Imprinting Change on Your Organization

By Denton, D. Keith | Industrial Management, November/December 1996 | Go to article overview

Imprinting Change on Your Organization


Denton, D. Keith, Industrial Management


Xerox recently implemented a redesign of their organization. The redesign included a complete reorganization of who they were and the function they were supposed to be performing. When this "new organization" was announced, half of Xerox's employees were in new positions. Fortunately, the transition team charged with implementing this massive change recognized the need to bring others within the organization into the process. They needed to ensure this new direction was imprinted on the organization, so they brought together the top 40 executives at Xerox.

One of the tools the team used to imprint its new vision was a process they called "storyboarding." Executives first were divided into small teams, and asked to create 30-second videotapes about what the new change meant to them. Next, each team was asked to visualize a "moment of truth" that would be some point in the future where a conflict would arise. Using this future conflict as the central theme, each team was asked to create a storyboard about how they would respond in the new culture versus how they would have responded in the previous culture. These small groups were then asked to bring their storyboards back to the entire group of 40 executives. Some of the storyboards were even acted out so executives could visualize how they might react to future conflicts.

Imprint the change on key personnel

Storyboarding is not the only way to imprint a change. In the early 1970s, Shell Oil Co. was the weakest of the big seven oil companies. In 1971, several members of their Group Planning unit started analyzing the dramatic changes and uncertainty of world oil markets. Their managers, up to this point, only thought about a steady growth in oil usage. Presentations by the Group failed to convince many of their managers of the need to change their mindset regarding the oil market. Most managers still failed to see the need to adapt to a potentially volatile oil market.

The presenters soon recognized that something would have to change. They felt they needed to create a new mental model for their decision-makers. Using a technique similar to Xerox's storyboard, called "scenario analysis," operating managers were asked to think how they would manage in the future under different scenarios. The Group wanted to create new mental images and to help managers rethink how they would react to new business conditions.

Radar scopes

You can have an idea about making a change, but it is useless unless you have some means of getting feedback about how you are doing. Setting up some form of feedback, however, is not that simple. Furthermore, measuring the wrong performance is even worse than not measuring performance at all.

The story of the Dead Sea Scrolls is an excellent example of inappropriate rewards producing inappropriate behavior. When the first Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, archaeologists wanted to find more scraps of the scrolls that had been turned in by wandering Arab shepherds. The misguided scholars offered a fixed reward per scrap, thereby making it likely that the fragments would be broken up into tiny pieces before it was delivered. Incentives provide selection pressures and determine which behavior is appropriate.

The Swedish ABB Corp. provides a good illustration. To remain competitive, management at ABB felt it was necessary to increase speed by reducing cycle times 50 percent. As a result, they created their T-50 program that reduced order and other cycle times by an average of 40 percent. One of the keys to these improvements was changing from activity-related objectives-like the count of company seminars or projects that have been authorized-to more result-oriented objectives radar, such as on-time delivery and the reduction of cycle time for R&D. The new corporate direction stimulated employees into thinking about increasing speed. To accomplish this feat, they needed a new radar. What better technique than to get people measuring cycle times. …

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