Ten years after the leadership debacle with Cindy, I got the opportunity for a do-over.
I was no longer working for McDonald’s headquarters outside Chicago. I was a freelance learning consultant living in the woods of Newaygo, Michigan.
On a cold January morning, bright with fresh snow, McDonald’s called with an offer.
“Jule, we’ve got a project you wouldn’t ordinarily be interested in. It’s six-months, full-time, on-site in Oak Brook. We were wondering if, given your current circumstances, you’d be interested? (My husband had left the planet four months earlier and I was in the winter of my grief.)
“Why aren’t you staffing it internally?” I asked.
“We are, but the project manager needs to take a six month medical leave. You’d be temporary coverage until she returns.”
“What’s the project?”
“The redesign of the restaurant management and middle management curriculums. The last time it was done was ten years ago.”
I laughed. “You know I led that project, right?”
“Yes, we know.”
I took the gig. Thought it would be good to get out of Newaygo, have something else on my mind.
McDonald’s set me up at an Extended Stay America. Most of my fellow travelers were computer programmers who spoke in languages I couldn’t identify and cooked with curry. Exotic aromas filled the hallways and made my mouth water.
At the start of the project, our project team selected two consulting companies to do research, one for quantitative and the other for qualitative. The quantitative company frequently worked with McDonald’s on data analysis. The qualitative company was new and used innovative methods.
We knew there was a risk: Could the two companies work together to integrate the data and their recommendations?
On a Thursday morning, the companies gave a presentation of their early results to the team. It was the first time we saw how they worked together. Their lack of collaboration was obvious, there was palpable animosity between them, and the qualitative team was disorganized and unprepared. We were headed for a bad outcome.
That afternoon, I drove back to Newaygo to meet a realtor to put my house on the market. The four hours flew by, my mind occupied with slicing the Gordian knot.
Friday morning, I got on the phone with the core project team. They agreed we had a problem—the two companies couldn’t work collaboratively. Friday noon, I called the president of the quantitative company and asked if he’d be willing and able to take over the qualitative side. He was more than happy to take it.
Friday early afternoon, I called the client who’d hired me for the project and told him what I wanted to do. He supported my decision. Friday at 4pm, I called the owner of the qualitative company and ended our contract.
On Monday morning, the team was shocked and relieved at how quickly the change was made. The team and the remaining consulting company kicked into a higher gear, proof that this was the right decision.
The leadership lesson I learned from these two experiences, getting it wrong and then getting it right, is this:
“If you must take a difficult action, and if you have done your due diligence and know that it is the right action, then there is nothing to be gained and much to be lost through hesitation.”
Chewing the Cud of Good
Thankful for hope.