Several posts ago in Douglas Conant – Fixing Campbell Soup, I discussed Conant and some of his thoughts on fixing a company that has lost it’s way. In his case…Campbell Soup. A big piece of his thinking focused on that issue we know so well and so often avoid: the problem is the wrong people at the top. But Conant, did he avoid this issue? Not a chance.
I bring this up again because I just heard an interview with Sergio Marchionne who arrived to fix Chrysler a few years ago. He talked about all the things you might expect as he described arriving at a floundering company. Then he said the sentence that led to his mention here, “company problems are always due to the top.” So within a very short time he changed the entire leadership to get people with a different mindset.
And it worked. As it worked at Campbell Soup.
I spend quite a bit of time discussing the need to ensure the top team are the right people in the right seats since I too believe that company problems start at the top. What continually amazes me is how often everyone knows who the problem people at the top are but still the CEO is unwilling to make a change. I have heard every excuse there is why fixing the company and improving the way it runs is secondary to keeping this or that person.
Of course, no one ever says it exactly that way. They hem and haw and plead for more time to fix things. But there is no fixing things if the people leading are not capable of doing what is required.
I understand how difficult it is to fire people. Most good executives hate doing this but great executives realize it comes with the job. And the job is running the best company possible.
The odd thing is, the best thing for the company as well as for the largest number of people…the rest of the employees…is removing the one or ones hindering success and thus greater opportunity for all.
To be clear, I am not one for popping into someone’s office unannounced and casually mentioning it’s time for them to clean out their desk and depart…instantly. Dismissal needs to be done with proper consideration, discussion, timing, and so forth. But it must be done.
Despite those who say differently, there is almost no one who is truly irreplaceable. As a matter of fact, I have noticed that when an irreplaceable person who is the rot in the organization finally gets moved along, things always get better. Often things get better the minute the person exits the building. Sometimes it takes a day.