Case Studies

Case Study #1: Forced Change in State Government: A Crisis Tale

Context:

Following hurricane Irene in 2011, large swaths of a New England state suffered severe destruction. As a consequence, the new governor and his administration were left in turmoil trying to quickly respond to a population and government employees in crisis. To quickly relocate government staff and attend to the needs of storm battered constituents, three agencies were moved into a single building in the state capital. The building was in the midst of a remodeling project initiated to quickly convert the structure to an open office design; and therefor, accommodate significantly increased occupancy while providing an improved work environment.

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Engagement Scope:

The change intervention involved helping the governor’s administration and top officials at three state agencies to effectively collaborate in an effort to lead large-scale, forced change under crisis conditions. Challenges for this intervention included the need to: 1) create change transition awareness and facilitate the support needed from agency leads, executive leaders, human resources, and front line managers to successfully navigate technical and human transitions; 2) create change management strategies to accommodate imposed change in the public sector; and 3) establish and guide the type of communication needed to ensure effective change management and decision-making across and within the agencies.

Results:

The project suffered early setbacks due to the administration’s decision to move quickly to relocate government employees, thereby limiting early communication and information sharing among key stakeholders at the onset of the project. This early lack of communication caused a fundamental loss of trust and confidence in leadership among staff at a critical time. As a consequence, in the early phase strong resistance to the change quickly developed resulting in numerous leadership challenges.

Phase two of the project witnessed a dramatic turnaround prompted by the hiring of a seasoned project manager and transition consultants who immediately constructed a solid communication network between essential players and frontline staff. Based on data collected at the close of the project, government employees indicated they were on their way to adjusting to their new workspace and agency neighbors. Collaboration had been dramatically improved and skepticism witnessed in the beginning of the project had been largely overcome. Managers expressed enthusiasm and appreciation for meeting with colleagues to share challenges, success, strategies, and opportunities. Employees, if begrudgingly, indicated they were adapting to their new environment and appreciating the more professional atmosphere. As one agency director reported, “Our people like the more professional work environment, they are even dressing better!”

In summary, the governor’s team witnessed the consequences of not attending to people through the change process, and, with assistance from a seasoned project manager and transition specialists, now appreciates the need to incorporate lessons learned in the planning and execution of all of the state’s large-scale, change projects.

Case Study #2: Leadership Team Behavior – Pharmaceutical Company

Context:

The Chief Operating Officer of a large successful pharmaceutical company (division) wanted to address negative feedback from employees about the leadership team and toxic behaviors between team members. A survey had identified leadership behaviors from members of the unit’s leadership team (mostly scientists) that were perceived as disrespectful to others. The leadership team also expressed concern about their own interactions, in particular, how willing the team was to discuss different perspectives on various issues and how safe it was to present dissenting opinions.

 

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Engagement Scope:

Through several team coaching sessions, a facilitator delivered content and conducted a number of exercises designed to create alignment on two levels: First, on what the offensive behaviors were and the organizational impact of continuing the behavior. The goal was to agree on a definition and to make the case for change. Second, to agree on strategies to change the behaviors. Here the goal was to reach agreement on a couple of steps that the leadership team could hold itself accountable to, and that would begin to shift how they were perceived.

Individual Coaching – each member of the leadership team received individual coaching to identify specific behaviors that they wanted to focus on changing, that were based on feedback from an assessment and the survey.

Results:

The leadership team created a development plan for their interaction as a team, and strategies for changing how they interacted with the organization as a whole. The team committed to establishing some interim measures to provide insight on the impact of their strategies and to run another formal survey six months from the start of implementation.

Case Study #3: Cultural transformation: Participatory strategic planning to transform a social services agency.

Context:

The New Jersey-based Family Guidance Center (FGC) is an agency devoted to helping people in need, serving approximately 5000 clients in central New Jersey. FGC is a non-profit comprised of more than twenty different programs and offering various services designed to provide critical support for the distressed in the community, including men, women, children, and families. In the summer of 2014, FGC was a largely siloed organization in the midst of traditional strategic planning process involving a small group of dedicated board members and executive level staff.

 

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Engagement Scope:

The goal was to broaden the strategic planning scope and utilize the planning initiative to effect cultural transformation. The intention was to create a significant “transforming exchange” (Olson & Eoyang, 2001) by introducing a large-scale intervention (LGI), otherwise known as a large group meeting. The nine-month initiative, utilizing a highly collaborative strategic planning process know as Real-time Strategic Planning (Jacobs, 1997), was comprised of participants from all levels of the organization and involved assigning key implementation roles to a number of these participants whom we labeled “champions.” In addition to effective strategic planning, our goals were to 1) promote inclusivity and break down the “we-they” perception between staff and upper management; 2) improve two-way communication across the agency; 3) promote FGC as one inclusive agency comprised of a variety of community services; 4) share or delegate leadership; 5) give the board an accessible “human face”; and 6) tap into the talent, expertise, and creativity of the entire agency.

Results

This initiative achieved remarkable results. The first step was to transition the strategic planning committee into the planning to plan team (P2P), a planning team comprised of key constituents from across the organization to help plan the strategic planning process – not to create the actual strategic plan – and devise an implementation strategy that engaged stakeholders from across the agency. Beginning from the mindset of a traditional strategic planning process, this transition took the team four months of “connectivity” and dialogue to achieve. At the event, participants were seated at “max-mix” tables with representatives from all parts of the agency and at least one board member (Kusy & McBain, 2000). The response to the strategic planning event was overwhelmingly positive based on the group’s genuine appreciation for being asked to participate in an important organizational process. The jubilance FGC members experienced at being truly valued and respected was on full display. As indicated by post event evaluations, as well as the comments and dialogues at the tables, participants valued being asked to be part of FGC’s important planning process; their enthusiasm, talent, creativity, and ideas flowed.

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References:

Bunker, B. B., & Alban, B. T. (1997). Large group interventions: Engaging the whole system for rapid change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Jacobs, W. R. (1997) Real time strategic planning: How to involve an entire organization in fast and far-reaching change. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler

Kusy, M., & McBain, R. (2000). Putting real value into strategic planning: Moving beyond     never-never land! Organization Development Practitioner, 32(2), 18-24.

Olsen, E.E. & Eoyang, G.H. (2001). Facilitating organization change: Lessons from complexity science. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

 

Case Study #4: Team Dysfunction – Financial Services Technology Firm

Context:

Two separate teams in a financial services company identified a need to further develop high performing behaviors. The teams interacted on a number of strategic projects and had been given feedback that their cross-team behaviors was problematic. In addition, both teams recognized that their ability to deliver on complex projects was being compromised by inter team conflict and a general lack of trust. The organization had not made any investments into team training. The engagement was a collaborative effort that leveraged frameworks and models familiar to the organization.

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Engagement Scope:

Through several ½ day sessions, a number of facilitated learning activities was provided to focus the team on developing two key areas based on Patrick Lancioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The first area focused on vulnerability based trust and the second focused on avoidance of conflict. Each of these areas were identified as part of a cross team kick off session. In advance of the first ½ day team sessions a 360 assessment was conducted by conducting 30-minute phone interviews with the organizations leadership team, customers, team members and stakeholder, to collect relevant information about each team. Armed with the feedback from the 360 interviews the teams discussed how their behaviors were viewed by others and opportunities for growth. In addition to the 360’s, the engagement administered MBTI assessment for each team member. The MBTI was used to provide the team with information about composition, potential strengths and weaknesses in line with specific tasks the teams were responsible for as well as for individual coaching with the goal of providing feedback related to team member behaviors and the role each played in fostering a collective team personality.

Results:

Each team created a targeted development plan with clear measures and accountabilities to address the identified focus areas. Using the same approach, the organization was able to provide feedback post engagement. Both teams have seen improvement in their ability to deal with inter team and cross team conflict and have improved levels of trust and overall collaboration. With a baseline measure to gauge continued progress the organization is using the 360 process to develop better cross team collaboration across the enterprise.

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