Case Study – Seasonal Manufacturing
Paul is the CEO of a manufacturing company that produces a seasonal product. At the time of year when production is low (the 3 summer months) the factory operates at about 70% capacity.
At the CEO meeting going into the summer, Paul reported this fact in the opening check-in, expecting it to be acknowledged politely and the next member to start their update. However, one member asked, “why is this acceptable” and a lively discussion ensued. The matter was deferred by the chair to later in the meeting to allow other members to complete their check-in.
In the issue section of the CEO meeting Paul was asked to frame his comment as an issue: “Because of the seasonal nature of our market” he told the group “our production facility operates at a loss for three months each year. We estimate that we are producing at about 70%
of capacity in those months. How can I mitigate our losses in these months?”
This is the basis of an issue examination, the “How can I” question. The group then went into the question part of the process, each member asking Paul questions to make sure they clearly understood the issue. The advantage Paul received from this questioning was it was made by experienced business leaders with a different perspective than he had, creating questions he might not have considered. After the questioning, Paul was asked if he wanted to restate the issue.
“Is there something else we could produce with our equipment in the off-season to reduce the idle time for our equipment?”
There was general applause around the table as his fellow CEO’s acknowledged the value Paul had received from this session. They entered the suggestion phase of the process, a lively discussion ensued, often with humorous quips, Paul took notes, wondering (not for the first time) at the creativity of his peers. The concluding activity in the process was Paul advising the group what he would do before the meeting next month at which time he would report back to the group. (This commitment for accountability was how Paul demonstrated his respect for the time and thought his fellow CEOS’ had contributed to his issue)
The group chair committed to bring this up at his next private coaching session with Paul which happened every month between the CEO meetings.
Paul left the meeting excited at the prospect of examining the notes he had taken when he returned to the office, confident that he would have a strategy to increase the company’s production before the next CEO meeting. It will be interesting, he reflected, what the group would have to say about the strategy.
By attending the monthly meetings of the CEO group Paul had developed a relationship of trust with this core group of business leaders. He, like they, could speak freely about things. Often, like this day, the group took him to 30,000 feet for a different perspective than he had sitting at his desk or walking through the production facility. Between his 2-hour one-on-one coaching session and his 4-hour group CEO meeting each month he was able to step away from operations and work strategically. This work was both personally satisfying and valuable to the company.