms as well as start-ups, including Wells Fargo, Visa, Citibank, Sun Microsystems, Plantronics, Symantec, Cade nce Design Systems, HBO & Co., BEA Systems, Synopsys, NVidia, Pac Bell, Xilinx, Affymax, firstRain, and many more.

For me, getting leadership right means acting as an Advantage-Maker.

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