The following survey was conducted by Joan Naidish of Regis McKenna:
What problem or issue led you to hire Don Rossmoore?
Why go outside of your organization for help?
Describe your experience in working with Don.
What pleased you?
What was difficult about Don?
What Services were delivered?
What did you value about the delivered services?
Did Don add value to your organization?
Did Don add any unexpected or surprising value?
Have the services that Don delivered changed company processes?
How would you describe Don's strengths and weaknesses?
"The relationship between marketing and product development was bad, R&D folks frustrated from lack of marketing--there was a lack of marketing research, no customer feedback, and engineers like specific data, and sometimes they hired their own outside market research which made the marketing organization. mad."
Q - So the goal was? "Getting people to work together and getting a common view as to product strategy."
"Looking to improve communication and teamwork in management. ranks. We were working in silos, independent of each other and that was causing confusion, frustration and redundancy."
"We wanted him to help us with strategic planning. Our markets were drying up and we wanted to know where to go next and how to get there...increase profitability. Partner dynamics realigned. We instigated cost control measures and worked on ways to get higher fees."
"There were two projects. The original one was the seeming inability to produce decisions in a timely matter. I also hired him to do a management audit of me and my management style. It was a golden opportunity for me to do better."
"I had responsibility for a complicated organization., actually an intertwining group of organizations.--didn't think we were being effective, communication not good, and a lot of things were happening that shouldn't have--things were not happening as they should."
"We had an internal strife in our law firm between the partners about fundamental issues. There were people who were absolutely enemies of others, lots of bad feelings. Also a bad financial crunch, bad economics."
"I thought Don could push harder because of external status. The HR person lives in the group and is a member of the team, so it is hard to be an interventionist.--Don is more confrontational, helping people understand faults and how they contribute to the problem."
"Our internal organization. Management training people are good at working with the individual contributor to the first line manager level--I should say their expertise is there, I don't think they are actually very good at it. The higher up the pecking order, the weaker the internal training is."
Q - Why? "No breadth of seeing a number of different companies at the management level and what their strengths and weakness are--that was what Don offered. Different models."
"I've never seen in internal training anything as effective as Don's approach."
"At first he was an advisor to the general manager on whose staff I sit. There Don's role was in helping us clarify on how we communicate and to point out the bullshit in a productive way . Then he was more directly involved with my staff. There we worked through very productively, decision making, check pointing, communications flow. There, too, it was very effective. I got some tools to use to know where to poke, and how, in a productive sense; a reminder of what my job was as a manager; also some reinforcement of what my personal strengths were without having to sacrifice some of my personal tenets. Example: One of the things I struggle with is how [as a manager] do I make you feel trusted and yet turn over the rocks to ask questions to make sure the job is done. Then how do I pass that on so that they can do this with the people who report to them?"
"My initial expectations were 'who the hell is this guy? Why was he hired?' I didn't have a sense for how much help he could give. Was described as team-building--I'm cynical about that after all the HR training I have done--I was very pleased to find I was wrong."
"I didn't understand the scope of the problem until Don did some survey work. Some stuff came out that made it graphically clear there were completely different views of the universe. Came out after Don did surveys of direct reports--they gave very different answers."
"I was in the process of changing the organization. and I wanted to build a team, and wanted to improve my management. I knew I was not paying enough attention to managing my top team. I wanted to improve communication in the group--things were not as clear as they needed to be."
"Sometimes people's lists of what they needed to deliver and when were so vague that other managers (our customers) couldn't figure out if they were getting what they needed when they needed it. Communication about what people could really do in terms of meeting the schedule caused severe problems."
"We had a culture that was compartmentalized ...silos. Even though we had one department which included Systems and Technology, people were protective of their own areas. Senior managers had related communication problems ....they would look after their own interests by withholding information and/or communicate conflicting goals. We were looking to Don to teach us to fix it and keep it fixed on ongoing basis."
"He did a series of face-to-face interviews of the folks on my team. He summarized them in the usual little binder he does (I guess it's usual - I saw him do it twice). He led us through a pair of very difficult, but highly productive, discussions of the input."
"I don't think middle class white people like to hear feedback. What Don does very successfully is establish the ground rules and an environment to do that. [There's] always the fear that there will be violent reaction. I got more positive reaction from the team on doing the exercise than anything else."
"Part of what came out of my work with Don, was that I am much better able to articulate what is wrong, what needs to be fixed, why, what is still wrong. I didn't know enough about what I was trying to solve to make an intelligent judgment. But I knew things were wrong, and was willing to go with what made sense."
"I did not intend to spend a lot of money, in the end, I think the value we received very much matches what we spent. I didn't have a lot of risk, he's very comfortable to work with, we arranged that he'd come, and we'd talk, and I'd pay him for his time, and if I got to a place where I didn't feel it was effective, I'd kiss him on both cheeks and send him away. Relaxed arrangement, and that made me comfortable that my risk was very small--only a few thousand dollars, compared to the problems I had, that were costing me thousands. I figured out that I literally had one guy, I had big chunks of 5 people's time compensating for the damage he did. What's that worth? The money he saved me probably saved Don's fee, made him cost-effective. Other contributions he made were many times what he costs."
"One of the big problems he has: many times it's a subtle thing to measure. A year after he enters an organization, communications are better, things are functioning better, people will agree. Unless you were really responsible for making it come out right, you might not appreciate that it was an outside influence that caused it. You would feel better, but wouldn't know why, how it occurred. That is tricky on what he does."
"I wanted him to help us change our cycle of distrust and negativism that had resulted between some of the partners and also help us make tough decisions about how we would go forward given we were in an economic pinch at the time. Most saw the personal as predominant. Although the economic were more real. Don helped us see that we were not keeping economics in the foreground."
"Don did a survey of reports and their key reports and provided feedback on a peer group basis, then in meetings he provided coaching about listening skills, ability to frankly communicate (the undiscussable), the development of key operating processes, [i.e., who is responsible for what, what do we do when], clarification of roles and responsibilities, what are X's boundaries, Y's boundaries, etc., and ongoing reinforcement, and meetings where Don attended more as an observer than counselor, forcing people to ask questions if they were vague, which caused a behavior change for the better in those involved."
"The first one was getting us to make a set of layoffs we needed to make and do realistic cash-planning. He put our heads in a new place about fiscal management of the firm when we first hired him. Without which the firm would not have survived. Another service he performed was in training us in a decision-making procedure. Those were the biggies."
"Don would come to group meetings and take extensive notes. He would then report what went on. Sometimes he would intervene in conversations. He would say "Let me work through the same issue." We would watch him deal with an issue and get much better results. He was modeling communication skills repeating back what the person had said, asking what led them to their conclusions. We could feel what it felt like to be asked questions in that way."
"Don would conduct telephone interviews and personal interviews with a group of people at same level. For example: Direct reports to the top three...12 individuals. After conducting interviews he met with the group he interviewed and presented a summary of the data. He would ask 'Do you agree that these are critical issues,' then he fed the information up. He used these group meetings to open the communication vertically. This experience is like being in an emotional whirlwind. People where thinking....'you can't say that out loud,' as we watched Don actually do it."
"Don led training to help us learn how to listen and communicate what we wanted to say in a clearer way. The training was on going...reinforced in our regular meetings. The skills cascaded down into the organization.. from the top, including my boss and his boss as well as the many levels of VP's we have at our company."
"Don asks probing questions that lend a valuable perspective to the discovery process. Advice on how to react to the data and the analysis. I think there is a tendency to want to react too soon to what's been said. Don's good about realizing there is a certain amount of triage in terms of what's true and what's valuable. You learn that even if certain facts are true, that doesn't mean that you will do something about them to change them. "
"The attack was: First, peers and first-level VPs, solve those on the theory that those were hanging up everybody down below. Once they were moving in the right direction, I had Don (he'd gotten to know his way around, people knew who he was) working on his own with the Director level group, then at the same time he began with the manager level group, working his way down the ranks, teaching basic communication and meeting techniques, identifying problems through surveys, talking to people like, 'hey I'm just a reporter and I'll sanitize your response, it's just to get problems out on the table,' and people talked very candidly under those circumstances and then he went back up the ranks getting their problems solved."
"I liked the positive changes in the organization, that you would find any number of us who found measurable, observable changes across the board, all the way from the general managers to the individual contributors. We all liked that as a team. Liked that Don worked from the G.M. through the whole organization."
"Survey work: valued the surprises, what I was not aware of, in some cases, there were things I was aware of but didn't think others viewed as important, and then there were some things people thought were problems that really weren't, and I could explain that to them. So you value the stuff you learn and not what is reinforced [that you already knew]. Valued the Communication coaching--listening skills and trying to address the unspeakable--that broke down some barriers between people, made communication easier, moved undiscussable into the discussable--just among reports."
Q - What was an undiscussable? "Perception that I was strongly biased to support one op system over another, which also reported to me. I was able to explain my schizo world view where I treat my H/W world separately from my op system group, because H/W has to support 3 different op systems, and it [wrong impression] was nipped in the bud."
"Don is sincere. He seemed to really want to help us. He took the
problems seriously. He pushed us to not let things slide."
"Our business would not have survived without his help. He recognized that one of the original partners of the group was a person who would continue to cause irreconcilable differences in the group. And despite the strong wishes of one of the name partners to keep that difficult partner, Don helped us get rid of her and that was also necessary to save the business, even though the decision makers at that time would not recognize that. She left, and my sense is that he played a role in allowing her to see how self destructive she was being by staying and that she was at odds with the business's survival. There were definitional differences between what she wanted the firm to be and what it could be. She left under her own power, but that would not have happened in a manner that left the firm intact if not for Don. Without his intervention the whole firm would have come to grief."
"Very honest, hard feedback, tough love approach. Real. What was really going on. That made the training effective. It has stuck well over a year. We got a great deal of value for the money."
"Hmmm. One of things we liked best about it across the division is Don really does communicate a certain level of calmness and security on highly contentious issues. He's very good about getting people to focus on things they might not want to focus on. Probably the great strength in the practice."
"Most important value I value is that it was really useful, sort of fearless advice. He stepped into places where people just don't step. Emotionally. People don't like to talk about hard things, about what is wrong. Don is relentless, and gets abused, until people start to recognize what is positive about it. Most of what he gets is Hate Players, he doesn't get warm snugglies. He's making them do things that they don't want to do. I value the fact that the advice is real, to the real issues and not fluff, consultant crap. 'You've got this problem. That individual over there is not talking to this individual here. That is your problem. Or: That personality characteristic of that person is having effect Y on this group of people.' It's real, he knows what he's talking about, he's not always right, but mostly right. "
"Very effective listener. We would talk once a week when problem solving, on phone hour, hour and half, and work things through. One thing he knows how to do, which most people don't: he knows when to shut up. We'd talk, I'd want to write down an idea. He would shut up until I got it down, written down so I was satisfied and could give it back to him. He is a very effective person to think with. He's like having 2 brains. You can reason a problem through, and what you get back is what you said, and if he has something real to add, he will, and very often it's wise. I trusted him a lot, and it was very easy for me to dump out what I was thinking, and let him critique it. He could explain to me his reasoning that let him think that I was wrong. We'd argue it out. He's a good resource to reason things out, to this day. If I'm having a problem, there's a lot of politics, personalities, emotional content--I'll call him--he's a good resource for that."
"He has given us some real discipline in our forecasting and our tasking. He started a monthly meeting that we continue, we look at our case load and revenue stream analysis for the next thirty days--a practical look at our caseload."
"He has been gutsy enough to confront potentially emotionally difficult issues interpersonally and I am grateful for that."
"He was able to identify what people were doing in a way they could not do for themselves. He could articulate to people how they were listening or not listening, interrupting, not aware of their impact. Help people see things, interactions, differently."
"Identified a number of issues that needed to be worked on. All of us learned from the survey in terms of things that were surprising not just to me but to the others."
Q - What? "There's been an incredible inconsistency about whether I delegate too much, or too little--this has come up in the past and I've been mystified. Well it turns out I delegate consistently, but I don't follow up. Some of my people are used to it and just go away and get it done happily. Some you have to hound to make sure it gets done. So there was a dichotomy we figured out. Another was: What was motivating? My idea of motivation was like cheer leading--it turned out that what was motivating was just plain good management: having a clear view of where we are going, being successful in one's own job and successful as a group."
"ABSOLUTELY! He added to the way we communicate with one another; the sense of trust with one another since our communications are better; our product development ability since our questions of each other were better. Willingness and openness of the folks he was coaching to be receptive to what he was saying. Of course, you could turn it the other way around; you have to have a good coach for others to want to listen. Others have come up to me to ask if he was going to work with others in our company and 'could I work with him?"
"Incredible value..... Project management budgeting process completely improved. We are more confident about how we determine and explain our fees. He made us feel the responsibility of our ownership and the need for us to take control."
"We were much better at making decisions when he was done. Everyone acquired a set of skills for determining whether communication has occurred clearly. I know I have. Much to the surprise of my new organization. I believe I've become a better manager for it. And I believe my mangers were, too."
"Tremendous value. Really Don is the one who added value. He used Associates for interviews but he is the one. Communication is dramatically improved in some areas where it was terrible."
"Yes. Putting aside the internal help, externally he did help us increase our awareness of how we deal and communicate with our clients, specifically he helped us to learn to spend more time learning what our clients' goals are in a more detailed way. We have better relations with our clients."
Oh yeah. Back to the taboo thing. There was a relationship between the manager and one of his reports. There was a tension everyone knew about. Don had some slides and found a way to get this on the table. One of the issues on the slide was the relationship. It was very unexpected that this kind of candor would be expressed. And that Don was able to ferret it out. Other part: I did not expect the amount of impact or effect that we experienced."
"We did not know we needed the fiscal kick in the butt. We were all worried about the situation, but that was not what we called him in to do. He saw the need and addressed it."
"Yes, that he could help us deal with clients. Understanding the emotional dynamics of the situations we are in are key to our business and he is really really good for that. He is great at figuring out what a given person really wants."
"This is rather strange. Don gave people someone to complain about. He had been brought in by the top. He gave us something in common to commiserate over other than work which was highly emotionally charged."
"I think the fact that he added any value was a surprise to most of us. None of us could even visualize the organization operating in any other way. The fact we could be operating with a different and very subtle skill set was a shock to most of us."
"Surprising he accomplished anything, because this is a set of problems you can't solve using a plastic formula. Most of the time it doesn't work."
"We thought we were more economically aware than we were. He helped open our eyes to the real economic conditions of our firm and our industry."
"Decision making boundaries clarified, and what needs to be looked at and how often."
Q - What does that mean? "Now we have monthly reviews of project status, and we are focusing on financial return top line stuff every week, demand generation activities--instead of a paint roller approach to the financial stuff, we have a broad brush every week and some fine details on the financial side in specific areas. Then next week we detail another area, so it all gets dealt with on a continuing basis. Now there is a consistent monthly way of reporting on project status, where it used to be on an ad hoc basis."
"A group will get up and make a proposal about a project they wish to do. One of the things that has changed is how we ask the questions that get at the underlying assumptions of how you estimate both effort and return."
"Yes. The way we manage the firm. It has led to us adopting certain procedures for holding each other accountable, a procedure for assuring we actually communicate with each other. That we have the best chance of making the best decisions. It changed the whole way we run management meetings. It changed the way we deal with our bank. In some instances it changed the way we interview for key positions."
"We have more regular group meetings. I have more informal meetings with the other managers which seem to increase our efforts to collaborate. I have used the techniques he used with our people. I have created structured interviews to capture themes and improve our effectiveness.
I've also used techniques like repeating back what you think you heard and asking for concurrence. I use the question...What leads you to say that?
Last time he was at our company was in December of 93 and people are still saying.....'Let me do a Rossmoore on you."
"Strengths: High sense of integrity. I never worried about anything I told him going higher than what we had agreed to. I never doubted his breadth and depth of experience. His commitment to our organization and me personally. His flexibility in the range - our company is a fairly tumultuous environment - Don seemed to ride with the flow and stay focused on what was the optimal issue at the time and sometimes help us change if necessary."
"Strengths are: sincerity and intelligence, well informed, good big picture guy."
"His real genius is for figuring out what people really want and what their habitual modes of thought are, and predicting what they will do in particular situations. In second place I would put that he is very very good at figuring out which real world circumstances are critical to the business's survival and which ones are just distractions or are secondary and should be dealt with after critical factors are dealt with. A triage, which is a valuable thing to an ongoing business where people can get lost in the forest of things that can demand your attention."
"Strengths: A great source in terms of management and communication skills. He clearly has the ability to be an individual tutor. We never got to use him that way, but I understand that he does that."
"Strengths, very good insight into human nature and the nature of decision making in organizations. He really has academic knowledge, practical experience, and insight that make his judgments accurate. Plus I think he is wonderfully intelligent. The willingness to delve into scary areas. To wade in. Really confront, objectively and intelligently confront what is going on. I suspect a problem Don has had in the past is, I suspect he has had either marvelous success, or been a real fireball and died. I think people either say, "Wow he's getting into hard areas," and they pay attention, Or, I think an area he probably has damaged himself is, he can tell the boss he's the one who is all screwed up. And the boss says, 'well, you're fired. I don't have to pay you to listen to this crap!' If Don found 99 healthy people and a sick boss, he'd say, 'You're the one!' and get fired! He has that kind of personal courage. So his last characteristic is that intellectual honesty."
"Strength is his clarity of vision of both what is going on in the interactions between the people who matter and his ability to ask probing questions about the external workings of the industry and the firm and to enhance our vision."
"Strengths: improving communication in a group and helping people understand how they communicate and their mental models influence and to help people understand blind spots. Help the group expose process under the words. I have never seen anyone doing that better than he does."
"Weaknesses are that he sometimes acts precipitously. He is a bit impulsive. Not on really important issues or issues he knows are really sensitive. Then he is careful enough. But sometimes he acts without reflection. The other thing is his own unorthodox personal style, I think it hurts him sometimes. He is not enough of a chameleon."
"Within that kind of work, the idea of him upsetting people and how to do that more productively would be a plus. This biggest breakthrough would be for him to make the connection between what he does
isand the content of what they are doing in a timely way. I know that is what he tries to do, but it is too slow. If he could tighten connection between working on process and the business problem and do it 10 times faster he would be a genius. I know that is what he tries to do, but it is too slow."
"Weaknesses: leadership (with making an agenda). We could have covered more territory quicker."
"One weakness I can think of--true of the 3 Don surveys I took part in--when it was presented, the question was not asked, 'who else should be involved?' I know it is hard because input is supposed to be confidential--so how do you make sure all necessary input was solicited. How do you set up the list of who will be involved in survey? The solution I gave is to have more than one person involved."
"Weaknesses....He didn't have that many people to help him..... He has a lot of endurance Not a weakness for us. Sometimes a company will look askance at a one person consulting firm. Don is a tad inflexible (which can be both a strength and a weakness) He tended not to adapt his style to meet different personalities. There were people who had a style mismatch and would get really angry and embarrassed at being confronted this way. If people aren't strong they may have difficulty taking it."
"You can tell I like him. Great guy. A little crazy. Atomic chainsaw, is an analogy everyone around here knows."
Q - Why? "His zeal and interest in pursuing truth to real depths."
Copyright © 2004-2012 Don Rossmoore