It was one of those days.
After dropping his kids off at kindergarten, Michael hurried to catch the local train to work. He was already exhausted by the usual stop and go trip as he arrived at the office – 9 o’clock – just as he’d done the last couple of years. He poured the first cup of his original British-style black tea, and, after adding a dash of milk and two lumps of sugar, he walked back to his desk.
An email from Sam, his boss, waited right at the top of his inbox: “Discussion of future company structure” said the subject line. “Wow, that sounds serious!” he thought. The meeting was scheduled for two o’clock in the afternoon. A short whistle escaped Michael’s lips: Mark Zeder, the CEO of the primary investor, was also invited. This was serious.
What was it all about? Sam had mentioned something about restructuring management. The once small and influential group of people growing the company had become a team of over twenty people. While everyone was doing a great job, the group was simply too large to be effective anymore. It was clear to everybody that something needed to happen. But what? And when? Sam confessed he wouldn’t be able to keep this group as it was and so the rumors erupted. Everyone wondered: “Will I be part of the new, smaller, top management?” Some already knew better. They saw doomsday looming. The announcement of the changes created uncertainty and doubt in the minds of the management group. But now, it seemed, would be the time to learn exactly what was going on.
Michael took another sip of his tea. The warmth and sweetness of his favorite drink gave him a feeling of safety. He couldn’t stop thinking about the upcoming meeting. While he was one of the few who had good chances to be in the top group, the uncertainty unsettled him. Too much time and energy had been invested into getting the company to where it was today: all departments had started to adopt a lean management approach. The old silos still existed, but people started to make their work transparent. This was a crucial first step. Slowly, Michael knew, they would start seeing the complete picture and then everything would move much smoother. But they weren’t there yet, and the new management structure was threatening the early successes. If key people like Frank, one of the main drivers of the lean adoption, left the company, havoc amongst the teams would ensue. Or setting up the wrong structure for the top management group could revert the organization back to the old style of command and control. That thought made Michael sick. He felt his stomach cringe. No, this couldn’t happen. Not after everything they’d endured to get here.