Case Studies in Organizational Change

By Gill, Christy; Kleiner, Brian H. | Industrial Management, March/April 2018 | Go to article overview

Case Studies in Organizational Change


Gill, Christy, Kleiner, Brian H., Industrial Management


Companies face a critical struggle when trying to implement and sustain organizational change, a battle illustrated by thoughts from two towering historical figures, British biologist and naturalist Charles Darwin and U.S. author and humorist Mark Twain.

About survival, Darwin said: "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most responsive to change." In what could almost be considered a reply, the ever-witty Twain once said: "You know, I'm all for progress. Its change I object to."

While organizations know that change is in their long-term interest, as Darwin explained, the short-term resistance, as Twain demonstrated, often prevents successful organizational change. So what do the organizations that succeed do differently?

Case studies of organizational change methods used by IBM, Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Lever Brothers reveal common elements: Selecting outstanding leadership teams, creating a change vision, communicating continuously and honestly, maximizing employee participation and establishing and measuring short-term wins.

When incorporated into a strategy, these key elements can guide companies toward successful organizational change.

Making IBM less blue

In September 1999, IBM CEO Lou Gerstner read a report about a business unit that closed, discontinuing a new, promising initiative. This struck a chord with Gerstner, who wondered why IBM kept missing the emergence of new industries. An internal study showed that the company had failed to take advantage of markets it could have captured 29 times, including products from the first commercial router to speech recognition software.

A detailed internal analysis determined that IBM missed those markets because it focused on short-term results, major customers and markets and improving profitability. So IBM could grow in mature markets but not explore new ones. As a result, IBM developed its Emerging Business Organization (EBO) in 2000. Between the inception of this program and 2005, EBOs increased IBM's top line by $15.2 billion.

This was possible because of how IBM implemented this dramatic organizational change. First, IBM formally identified new emerging business opportunities twice a year by soliciting ideas internally and externally, which often resulted in more than 150 ideas. Small teams analyzed and narrowed this vast array of ideas, and then Bruce Harreld, senior vice president of strategy at IBM, communicated these ideas to senior management and customers to determine acceptance. When they moved forward with developing an EBO, Harreld and a corporate strategy group met monthly to review progress, refine strategy and ensure execution.

The key principles Harreld and his team developed included active and frequent senior-level sponsorship, dedicated A-team leadership, disciplined mechanisms for cross-company alignment, resources fenced and monitored to avoid premature cuts, actions linked to critical milestones and quick start/quick stop. "Organizational Ambidexterity: IBM and Emerging Business Opportunities" in the 2009 California Management Review took a closer look at each of these principles and the EBO efforts success.

The principle of active and frequent senior-level sponsorship was a lesson from IBM's failure to enter new markets: Senior management was not paying attention to new ventures. While understandable, it is dangerous, as new ventures can be overlooked or have their resources taken away. To address this issue, all EBOs were required to have active sponsorship from a senior vice president. The sponsor, Harreld and the EBO leader met monthly to discuss strategy, progress and make sure the EBOs received proper attention and resources.

The principle of dedicated A-team leadership kept away younger managers who lacked the networks necessary to develop EBOs. Harreld emphasized having the best and brightest on EBO teams. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Case Studies in Organizational Change
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.