The Business ChallengeThe HR department of a 1000-employee manufacturing plant was struggling with a persistent set of complaints. On one hand employees praised management for fostering open, friendly working relationships among the staff and taking good care of the people. On the other hand, there were inconsistencies in the management style of different groups within the plant that led to mismatched expectations and miscommunications between different groups. Also, there was a growing sense that the culture of "friendliness" did not support effective performance, because managers and staff were more inclined to be "nice" to each other than make hard decisions or hold each other accountable. The "silo effect" seemed to be growing, with teams doing things "their own way," focused on their own needs and objectives, as opposed to the objectives of the plant as a whole.
The ZTA SolutionWe gathered the leadership team together for an intensive team building and strategy session, in which we challenged them with concrete feedback from their staffs. They were shocked, and somewhat embarrassed, to hear that perceptions about their performance as a leadership team were so low ("they are a team?" some staff members had asked). Building on the feedback from their staffs, we facilitated a process in which the team members shared honest feedback with each other, and, again, many of them were very surprised to learn of the gaps between what they thought about themselves and how they were perceived by their teammates. The team used the discomfort from these new learnings to motivate themselves to create a new level of teamwork and leadership together. They committed, for the first time, to operate as one team with a shared set of objectives. We provided them with tools over the remainder of the four day session to build this new definition of their team, and they left with a new team spirit, a new set of operating agreements, and a new commitment to "conspiring for each other's success."
Back at the plant, there was uniform feedback that something significant had changed. Staff noticed that the leadership team actually began to appear as a team, that decisions that were formerly made by one of the directors without input of the others were now made as a team, taking into account each other's different interests. There was a noticeable commitment to ongoing improvement, as well. The team made a commitment to regular follow up sessions to hold themselves accountable for their new ways of working, and shared publicly that they were doing so. Obviously, one week off-site couldn't answer all the challenges, but there was a universal sense that a key foundation was laid in place for clarifying the direction and culture of the facility. A long term action plan was created for spreading the new ways of working and communicating throughout the teams of the plant. [Three years later, this leadership team had undergone several personnel changes, but reported that they still hearkened to the key behaviors established in this initial meeting, and felt that their teamwork and performance had risen to the highest levels they have ever experienced.]