How corporate divisions have used the Shared Vision Process: Examples of client results

A major product division of a global Swedish chemicals corporation

This Shared Vision Process, which included a division-wide visioning, team-building, and culture change process, had multiple bottom-line benefits.

The problem

The top managers of a major product division a recently-merged global chemicals company were not working as a team and had not established an effective partnership with R&D. Roles and responsibilities were not clear, decision-making was often delayed. Product innovation, quality, morale, and profitability suffered as a result.

The project

A New Context consultant, partnered with an affiliate consultant in London, worked with the division's top management group to create and implement a clear, purposeful shared vision for the organization. The implementation included team building work at all organizational levels that lead to a high-performance, high-morale teamwork culture, where successes are publicly recognized and celebrated.

The results

The divisional management group evolved into a strong, spirited “shared responsibility” team. Establishing R&D as a full partner on the team lead to the production of more innovative products. New cross-functional collaboration between Manufacturing and Marketing led to an ability to solve quality problems more creatively and respond to customer needs more quickly. The union-management relationship improved, and personnel changes and transitions were accomplished more smoothly. Clearer responsibilities lead to faster action on purchasing, pricing, and delivery decisions. The bottom-line: More innovative products of higher quality, a more cooperative workplace, faster decision-making, quicker customer response-time, increased customer satisfaction, and higher profit-margins.

The R&D division of a global US specialty chemicals corporation

This Shared Vision Process, which brought together three formerly-fragmented groups under one vision, included a team-building and culture change process that radically increased the division's value to the company as a whole.

The problem

The new VP of R&D for a leading US specialty chemicals company inherited a division consisting of three fragmented groups, each with its own distinctive history and culture. In general, people were more committed to their research disciplines than they were to the business. Teamwork was lacking at all levels, including at R&D's interface with Manufacturing. Also, because of past history, people were afraid to raise and resolve issues that were critical to the success of R&D and the company as a whole.

The project

Two New Context consultants worked with the VP and the top two levels of R&D management to create a clear shared vision and strategy for their division. We then assisted the division in implementing the vision by carrying out a team-building and culture change process that brought the three formerly separate groups together as one division, with greater teamwork, openness, and empowerment at all levels.

The results

While taking a more proactive stance on long-term research, the division also improved its day-to-day working relationships with all other parts of the business. By dramatically increasing its level of internal collaboration, R&D was able to develop a much higher level of teamwork with Manufacturing, including the implementation of an on-going processes to generate and learn from internal customer feedback.

A new flexible manufacturing unit within a major consumer products company

This Shared Vision Process including executive coaching, team-building, and consulting on the establishment of an innovative “plant within a plant.”

The opportunity

Over a period of three years, New Context carried out a number consulting projects for the two key manufacturing divisions of a well-known consumer and industrial products company. When the company decided to establish a small “plant within a plant” as a way to adopt a new type of manufacturing technology, the leadership of the manufacturing division decided to use this opportunity to establish an innovative “high-involvement” work structure based on socio-technical work redesign principles.

The project

The new Plant Manager's challenge was to create a new organization from scratch. He began by asking a New Context consultant to act as an executive coach, drawing out his vision for the new plant. This allowed the Plant Manager to recruit the right kind of people to manage the plant. The New Context consultant then helped this small group of plant managers flesh out a genuinely shared vision for the plant and develop into a cohesive team. He then assisted this team in setting up high-autonomy, product-focused work-teams, cross-trained to take responsibility for their entire operation.

The results

In spite of some rocky periods in the beginning where quality problems had to be solved and conflict within the management team had to be worked through, the plant was a real success and paved the way for more substantial work redesign projects that followed.

The Customer Service division of a newly merged HMO

Part of this Shared Vision Process involved translating corporate values into the specific performance-related behaviors expected of front-line staff. This project also included building a common culture by working with managers at all levels to practice the new leadership actions that were needed to encourage and reinforce the desired front-line behaviors.

The challenge

Realizing the strategic importance of high-quality customer service, a newly merged health plan had just brought together a number of units from each of the two former HMOs to create a new Customer Service division. Formerly, neither company had a Customer Service division, so these units had formerly reported to a variety of other functions. The challenge was to form a cohesive management team and create a common culture, where everyone knew what performance-related behaviors were expected and rewarded.

The project

The new VP of Customer Service began by asking a New Context consultant to design with him and then facilitate an off-site meeting to create a vision for his new organization and build his management team. The team members were enthused about the opportunity to come together under the Customer Service banner, and they created a far-reaching mission for their division.

To begin creating a common culture with clear expectations, they asked the New Context consultant to facilitate a task-force that translated a set of values already articulated by the newly merged company into specific performance-related behaviors expected of front-line staff. The consultant then met with several levels of management in each Customer Service unit to customize these behavioral expectations for that unit and to clarify the leadership behaviors they would use to encourage and reward the desired front-line behaviors. Finally, he assisted the management teams of each unit in holding meetings with front-line staff where the behaviors were reviewed in small groups, with time not only for in-depth questions and discussion but also for rehearsal of the desired behaviors.

The results

Front-line staff responded positively to clear expectations in the context of an uncertain, post-merger situation. Follow-up mechanisms, which included on-going executive coaching for the VP of Customer Service, were put in place at all management levels to ensure consistency in the leadership behaviors needed to maintain the intended behavior of front-line staff. This consistency, though sometimes challenging to maintain, contributed to the building of a common culture among formerly disparate units. “The behaviors” became a touchstone for other improvement initiatives that built upon this project.

The exploratory research division of a major US multinational chemicals corporation

This Shared Vision Process for the leading-edge research unit of a large US chemical company resulted in a new “code of conduct” that supports "intrapreneurship," supportive communication, and customer focus.

The problem

This well-established chemical company has many promising but only partially-developed technologies. Advancements beyond existing materials, mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs and strategic alliances are all tactics employed to promote the research unit's mission of developing new, high margin products and business lines. The great majority of the 85 members of the unit have come from the company's various core business departments. Some brought behaviors and attitudes with them that did not support the developments of new businesses and others simply did not know what would be expected of them. The unit's leaders wanted a way to unite the entire work force behind a shared set of values, aspirations and responsibilities.

The project

In this case, a New Context consultant began with a Team-Development Process for the division's top-management group. After working with an internal Change Management Design Team on the collection and analysis of data from employee focus groups, he assisted the top-management team in creating and implementing a shared vision for the division. As part of this process, the management team articulated a concise set of core operating values, which they called a “code of conduct” for themselves and all people in the division. The New Context consultant also facilitated a creative process that engaged every member of the organization in dialogue about this statement, leading to some revisions to the code of conduct and final ratification by the entire work force at a innovative “Community Day” event. Finally, he assisted the management team in developing and implementing on-going tactics for aligning performance at all levels with the new code of conduct.

The results

This project resulted in a stronger and more open management team, much greater clarity about expectations throughout the organization, enhanced skill in the management of organizational change, and an infusion of entrepreneurial enthusiasm throughout the unit.