By Noel Eggebraaten

Noel Eggebraaten shares with us his experience of how he applied Adizes® to achieve extraordinary results in a number of different companies.

About Noel Eggebraaten

An executive with leadership and business versatility, who drives for results, demonstrates a strong commitment to organizational success by balancing the interests of customers, employees and shareholders. Re-invents and shifts company paradigms to grow the business. Creates a vision with strategically targeted outcomes through collaborative, performance based employee involvement. Experience within the distribution, publishing/manufacturing, health/wellness, service and e-commerce business sectors. As a senior leadership team member, grew a business from $20 million to $900 million. Also led two companies as president (Hammond & Stephens, A School Specialty Company, Fremont, Nebraska and Southern School Supply, Bowling Green, Kentucky) that doubled its revenues and profits. Responsible for sales, marketing, product development, manufacturing, customer service, distribution and organizational development with profit and loss responsibility.

“Within 18 months, the wholly owned subsidiary doubled sales with its number one product, grew total revenues by 190% and captured the highest profit percentage and customer ratings for service in the entire corporation.”

What contributed to these results? Noel Eggebraaten shares with us his experience of how he applied Adizes® to achieve extraordinary results in a number of different companies.

This story starts when Noel was providing Organizational Development Services to companies across the country through Eggebraaten & Associates. One of his clients was Dan Spalding, CEO of School Specialty, which is a national school supply company. Dan was consolidating the school supply market through the acquisition of national and regional school suppliers. Noel provided consulting services to School Specialty to integrate the new companies into the overall structure and culture of School Specialty. Dan’s plan of acquisition accelerated, and it led to Noel being hired as the Vice President of Organizational Development.

Dan had exposure to Adizes® through the Young’s President Organization and recognizing its value recommended to Noel that he attend the Adizes® Institute to  be trained and certified as an Adizes® professional.

In less than five years, School Specialty acquired and integrated more than 25 companies! In the process of integrating the new companies, Noel made extensive use of the Adizes® methodology  as School Specialty grew to a $900 million. He made extensive  use of three critical concepts of the Adizes® methodology: 1) The  Organizational Health-check, 2) PAEI* management/mismanagement styles and 3) capi**.

Here is Noel’s story:

Organizational Health-check and Management Style

I started each integration effort by performing a diagnostic on the acquired company.  I gathered the senior leadership team and the next level of managers and supervision for one and a half days to go through a process termed SyndagTM which  is an Adizes tool to identify problems within the company and then map them to see how they impact on one another and ultimately on the performance of the company. I also had the leadership team go through an assessment of their own PAEI management style and then give feedback on how the team members perceived the other’s management style assessment.

I paid particular attention to the presence (or absence) of the “I” for each team member “I” is required in order for one to be a leader of people and drive change in organizations effectively.

This group process also set a useful precedent. It helped the team to begin a process of honest communication, to learn to take risks in communicating tough issues constructively with each other.

My integration work ultimately led me to being appointed as the new President of a recently acquired company because of my ability to quickly gain understanding of the company’s issues. I attributed my ability to see the big picture and what was getting in the way of the organization performing at a higher level to the Adizes® diagnostic process.  The results of the session showed the company was in trouble, and the former president and owner of the company did not appear to be in a position to lead the actions required to improve the company’s performance.

Organizational Health-check and PIP’s

With my new responsibilities, I took the issues identified in the Syndag session and began to address the major themes.  One of those themes was the lack of sales with inadequate product training being a clear “Potential Improvement Point” (PIP). More than half of the sales representatives were not selling the big-ticket products, such as furniture, blackboards, and equipment.  Action was taken and they became sales consultants who could sell bleachers, auditorium seating, desks, science laboratories and blackboards.  The sales representatives became more successful as did the company.

I simultaneously turned my attention inward, to improve the company’s internal processes.  It was immediately clear from the Syndag  session that a “we vs. they” culture had developed between those in the warehouse and those in the front office. If the company were to operate as a single team to serve the customer, it would need to overcome that internal division.  The warehouse, unlike the office, was not air-conditioned. The warehouse was uncomfortable at best and I sensed that this environmental difference contributed to some of the resentment felt by the warehouse workers toward the office workers.

To begin to break down the environmental culture difference, I made a point to hold employee meetings in the warehouse so the office workers could put themselves in their co-workers’ shoes.  With the entire workforce gathered around in the warehouse, I asked two questions.  The first was designed as a catalyst.  “Who comes here to work?”  When the hands went up, I made this point, “I can’t afford to have you come to work to just work!  We all need to come to work to “Think!” and then work, because too often we can work at the wrong things.”  I followed up with a “thinking” question, “How can we serve the customer better?”  Gradually, I brought the team, through their ideas and the senior leadership’s guidance, to a new level of efficiency and effectiveness.

Attributing PIP’s leads to Results

By identifying the PIP’s and selecting the most important which impacted on company performance and then creating new solutions, the company went from negative profitability and two years of declining sales to sales growth and profitability. In fifteen months, the company’s profits grew by 720% and sales by 240%. This combination made the company not only more “Effective” by selling more, it increased its “Efficiency” (creating profits), a double hurdle that is difficult for most companies to jump.

Using Management Styles and “capi” to Make Effective Decisions

After the success at developing what became a $40 million regional company, School Specialty was eager to watch me reproduce outcomes with a company owned subsidiary which had a national market. They offered me the number two-position at a specialty printing company. Before making my decision, I attended their annual strategic planning meeting.  In that meeting I did a management style diagnostic on the senior leadership team, determining their styles by simply listening to what they focused on and what they saw as opportunities, and then immediately turned down the position.

I saw that the current President was a major “A” (Administrator) in his management style. The two other key players with authority were also major “A’s.”  I recognized I would be the only major “E” sitting at that table.  Without the formal authority to say “yes“ to new ideas, I would be engaged in an endless battle to introduce an entrepreneurial spirit into a company that was controlled by “A’s.  “A’s,” on a whole, are risk avoidant and value constancy versus change.  I decided  my efforts would be doomed to failure. As a part of my closing statements, I told Dan, “The current leadership team would do very well at maintaining the business they have but they will not see any significant growth.”

New Challenges

In the following year, I left School Specialty to lead a promising start-up company.  I soon saw the “dot com” handwriting on the wall and left the company to reopen my consulting doors.  I called Dan to let him know that I was available again as a consultant.

Dan, reflected, “You were right on with your prediction with the printing company. They did not grow the business.  How did you know?”  I just said, it was clear to me with the “Adizes Crystal Ball.” The company had no entrepreneurial energy. They were likely to continue as they were because they were unlikely to make the decisions needed to do something different to grow the business.  Dan’s conversation ended with an offer, “Instead of consulting with us, I would like to have you come back and lead the printing company as President with full authority to implement growth.”  I took on the new challenge but not without my “Adizes Tool Kit” tied to my hip.

A Complementary Team

I found my initial assessment of the print company’s  team to be accurate. The team had very little “E.”  I am an “EI,” with my weakest element being “A.”  I now saw a balance of the management styles with the “EI” having the authority to implement change, while the “A” function made sure the company did not spin out of control. The leadership team now complemented itself and raised the probability of quality decision-making, which in turn would perpetuate the company and grow the business.

“capi” and a Successful Consultative Sales Call

I continued to evaluate the people, the processes and the structures in the 107 year-old print company to better understand the organization’s capacity to learn and change. The sales process became a major focus. The paradigm shift was to take a product-driven sales force to a consultative selling sales force.

With my understanding of “capi” I included in a sales call those who would impact on the purchase and subsequent decision about the sale. We included students, teachers, principals, and secretaries in our implementing more effective sales strategies. The consultative selling process included selling a system – easier ordering, added value, timely delivery, reliable products and guaranteed customer satisfaction.  One question included, “Who does the ordering?”  It is not usually the executive or administrator. It is the secretary. How would executives know if the new system is easier than the one currently in place for procurement?  They wouldn’t, but the over worked secretary would, so we looked to include the secretary in the sales call as he or she did influence the sales decision.” By using “capi,” the increase in sales became self evident on the monthly, quarterly and annual reports for the company.

Adizes® – A Methodology that Creates Results

There is no question in my mind that the Adizes® methodology has made me more effective as a leader in the companies that I have contributed. The clarity of my recommendations and decisions and the dynamics of pulling the right team together has enhanced my ability to move companies to better serve the customer and subsequently create a “Winning Culture” for the customer, employee and the shareholders.”

Can you guess what results the print company experienced? The company grew from a $10.6 million company to over a $20 million company. To see more results, re-read the opening paragraph of this article…Yes, when Adizes® methodology is systematically applied, success is shared with all those invested in the outcome!

Memory jogging footnotes:

* “PAEI” = management style elements: P = Producer, A = Administrator, E = Entrepreneur, and I = Integrator

We have all of these elements in us but we tend to have strengths in one or two areas as one element can create a conflict with another.

**”capi” = the coming together of  “authority” (a), “power” (p), and “influence” (i) which is needed to successfully implement a decision.