QuickTake: The Right Way to Unwind Company Mistakes - Modern Distribution Management

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QuickTake: The Right Way to Unwind Company Mistakes

Great ideas sometimes turn into train wrecks, and no company bats 100% when it comes to initiatives. Mike Marks outlines strategies for minimizing damage and creating best possible outcomes.
Desperate businessman, trying to find a solution to his problem

For most distributors that follow a traditional fiscal calendar, it’s crunch time. The first quarter of 2023 concluded at the end of March, meaning distributors will be poring over every aspect of their operations over the next few weeks as they prepare to report their financial results.

And most distributors will be looking at more than just financials. Many are in the early stages of a project that spawned out of a strategic or business planning process, perhaps in late fiscal 2022.

It’s at times like these that the unexpected tends to happen. No matter how carefully a business may have prepared for a given project, things don’t always go as planned. Distributors need to be ready to pivot when their plans are derailed, especially amid recent unpredictable market conditions, as MDM CEO Tom Gale and Indian River Consulting Group’s Mike Marks discussed in MDM’s latest QuickTake podcast.

There are a number of different scenarios that can lead to a plan “falling into a ditch,” according to Gale. One of the most common is when a project manager is tasked with an assignment that might be foreign to them, such as implementing a new form of technology.

“People don’t know what they’re getting into,” Marks said. “And it’s one thing to change an existing process where you have full control over it. But typically the changes that we’re talking about — there’s a lot of unknowns, there’s known unknowns and unknown unknowns.”

It’s important to have “early warning systems” in place, as Marks explained, so that a project leader can recognize when something has gone wrong and fix it, rather than continuing to make the same mistake and thus further derailing the project.

Communication is an important aspect when it comes to trying to salvage a project that has gone awry, according to Gale.

“So you’ve gotten a train wreck, you recognize it, you start going in a different direction,” Gale said. “You need to communicate throughout an organization so that people don’t just say, ‘Oh, we screwed up again,’ and just kind of wait until they next time they screw up.”

“Anytime you have poor transparency, nature abhors a vacuum, and the people in the organization will fill it with rumors and stories and everything else, because they’re all doing their very best to figure what’s going on,” Marks said. “Nobody likes uncertainty. What you do is you make sure that people know what you’re doing, but more importantly, it’s the old ‘What’s in it for me, and why?’ Why are we doing this? And you’re actually asking for input and letting people do it.”

If a project manager isn’t properly communicating with their team and rejecting feedback, their project is bound to go off the rails, Marks said.

“Sometimes somebody’s got a set of beliefs that are incorrect, and they make decisions on those,” Marks said. “That’s what we call cherished beliefs. They’re, in fact, incorrect, but they act as if they’re true. So, they get unexpected results. And then they never get any learning and feedback because they don’t accept feedback, they just retry it again. And that created an entire industry called consulting.”

Listen to the full podcast episode via the audio player above, and check out our full library of MDM Podcasts here.

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