Sponsor Spotlight: Reading

Reading Truck Group’s Path to Self-Transformation

By Alan Farash, President and COO Reading Truck Group

No matter how big or small you are, making significant changes to your business can be nerve racking. Business leaders thinking about making these changes may wrestle with doubts. What do I need to do? What should happen first? Do I even need to change? Having some doubts is natural, but you can feel secure knowing that evolution and growth (when done right!) are natural parts of the business cycle. After all, not that long ago Netflix rented DVDs and Amazon was a bookseller.

At Reading, we made the decision a little less than a year ago to transform fundamental parts of our operations in order to stay competitive and improve our relationships with customers. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things about the challenges leaders need to overcome during the process of transforming and the opportunities that come with them.

The best place to start is identifying what you want to improve. Feedback from your customers, shifts in your market or megatrends bigger than your industry are some of the ways you may know it’s time to make a shift. However you come to realize that, it’s critical to start from a position of openness and honesty with your employees. Recognize that change can seem scary at first, so take care to think through how you want to communicate that to your team.

After identifying what you want to change, it’s time to establish a primary vision that reflects your organizational values; an organizing principle that unifies the different projects and initiatives you plan to tackle under one big idea. For Reading, that goal is improving customer experience and reestablishing customer confidence. It brings together the improvements we are making to shipping, load building, customer service, engineering and a slew of big and small parts of the business.

We took this idea one step further through the creation of our new Driven by Grit brand campaign. Driven by Grit means perseverance. It means refusing to quit. It’s never yielding and resolving to keep pushing ahead. Not only is Driven by Grit deeply personal to the team at Reading, it acts as a rallying cry that unites us and motivates us to work through problems of any size.

Regardless of whether you take this extra step or not, one of the toughest problems leadership will have to tackle in the course of transformation is changing behaviors. Humans are creatures of habit after all, which makes undoing learned behaviors so tough. But we can’t solve a problem using the same thinking that created it in the first place. At Reading, we adopted a range of new practices designed to reshape how we work together and solve problems. Every morning our teams meet in the “War Room” to review their progress against performance standards. Our people are empowered to identify problem areas, forecast for the future and prioritize needed improvements. These daily management techniques mean we identify and solve problems today instead of looking back at the end of the month or quarter.

We’re also changing how we leverage our data. I’m a firm believer that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Up until recently, we weren’t using our data to its full potential. For this reason, we now use visualization boards that clearly display our performance metrics from the factory floor to our corporate offices. We also took steps to break down communication silos between departments that needed to be working in sync to deliver for customers. And we’re in the process of shifting our culture to emphasize each person’s role in finding and solving problems.

Ultimately, what determines the longevity of a transformation project is the ability to sustain these new practices over the long term. It’s easy to start slipping when the excitement of kickoff fades and the grind of daily, consistent change takes hold. Change brings on discomfort, and the temptation can be to stop short when a few small victories pile up. At Reading, what keeps us going is our commitment to our customers and the spirit of Driven By Grit.