Case Studies

A 450,000 member health maintenance organization (HMO) is failing. Competition is intense. Membership is declining. The HMO is losing money.  Patient complaints circulate through the community as urban legend; impossibly long waits to schedule an appointment, see a specialist, and the sour disposition of its 6,000 staff. A strategic overhaul is needed in culture, systems and work practices. This transformation will need the support of 750 physician multi-specialty group and leadership of its board. The board creates a strategic “roadmap” and a participative process to implement it across the organization. Four years of steady work follow – implementation of electronic medical records, new structures and reporting relationships, the realignment of specialty and primary care, major shifts of authority and more.  Today, their HMO is ranked as the nations’ best for same day appointments, health outcomes and patient satisfaction.

A community is bitterly divided over proposed new text books and an integrated  curriculum in a public school. The faculty has taken sides in an acrimonious public debate. Angry recrimination has replaced colleagueship. People refuse to talk to one another. A short-term intervention of  one-on-one conflict resolution and a large group meeting rebuilds communication and trust. A year and a half later the school receives a national award for its innovative curriculum incorporating the new textbooks.

Tom Moeller is the manager of several Exxon-Mobil refineries.  With the a dedicated group of union leaders, he has transformed one of the toughest refineries from lowest in the safety and production to the best in division. From Tom’s perspective turning around refinery safety is a step-by-step process. He says, “There was a list of grievances around safety several inches thick. We resolved every one of them, made the repairs and improvements people wanted to see. We designed and implemented extensive training and set up employee teams to handle important issues like preventative maintenance, crane inspections, etc. We spent a fair amount of money. The other side of the coin is our heavy equipment reliability is way up. Big pieces of equipment might cost a million or half a million dollars, so you don’t want them out of service much of the time or you will have to replace them by renting apiece of equipment. The worked are now resonsible for trainnig and for spending to make repairs. We made ourinvestment back several times over.”

County Commissioners want a citizen-centered government where elected and appointed leaders    work together and share responsibility to implement a shared vision, and they are willing to share their legal power to get it. This long-term intervention combined leadership development, group and inter-group teambuilding, labor-management cooperation, large groups and citizen involvement. National awards      recognize their combined effort for excellence in every aspect of public service.

80 years of  traditional labor-management conflict convince a utility company executive and union leader to explore a different relationship.  Together, we developed a change strategy to be driven by the most adversarial group; a grievance committee of union stewards and company managers. One year after learning to solve problems based on “what’s right, not who’s right”, trust and confidence are sufficient for      these strong-willed individuals to negotiate a 26 page labor agreements they name “The Joint Accord.” The plain language document describes a partnership committed to  shared success.  Their blueprint become the catalyst for company-wide restructuring the dramatically cuts cost and improves service by more fully engaging the talent and commitment of staff at every level. The US Department of Labor designates their work as the model of the utility industry.

A symphony orchestra is at odds with its Board of Directors and community. Musicians feel unappreciated and plan a strike over salaries and long term financial support. Working with musicians, board members and community leaders we designed and facilitated a large group, a “real time” strategic planning event that engaged all the stakeholders. The two day effort rekindled the partnership and the support needed to keep the symphony healthy. Today the symphony ranks among the largest and healthest orchestras in the country, with 88 full time musicians and annual attendance of more than      320,000.

Deregulation has eliminated 50% of the utility’s workforce. Morale is at rock bottom. Sabotage is suspected in one plant. The union has never been more difficult. Karl, the regional manager is a man with deep sense of  integrity. He cannot bear working in this negative environment.  He has other jobs offers, but decides to take the leadership challenge in front of him. He looks for an entry point. There are multiple      accidents, so he chose the banner of worker safety as a vehicle. He provides employees with the tools to create a safety vision and empowers them with authority and funding to make it happen. Trust begins to      re-emerge as the safety vision infects other areas of the organization. Productivity increases, costs go down and the safety record stands at zero injuries. Eventually the plant is sold and many more people are laid      off, but during the transition safety, production and efficiency are maintained.