We felt lucky to have the
help from an American business school. MBA students were scheduled to come see
us in June. There was a lot of excitement around their arrival. They would stay
for six weeks and work on key projects.
When they got here, for
six weeks there was a ton of activity but none of it was really focused on the day-to-day
running of the business. The CEO was always with the students, so we didn’t
have much time with him during their stay. Priorities weren’t clear and
critical decisions were postponed.
After three weeks, the
students prepared an Interim Report and gave a presentation with a series of
recommendations. From the first slide of their PowerPoint, my stomach started
to knot up. Their recommendations were so sophisticated and conceptual that
they were almost irrelevant to our company. Some failed to recognize the
culture in which we operated and the way business was done here. Some relating
to government engagement were simply naïve.
Right after the
presentation I told the CEO and we needed to get control of their work and
refocus it. At first he didn’t want to listen but then I other team members joined
me so he had to act.
The first issue he wanted
to address was how to manage the professor who was sponsoring the visit. He was
the CEO’s informal mentor. He wanted the visit to support some research he was
doing. We quickly realized there were conflicting agendas.