Case Studies: Leadership Solutions

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Leadership Solutions

Removing Silos

Senior leadership in any company is concerned with two questions – where are we going and how are we going to get there. Once leadership determines the answer to these two questions, they then have the responsibility of making sure that each employee knows how their day-to-day work ties to the direction that’s been set. Employees need to know what to work on and how they should go about doing it. This is what “culture” is all about.

Yet often in many companies, different divisions or functions have different priorities and different ways of getting things done. They live in silos.

One of our clients had two functions – one was more concerned with the “business” side of the business and the other was more concerned with the “creative” side of the business.

Idea Connection Systems® developed a three-day experiential workshop that took both groups out of their normal element and put them into a new culture that neither had experienced before: Lapland, which is not far from the Arctic Circle. In this new culture, they were challenged with developing a new “product” based on this new culture with its unique traditions and language. To accomplish this, the business people worked alongside the creative people except they reversed roles. The business people took on the role of the creative division and visa versa.

The net result was the development of new relationships based on a new understanding of the problems each function faced. These relationships became the basis for improved cooperation between the two functions in the near term and has continued for more than ten years, as people in the workshop rose to higher levels in the company.

Leadership Solutions

Developing Change Agents

Senior leaders know that what happens in the day-to-day operations of their company depends on two different groups of “leaders”. One group is the formal management chain; the other group is often called “natural opinion leaders”. This latter group has great influence over other employees. They are trusted at both the “head and heart” level, where head means that they are experts in their work and heart means that other employees trust them to tell the truth and keep their confidences.

Idea Connection Systems® was asked to develop a multi-year process to identify who the natural opinion leaders were, train them through experiential learning techniques to be change agents in the organization, and develop ways to integrate their efforts with the efforts of the formal management chain. This program became known as “Change Partners”. We worked over several years with senior leadership, plant management, change partners, and line employees to create a new way of working together that has had outstanding results. Not only did the company achieve its longer-term strategic objectives 1-2 years ahead of schedule, but they also were able to more effectively identify high potential employees to promote into the ranks of supervision and management.

Leadership Solutions

Developing Middle Management in Times of Change

As senior leaders chart the future of a company, one of their most powerful tools to help implement that future is “middle management”. At the same time, middle management can be one of leadership’s primary obstacles to change.

Idea Connection Systems® was asked by a Fortune 500 company to design and deliver a management training program that would dramatically change the way middle management did its job. The old ways of managing were no longer working in terms of getting the bottom line results senior leadership was seeking. The company needed to become more agile and they wanted middle management and all employees to be a part of the change being pursued. This required an expanded set of management skills and processes.

Idea Connection Systems® designed and delivered a three-week training course over a several month time frame for all middle managers. It focused heavily on experiential learning because this is the most powerful way to effect a change in adult behavior.

The curriculum focused in three areas:

  1. The first week was devoted to understanding the dynamics of change and how to enable all employees to sign on to the change desired. It looked at the current state of the company, as well as the desired future state of the organization. Finally, we focused on all the “roles” of a good manager: coach, mentor, advisor, supporter, and delegator. Each of these roles plays an important part in empowering employees.
  2. The second week invited the participants to look at themselves and their own unique style of thinking, decision-making, and problem solving. They then looked at the current culture of the work environment, as well as the desired culture of the future and talked about how their unique styles would help or hinder the desired change that was taking place.
  3. The third and final week focused on communications and how the various ways we speak, listen, and ask questions can have a powerful impact on the productivity of employees. We discussed how to “sell” and “influence” others both inside and outside the corporation. We also provided the managers with a process to implement a continuous improvement effort that focused on how to generate new ideas on the front end and implement them on the back end of an innovation process.

The result was a dramatic shift in the way middle management did its job. It improved the flow of communication and new ideas up and down the management chain. It also provided senior leadership with the opportunity to spot high potential managers who were skilled in this new approach to managing people.