Once upon a time the world’s largest logistics business nearly collapsed. Imagine the chaos that nearly ensued, critical parcels undelivered – the world over. Children (and some adults) crying hysterically as their needs went unfulfilled.

What happened?

I interviewed the MD to try and understand what had happened and what we can learn from the problem.

With a mug of hot cocoa I settled down by the log fire (admiring the company uniform) and listened to Santa…

The firm has been getting steadily busier, for hundreds of years now, with no competition and a growing client base. One year I decided that I needed to work on the business, not in the business. I created a number of job descriptions and clear criteria for each role.

I listened as he talked about the process and how fair it sounded. But there was a key member in his haulage fleet that didn’t fit the job criteria, that’s what caused the problem.

His manageress and the elves were managing the process according to his instructions, but as a result a very industrious and helpful reindeer had no role. Rudolph was different, he had a very shiny nose and if ever you saw it you would even say it glows.

He didn’t fit the criteria and it was the elves (not the other reindeer) laughed and called him names. He was due to be out of a job. The other reindeer, already upset by the reorganisation, used this as an excuse to down tools, right on the eve of the busiest delivery day.

What saved the day?

Santa again:

I realised that my job criteria were too tight, not that his nose was too bright.

He explained that job criteria were essential to any profitable firm. It was important to look forward and consider what roles will be needed in the future and what skills each of those roles would need. That job criteria should be written to ensure that the best employees were in those roles.

He hadn’t accounted for the unique skills which a few, great, workers had. He thought, and thought, as the fog rolled in and wondered how he’d deliver the parcels. Then it hit him, people with really useful skills should have roles developed (when possible) to suit their unique talents. The future is important, but uncertain (and needs practical strategies to manage risk and create growth). In line with that he rechecked the cash flow forecasts, then announced a new position.

Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?

How about your firm?

Good governance-sounds-boring-but-is-essential-to-your-success, how can you improve your’s? Have you thought carefully about the roles that you need completing, and then thought about the unique skills that your valuable staff have?

Read more of my Santa interviews: Click Santas-social-media-solution  or  the story of why santa wears red

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access