A blueprint for excellence

Make best practices a group effort

When Coscan completes a project, its leaders gather together for a post-mortem to talk about what went right and what
went wrong.

As a result of the recurring problem with closing out projects,
Neal decided it was time to give these tasks a little structure.

“I felt that we really needed to have a formalized set of
processes for the different parts of our business,” Neal says.

Those processes would then be put into manual form. But in
order to create something that everyone would buy in to, Neal
determined he needed to get others involved in the process.

To get the best results, you need to identify the people who
you think can handle the work and sell them on the project’s
importance. Neal contacted potential team members to work
on the project.

“I said, ‘Hey, look, I need your help,’” Neal says. “‘I respect your experience and I respect your knowledge. I’m going to
ask you to step up and do something that’s in addition to your
normal work. It’s going to require some sacrifice of time, some
late nights and some weekends.’”

The team met regularly for most of 2006 to develop the manual. The process involved figuring out what needed to be in the
manual and how much detail was needed to explain it.

“We don’t have every single process in there,” Neal says. “We
said, ‘Let’s focus on the top 20 or 30 that we have to use every
day, the processes we live and die by. We sat down and wrote
each and every one of them. We all critiqued each other’s

The key to making this process work and reaching consensus on
what needed to be in the manual was open communication.

“Everybody in there understood what our goals and objectives were to begin with,” Neal says. “They were people who all
cared for each other, and there wasn’t a hard feeling. We were
challenging the information, not the person. There were times
I was the tiebreaker, but I tried to stay more neutral and let the
team I had assembled regulate themselves.”

Neal says the role of the president or CEO in this type of
process is to support the efforts of your employees, not do the
work for them.

“Where I ultimately want to be in things like that is to have people who are smarter than me and have as much passion for the
success of the company as I do and allow them to go do it,” Neal
says. “I can stay almost completely uninvolved.”

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