Working with an IoT Startup

About the Client

During 2014, I met with the CEO of an IoT startup working within the energy sector through a workshop I was conducting for their sales and engineering team. After an initial troubleshooting discussion, we decided to meet for dinner and discuss the problems being faced by his business in more detail. A few weeks later we embarked on a 6 month long exercise that aimed to overcome their challenges.

Looking to the Future

The business was doing well but there were deep seated problems that were hidden from my client. A culture of self-importance and departmental standoffs meant communication and collaboration was a big challenge. Further to this, a lack of staff accountability meant long standing issues went unresolved and affected the performance of the business.

Although the CEO knew they had an exciting offering, he also knew he needed to bring everyone together. The challenge of not being able to effectively communicate their long term strategic goals had made individuals/teams unsure of where they should aim their concerted efforts.

Problem Analysis

To solve the problem in its entirety, I resolved to spend some time properly defining what issues the CEO was suffering from and where they stemmed from. I based my approach on the Define, Measure Analyse, Design & Verify (DMADV) principles of Six Sigma and sought to illustrate to the management team where they needed change.

In order to succinctly define the problem, I assessed issues from a top-down view with regular one-on-ones with the CEO. I also began a bottom-up view, using individual and group discussions, surveys, off-sites and by embedding myself within the organisation. By analysing the vast quantity of data I’d gathered throughout this assessment, I was able to present my key findings to the CEO and his management.

The Solution

Upon closer inspection, it was clear that the business was failing to address its organisational structure and culture. Whilst both are heavily complementary, ignoring either one can create rifts between departments and alienate employees.

I worked with my client to build an aspirational culture; a culture of excellence where employees were allowed to flourish and that customers and suppliers sought to emulate. Over the course of 6 months, we set out a comprehensive list of values and behaviours that the culture should embody. Employees were evaluated against this list and were trained to understand the importance of an aspirational culture.

To combat the lack of strategic direction, we went on to introduce key goals and objectives for the business. Each department was evaluated for effectiveness and was awarded an ambitious KRA’s (Key Results Area) based on current role & future expectations. These KRA’s were provided alongside a detailed breakdown of the steps (KPIs) required to achieve such objectives. Performance was measured through an assessment matrix that took into account both job success and cultural contribution. Those who outperformed their colleagues were assigned ‘star’ status that helped drive correct behaviours.

Results

The winning combination of cultural change and objective setting benefited the business tremendously. By breaking down the steps to success into achievable and manageable actions, we set the business up for success. Through incremental change, we guided employees towards a culture of collaboration and rewarded those that went above and beyond their designated role.

Since the change, the business saw a 30% increase in performance and a 45% improvement in sales. Both of these figures can be attributed to the now-positive culture enjoyed by the business: staff now serve as brand ambassadors and are working towards building an even more positive outlook for the business.

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