The following story was told by Rick Brandt, president of consulting services at the human capital management consultancy TalentQuest.
Client: A large U.S. wholesale distributor.
Problem: One of company's largest state operations was undergoing a transformation to become more market- and customer-focused, while also modernizing its entire supply-chain operation.
Diagnosis: Competitors had moved into the state, so business was becoming much more competitive, and the state operation was beginning to lose money. The organization needed to better understand its market and customers.
Methods: While undergoing its supply-chain modernization, the company realized that what would make the transformation successful was getting people on board with the change by moving them from being bystanders or passive acceptors of these activities, to active supporters.
The organization created sponsoring change committees for each of the organization's major state operations. These committees sponsored the entire transformation process, from changing the organizational structure to modernizing equipment. Most of the committee members were part of the company's senior team.
Brandt emphasized a key differentiator for successful change: getting middle management to buy in. He focused on training middle managers using the following experiential methods:
- All managers in the state convened for full- or half-day training sessions. First, Brandt taught them a change management model similar to that of John Kotter. Then, the managers were given Flip cameras and instructed to sell the organization's changes using the principles learned from the change model. The managers created a short documentary showing why the changes were necessary and beneficial to the organization and communicating the expectations they had of employees to move the change forward.
- Brandt then used a web-based gaming application to further teach the managers the steps of change. The managers were split into teams for the simulation. They were tasked to act as consultants for an organization that was undergoing significant competitive threats and major operational transformation. They identified the causes driving the changes, evaluated change activities, made recommendations, and implemented the activities. They received feedback about whether their choices increased or decreased organizational commitment to the change.
After managers were trained, they trained frontline employees and integrated change-related employee expectations into individual performance plans.
End Results/Solution: Changes in the initial location were well received and are currently being rolled out to a second location. A senior executive noted that training played a positive role in enabling employees to adapt to the supply-chain changes, resulting in increased operational efficiency.