Case Stories

A Stagnant Department Held Hostage

5. A stagnant department held hostage

This story is true, but names and details have been changed to protect anonymity.

“We’ve tried this before,” Sarah said, arms crossed while leaning back in her chair. The CEO asked us to lead a group whiteboard session to rethink her stagnant department, but Sarah wasn’t having it.

We pressed her again, asking as politely as we could, “Why do you think this department hasn’t grown in years?”

She smirked, undeterred. “Our clients don’t want innovation, they want to stay within regulations,” she shot back. “Plus, we make the majority of the profits in this place.” Her team barely spoke a word.

“Usually, we don’t grow because we’re not listening to our end users,” we gently said, as we drew circles on the whiteboard.

“We meet with end users all the time,” Sarah snapped. Two hours later, we had talked our way back to where we started. “I just don’t think you know how things work around here,” she said.

Exhausted and uncharacteristically curt, we said, “Listen, we don’t have to do this. This process works. But if this isn’t meaningful to you, then we don’t want to waste your time.” We warned the CEO that the department wasn’t her problem, she was. Sarah demurred. A year later, the department was in shambles, their profit contribution was gone, and Sarah was looking at the door.

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