Fear seemed to be prevalent throughout the company. The board was afraid of the CEO, the CEO was afraid of the board, and the management teams were afraid of both. Some individual site managers were afraid too; many were frustrated, disconsolate, or angry.
Customers were perplexed by the company's poor showing. It had a great product, the public need was as strong as ever, but consumption was down.
Recognizing that some top level response was needed, the CEO and the board issued a series of memos. The memos did not address the issues actually responsible for the decline. Instead they cited employees for failing to follow the policy handbook or they reiterated policies that had proved ineffective for decades.
One memo insisted that employees in their official business capacity should use a style of language which was awkward and in some cases simply odd.
Many managers, employees, and even some customers tried to understand and implement the company directives. Some responded half-heartedly. Some walked away.
The owner of the business showed remarkable restraint. He waited patiently for the fear to dissipate, for the board to review its mission, for the customers to return. He never gave up, but sometimes the customers and the site managers, the supervisors and the management team members wondered, "Where is he? When will he step in and do something about the business he so deeply loves?"