Throughout the next 12 months, Baking Management will run a five-article series on The Bama Companies. This series of stories details various aspects of the company’s business and why the company earned the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
This is the second installment of the series. For more information on The Bama Companies and this series of stories, go to www.bakery-net.com/bama.
This is not strategy 101. This is not a transparent strategic plan proffered to analysts to quell fears about future performance. This is not a strategy that hangs on a wall in the lobby. This is not a plan that sits on the shelf.
This is the Prometheus Process. This is a comprehensive strategy that teaches companies how to succeed despite uncertainties. This is a plan that guides companies from initial concept to end game. This is a strategic process that helped The Bama Companies earn the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
In 1998, Paula Marshall, The Bama Companies’ chief executive officer, attended a supplier meeting held by the bakery’s largest customer, McDonald’s Corp. At this meeting, Marshall met John Warden, a military veteran credited as the architect of the Desert Storm Air Campaign.
Warden was at the meeting to speak about the Prometheus Process and strategies in the corporate world. “He was interested in helping companies that wanted to do unbelievable things in a short amount of time,” Marshall says. “He agreed to come in and work with us (The Bama Companies), and we’ve been partners ever since.”
| The Prometheus Process provides a strategic planning model from initial concept to end game. |
Warden developed the Prometheus Process strategic program based on his experiences in the military. According to the strategic plan, “The Prometheus Process allows you to create and execute a uniquely encompassing strategy–one that carries you from concept to end game. It helps you choose the right things–your internal and external centers of gravity—against which to put your energy.”
The Bama Companies launched the Prometheus Process in 1999, and started to reap the benefits of the strategy less than a year later when it started a Six Sigma program. Shortly thereafter, the company evaluated its product lineup and customer roster, leading to a definitive business strategy.
| “Whether it’s the CEO or someone on the pie line, the War Room makes everyone feel like they have a choice in the company’s strategy and future.” |
Matt Bremer VP of mergers and acquisitions, business development
However, a key component of the Prometheus Process is planning in the open, and thus the War Room is open to all Bama employees—even outsiders. “Employees can show others from outside the company the War Room, and speak of the company’s strategy in detail,” Matt Bremer, The Bama Companies’ vice president of mergers and acquisitions/business development, says. “Whether it’s the CEO or someone on the pie line, the War Room makes everyone feel like they have a choice in the company’s strategy and future.”
This level of transparency, which is a major tenet of the Prometheus Process, was difficult to get used to, Bremer says. “In my previous work experiences, strategy was always the stuff of secrecy,” Bremer says. “I was accustomed to running a strategic planning group, which entailed six to eight executives in a room, where the door was intentionally shut.”
The Prometheus Process is a comprehensive strategy detailed in John Warden’s book, “Winning in FastTime.” Central to the strategic process is transparency. From the chief executive officer to line operators, everyone at The Bama Companies has the ability to offer opinions, ideas and suggestions. This transparency benefits The Bama Companies because it promotes the collective thinking of a large group of people.
“No matter how brilliant the top five executives are, if you can add more viewpoints, you include more information and ultimately make better decisions,” Bremer says.
| The Bama Companies’ War Room lays out the company’s strategy for all employees to see. |
The benefits of transparency are obvious, but what about logjams created by too many opinions and too much feedback? The design of the Prometheus Process prevents decision making from bogging down, Bremer says. The regimented process contains many exercises and process flow plans to improve efficiencies and focus the decision-making process to always stay on target.
Centers of Gravity (COGs) represent one aspect of the Prometheus Process designed to improve operational efficiencies and the decision-making process. COGs are 90-day processes that define specific areas where The Bama Companies can apply resources, and affect an outcome. For example, excess capacity served as a recent COG for the company. Throughout the Prometheus Process, the problem of excess capacity was defined, solved and managed in 90 days. This COG was highlighted in the War Room, and every employee had access to the decision-making process and could offer opinions and feedback.
Thousands of business strategies and plans have been discussed, written about and published throughout business history. So what separates the Prometheus Process from the thousands of seemingly similar strategies?
“I’ve worked with a lot of different people in the area of strategic planning, and the Prometheus Process takes the mystique of out of strategy planning and makes it live in an organization,” Marshall says. “Most other strategic processes that I’ve been a part of didn’t work because they sit around on a shelf and you get them out every six months. With Prometheus, we have a chance of having people feel connected to the big strategy.”
This benefits business in a big way, Marshall says. “This is not strategic planning 101, this is a living, breathing tactical execution of your strategic plan,” Marshall says.
So far, The Bama Companies investment in the Prometheus Process has paid off, as evidenced by the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.