Oil Change: Perspectives on Corporate Transformation

Oil Change: Perspectives on Corporate Transformation

Oil Change: Perspectives on Corporate Transformation

Oil Change: Perspectives on Corporate Transformation

Synopsis

Oil Change: Perspectives on Corporate Transformation is the second book in the new college business series: The Learning History Library. It is the story of major corporate change undertaken by Oil and Co, a pseudonym for a major international oil company, just after a time of layoffs and cutbacks. Key people within the company tell this story, using a technique devleoped at MIT's Center for Organizational Learning. 150 employees were interviewed at all levels of the company, from hourly workers to the Executive Council, working in all primary OilCo businesses: exploration and production; refining and retail; chemical and oil consulting. In addition, representatives of OilCo's professional services were consulted including human resources, law, tax, and investment. All quotations have been approved by the people who made them during this time when all the firm's values came into question: business practices; corporate governance structure, team management, and leadership style. This "the inside" story will show you some of the things OilCo learned collectively, as a company, and individualy, as employees in a changing environment. As with the first Learning History, Car Launch, this story contains four kinds of content: "set up" which provides, among other things, the hierarchy of the firm and a chronology of events; the story itself that involves changes in leadership, personal and organizational alignment, extensions of the economic value added model, and employee commitment after major upheavals; academic commentaries; and a discussion guide for users.

Excerpt

Only a handful of corporations have ever set out to deliberately transform themselves as a whole -- to change from top to bottom their ways of conducting business, their attitudes, and their organizational structure. It is particularly audacious to take on such a transformation just after a time of layoffs and cutbacks, when most managers instinctively want to hunker down and wait for better times to return.

Yet the senior leaders of OilCo, an American oil company, embarked on just that sort of comprehensive change initiative in 1993, soon after the worst round of layoffs in their history. During the next three years, the "OilCo transformation," as they called it, profoundly altered every aspect of the company. OilCo's business practices, corporate governance structure, team management approaches, leadership style, and values came into question. Many policies and structures were abruptly altered. A host of assumptions and attitudes, long ingrained in OilCo's culture, no longer seemed to fit as well as they once did, and these too were brought up for reexamination and renewal. The act of change itself, once the exclusive purview of the senior-most executives, was propelled and cascaded to many far-flung parts of this large corporation.

Between 1993 and 1997, OilCo actually did most of the things that large companies are exhorted to do by management "gurus," by leadership books, and by the Harvard Business Review. But OilCo didn't just follow a set of management fads blindly. Its leaders, and people throughout the company, thought in depth about the changes they adopted and crafted them into a relatively coherent program. Few companies have gone so far, and rare indeed is the opportunity to look behind the corporate curtain to see what happened from within.

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