Case Study: Overcoming Entrenched Attitudes

(Steel)

Background to case study:

  • Little investment for many years
  • Bitter “us and them” culture with explicit references back to the major steel strike of the 1970s
  • High levels of cynicism that “management” had the genuine will and the capacity to change the situation
  • 700 employees

Results:

  • “4 day coil”-creation of global benchmark for the speed and quality of production of steel
  • Measurable “Behavioural Standards”* key to establishing a “new and agreed” culture were established
  • Previously bitter and divisive move out of an ex-Public Sector pension scheme handled as part of the process
  • New management structure and manning levels implemented to provide the resources required to make the transition-despite market contraction

Process:

  • Senior Team workshop to decide the level of engagement process necessary to deliver the results required to achieve the business objectives
  • They also decided issues such as what employees were being engaged about, what was “up for grabs..and what wasn’t” and the logistics of how to engage all employees within as short a period as possible at minimum disruption to the business
  • ALL employees attended short workshops where they identified the top obstacles to achieving the purpose of the engagement, identified the behavioural data necessary for employees and managers to agree the leadership and wider Behavioural Standards* that will form a key part of the new culture and elected their own employee reps to address all these issues
  • Employee reps and the Senior Team agreed a change plan by consensus** in one continuous sitting lasting until all issues identified by employees were addressed

Notes:

*Behavioural Standards are ways of codifying behaviours that are designed to avoid the weaknesses of using Values (too much scope for interpretation and “political” behaviour) and Rules (too restrictive) as the method of ensuring accountability. The effect is to hold leaders (and others) accountable and do so in a “light touch but tough” way-much more effective than approaches such as Political Correctness!!

** Consensus is widely misunderstood and often confused with “compromise”. The method used here:

  • ensures that all people who make the decision have publicly committed that this is the best outcome available having exhausted all possibilities
  • drives innovative problem-solving