The Challenge: Leadership Stuck in the Day-to-Day

A mid-size regional logistics firm was facing critical issues demanding the attention of its leadership team. A major shift in its customer market, recruiting challenges, and the need for significant updates to its internal infrastructure had all been looming over them unaddressed. And yet a slough of recent retirements of key employees, and the voluntary departure of others, left them in a situation where their institutional knowledge was continually needed day in and day out. New employees were not reaching the level of learning and knowledge necessary for the leaders to pull themselves out of the day-to-day operations and address company-level decisions.

Assessment Insights

The EEX assessment conducted by Wayforward confirmed that – amidst the significant respect and appreciation for its leadership team – there was widespread recognition within the organization that the leadership team had not been functioning in a leadership capacity for some time. Because leadership had primarily assumed staff responsibilities, their workload had adjusted their attention away from leadership responsibilities and focused it almost exclusively day-to-day workflows. Ironically, most employees placed significant value on autonomy and independence in selecting their work methods toward the end-goals set by leadership. And yet they now had concern over an absence of end-goals and uncertainty of expectations.

The assessment revealed a lack of structure in processes and accountability. Employees were often unclear on who was responsible for what within the organization – leading to wasted time and a disproportionate need to lean on leadership for institutional knowledge. The training of new employees was unstructured and left relatively open-ended. They did not have clarity on whether they were making progress or when they might complete it. Clear expectations for training and performance outcomes had not been established in most employee positions because the incumbents who had retired or resigned had such long tenure, and new hires had previously been uncommon enough that training and development had never been a serious focus. Where there are expectations set, the leadership team often communicated conflicting expectations, which then drew them into even more discussion with employees over these minutia. This had all coalesced to create a reliance on leadership involvement and hand-holding of employees on a day-to-day basis, preventing the leadership team from inhabiting the seats where the company needed them most.

Applied Methods

Wayforward sought to align the leadership team on functional accountability to create alignment of expectations among the three of them, and eliminate the issue of inconsistent instructions to employees. Following this, process mapping occurred within each functional area of the organization to create clarity for existing staff and transparency for new hires into how things get done. This documentation further reduced the need to pull in leaders on routine questions. The accountability exercise was mapped throughout the rest of the organization in order to create transparency around process owners. On the topic of training, Wayforward and the Operations team created a training matrix, along with timelines, internal SMEs, and a centralized resource library. Expectations were agreed upon by leadership and communicated in the topic areas which were most time-consuming for senior leadership, to allow more independent decision-making to be pushed down through the organization.

The organization is no longer wanting for clarity or structure in its operations, thanks to the alignment of the senior leadership team. The team now spends the lion’s share of their time engaged in activities that they have determined are the best and highest way for leaders at FPL to spend their time. Employees feel emotionally connected to the individuals on the SLT, and work on behalf of the SLT to fulfill their vision for the organization’s future.