Summit Technology, Inc. — the story of a dramatic turnaround powered by great people and process.

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Summit Technology, Inc. was a Boston-area developer, manufacturer and marketer of excimer laser systems. Under the brilliant technical leadership of founder and CEO David Muller, the company was first to receive FDA approval for myopia (nearsightedness) treatment. The large potential market (220M eyes), attractive business model and charismatic CEO allowed for a successful IPO in 1996, raising over $100M to fund commercialization and scale-up.

With the IPO came high expectations, as many as 4 million eyes per year, for the lucrative $250/eye procedure fees. Due to typical market adoption factors, however, procedures in the first year fell well short of expectations – with a modest 55,000 eyes treated. Summit responded by opening 19 company-owned “Centers of Excellence” –in direct competition with their customers. To compound the problem, Summit had taken its “eye off the ball” and allowed VISX, Inc., its West Coast rival, to surpass them in technology, FDA approvals and market share. The combination of disappointed shareholders and dissatisfied customers lead Summit’s board to appoint Robert Palmisano, formerly President of Bausch and Lomb’s Eyewear Division, as CEO in early 1997.

Palmisano quickly initiated a turnaround plan, which included divestiture of the Company-owned laser-vision centers; new executive leadership in marketing and sales, finance, manufacturing operations, regulatory and clinical affairs, and legal; a mantra to “mean more to our customers” and a high performance management system (HPMS) built on proven quality principles and practices. I was fortunate to be a member of this newly formed team. Palmisano also brought in Richard Palermo, Sr. as Summit’s primary management consultant, to assist us in adopting and implementing HPMS.

HPMS is a macro-management process with four primary inputs: voice of customer, voice of employee, voice of the financial community/shareholder and management judgment. These inputs are used to identify an organization’s “Vital Few” priorities, which, in some cases, are solved with structured problem-solving methodology.

Through HPMS, great people, and a lot of hard work, we transformed Summit into a world-class entity in less than four years –culminating in a $900M sale to Alcon Laboratories in 2000. This exit represented a 9x increase in shareholder value – a result that would not have been possible, I believe, absent the choreography and discipline provided by HPMS.

Since this initial introduction, we have helped many organizations successfully implement HPMS. If you have a turnaround or business transformation challenge, please reach out to us to learn more about how we can assist you in achieving your goals.