Fanelli Pathways


Reviews & Reflections

Lessons from the Fanelli Pellegrinaggio: Part 3

Golf-cart tour of Roma: Bakery stop at Forno Campo de’ Fiori with guide Lorenzo (orange jacket)

Golf-cart tour of Roma: Bakery stop at Forno Campo de’ Fiori with guide Lorenzo (orange jacket)

When son Dominic and I were planning our trip to Italy this past Easter season, we had three main goals:

  • We wanted to explore our roots in the “Land of the Fanelli’s”, near the town of Casalvieri in the Comino Valley region of Lazio.

  • We wanted to get a first-timer’s (me) view of Rome.

  • We wanted to visit the Vatican.

We planned our trip around these three things, but gave ourselves plenty of time to be spontaneous. For example, we did not detail out the five days in the Comino Valley, other than Easter Mass and dinner with our Italian cousins. Our 6-hour tour of Rome in a golf cart with Lorenzo was spectacular. We carted down narrow, cobble-stone alleys and made tour stops at cafe’s and bakeries whenever we got the urge and enjoyed Lorenzo’s stories about the sites we visited. During the middle 5 days of our trip, we stayed in the house in which my grandfather, Giuseppe Fanelli, was born. This experience rekindled my apprecation for my heritage and relationships with my Italian cousins. Our Vatican visit, with a breakfast and guided tour, gave me a greater understanding of my faith tradition. I was also wowed by the incredible art, the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s Pieta in St Peter’s Cathedral, and Rafael’s paintings in the Vatican Museum.

There is something to be said for an unplanned vacation at a cool place to just unwind and relax. That would not have worked for us on this trip. Had we not planned ahead, we would not have made these memories. The Rome tour would have been unavailable and the Vatican breakfast tour would have been sold out. Had I not traveled to Michigan in advance of the trip, I would not have the key from cousin Roger to get into the Fanelli homestead, and we would not have stayed there. We had to have a plan, albeit one with free time built in.


As a former manager, I experienced first-hand what happens when there is no visible plan nor ways to execute it. I managed environmental operations at a large pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in the 1990’s. We operated 50 acres of waste treatment facilities, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. We did have an annual business plan that included a budget and a few objectives, but other than meeting budget targets, the goals were forgotten, getting dusty in 3-ring binders on overflowing book shelves. Mainly, we just treated all the waste sent our way and seemed to be fixing equipment all of the time. We were frazzled, undisciplined, and morale was low. The result was a totally reactive business. With the catalytic help of Nathan S., a bold and brilliant MIT Sloan MBA school graduate (and Hi-Po hire), we created a strategy, re-branded ourselves ‘Enviromental Solutions Unlimited”, set a higher bar for perfomance, and built a quality management system. We ‘kept score’ by creating a Lead Team that met every two weeks, reviewing our scoreboard and holding each other accountable on assignments. We planned the work and worked the plan. Some interesting things happened. Within about 18 months, our productivity soared (e.g.: 25% reduction in expenses), our morale increased, and I had more discretionary time! That feeling of going home tired and not having achieved anything was dramatically reduced. We had moved out of the reactive world and into the proactive world. We realized our vision for Environmenal Solutions Unlimited. Just as I relied upon Dominic’s guidance on our pilgrimage, with his prior trips to Italy and grasp of Italian, I relied upon some incredible people (Nathan S.,Kathy M., Craig M.,Jim K., Aaron S., Ernie P., Bud W., Harold S.,Stan H, Lisa P, Dusty D., Art T.…), who advised, challenged, and supported me . Without them, Environmental Solutions Unlimited would not have happened and we would have remained in the “Reactivity Trap.”

It’s been over 20 years since my management days. The only thing we did on the internet back then was email. Mobile phones were rare and we had not heard of ‘texting’. With e-commerce, cloud computing and digital technology, all work is spinning faster than ever. The '“Reactivity Trap” is more like a vortex with a black hole that will suck you in. More than ever, leaders need to create a sense of direction and momentum, and have ways to execute their strategies and achieve their goals. The principles that help a leader move from reactivity to proactivity have not changed in those last 20 years: a plan with clear goals; a way to measure performance; and a discipline where teams of people meet to track progress, learn, and hold each other accountable.

Finally, if you know where you are going and do the things to ensure you’ll get there, you’ll create some great memories in your life and your work.

William FanelliComment