People Have the Solutions, Leaders Just Need to Believe in Them!

In early October 2013, our business’s 3rd quarter (Q3) results were finalized, which impacted our 12-month projections. Our CFO shared the results and forecast — we were $3 million SHORT of our EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) for the entire year. This forecast was deflating to me and my colleagues on the Business Leadership Team. We had exceeded the expectations established for our business’s contribution to the corporation through September, so to see the 4th quarter (Q4) projection falling short felt like a kick in the gut!

Throughout the year, the entire organization had been kept informed of the progress we were making across every measurable area of performance. Now, the Business Leadership Team had to prepare to provide the performance results through Q3 as well as the Q4 and full year projections to the entire organization. We struggled with accepting this result for the thousand-plus people who had fully committed to achieving success in our business. The entire organization participated in the profit-sharing bonus, which was an added incentive to the motivation in performing well for our clients and their patients. Everyone was informed about the potential level of bonus they would receive by meeting or exceeding our targets. EBITDA was a main contributor to the bonus pool and the self-funding mechanism for the payout, and everyone was aware of that too.

As we all reflected upon the full-year projection, the leadership team immediately knew the course of action that was necessary. Our people had carried our business’s steep improvement in performance in safety, quality, regulatory audits, efficiency and financials. We knew we needed to share the performance through Q3 and the projection for Q4 because the team deserved to know. Our disappointment in the full-year forecast coming up short started to fade because we knew that our organization — our people — would have the solutions. Just like before, they knew the business and would know how to help us find the success we were seeking. The key in the communication would be to demonstrate with facts and data the reality of what we’d achieved over the past two years and our confidence in overcoming this $3 million challenge!

The Business Leadership Team first met with the Operational Leadership Team, and we were all looking forward to their reaction to the situation we were facing. I’ll never forget the response of the Operational Leadership Team. They looked at the results with optimism, knowing that the $3 million gap was just another opportunity to rally the organization to overcome the challenge. The Operational Leadership Team asked for some time before the Q3 results and full-year projections were communicated in town hall meetings and for a couple of days to look for opportunities to close the gap and come back to the Business Leadership Team. Additionally, they asked for the business leaders’ full support, which they received unanimously.

Over the next two days, there was a lot of interaction and planning. The sales and project management teams found opportunities to increase 2013’s sales forecast by working collaboratively with our clients who were experiencing high demands for their medicines. The finance team laid out a plan to reduce the level of Account Receivables. The manufacturing and packaging teams came up with plans to ramp up output further. The quality team established plans to accelerate batch record reviews, analytical analysis and product releases. The logistics team laid out plans to gain “freight on board” timings to recognize revenue generated by batches released to our clients.

As each team presented their plans, the buzz of excitement in the room elevated higher and higher! We were ready to take the results of Q3 and the full year forecast to the rest of the organization and the schedule was set. Over the next three days, eight town hall sessions were required to personally present to the entire population. Following each session, each Operational Lead Team met with their organizations and finalized plans for success.
Another key component to closing the year out successfully was instant and constant communication of the progress we were making toward our goal! Daily reports were generated and shared in team meetings. An innovation from the Operational Leadership Team was to play a “ca-ching ca-ching” sound (like an old-fashioned cash register) when each batch was shipped! The organization across the vast campus would stop and count the number of “ca-chings” and cheer with each batch shipped!

Our organization achieved the full year, delivering on all key measures, including closing the $3 million gap for the full-year EBITDA measure! The power of a fully engaged workforce in combination with leadership who truly viewed the People as the Solution was an unstoppable force!!!

Interested in reading more about the lessons learned from real-life leadership experiences? Buy the book, Bosses Are Hired…Leadership Is Earned today.