Who would have guessed: August — a prime time for engineering high rates of sustainable growth.

Although I’ve always been told that not much business gets transacted mid-late August because everyone is on vacation, I’ve always found August to be a particularly productive month. Not only has August 2009 not been an exception, my experiences this month tell me that there’s heightened focus and purpose in the business world…clearly a very positive leading indicator! I’d like to use the remainder of this space to relate my highlight for the week to the encouraging signs I’m seeing in general.

Presented with an opportunity to launch a new business line, a company I’ve been working with (that defines the word “conservative”) had the good sense to pursue the initiative with cautious optimism. The company assembled a project team that did more than simply evaluate the venture’s worthiness. This cross-functional team was comprised of members that brought subject matter expertise and a strong willingness to challenge every assumption. From day one it was clear that this was a highly capable group of professionals and it soon became even more evident that this team has uncommon maturity. Members didn’t make the process easy on one another, yet at no time did any meeting devolve into finger-pointing, egoism or turf protection. This team collaborated in a most impressive way: each member demanded goal-oriented excellence from himself and his peers.

Along the way, the project sponsor had moments of doubt—even thought at least one participant was going to do everything he could to kill the initiative. As it turned out the (apparently) most negative group member proved to be the driving force for transforming concept to reality. Had any member, particularly the project sponsor, lost sight of the business objective; had anyone reacted to legitimate business challenges in a personal rather than professional way; had they lacked individual and collective commitment to the absolute best work product theirs would have been abandoned like so many other excellent ideas unfortunately are in Corporate America. Without the sincere efforts of the team’s toughest critic, their high-potential initiative would ultimately fall short of its objectives. This team set a very fast pace, accomplished a great deal in a short period of time, yet all had to keep up with other job responsibilities. They never missed a meeting, none of the participants ever came unprepared, and none allowed other responsibilities to be slighted either.

As they practiced it, collaboration wasn’t pandering nor was it about compromise. Theirs was collaboration as I believe it is intended to be: each sum intensely driven to create a superb whole. Though they did ask the question that is on everyone’s mind these days, “is this the right economic climate to try something new?” They didn’t obsess on that ever present excuse in most business environments today and they also concluded that the best remedy for poor results is growth and growth will come from innovation. As more companies and project teams adopt the “We Must!” mentality, removing all vestiges of finding reasons why not to do something (always the easiest path) economic vitality will overwhelm anything that has ailed us.

I was privileged to work with this group and what they did, in August no less, is the model for engineering high rates of sustainable growth for many years to come.

Leave a Reply