Teamwork : Teams Make Change Happen

Albert A. Vicere is executive education professor of strategic leadership at Penn State's Smeal College of Business, and president of Vicere Associates, Inc, a leadership consulting firm with clients around the globe.  He is one of the country's top leadership coaches, and is the author/editor of several books including Leadership By Design, The Many Facets of Leadership and more than 80 articles on leadership development and organizational effectiveness.

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The best of business leaders share at least one very similar perspective - that the essence of their job is to get results and at the same time to build commitment to the organization's culture and values.  But there is little doubt that today's senior leaders must carry out those responsibilities in an incredibly complex environment.   Globalization and the information technology explosion have changed all the rules.  And for many organizations, that means that cultures need to change and values need to evolve.

All this places enormous demands on today’s top executives.  They must ensure that their organization meets increasingly rigid performance expectations while directing its adjustment to the new economic order.  They must orchestrate not only the development and deployment of new strategies and business models, but also the reformulation of corporate culture and values. That means they must design, develop, and execute initiatives that simultaneously help the organization to get results, reshape culture, and develop leadership depth.

The most astute leaders know that no single individual is up to this challenge.  It requires a team of energetic, capable people to help create and manage the initiatives that drive change across the organization.  It helps if the team is comprised of both business leaders and human resource development experts.  And it is essential that the members of the team have a real feel for the people, the culture, and the organizational climate.

St. Paul-based 3M is a great case study.  Following a few years of stagnant performance, the company has been on a roll over the past 18 months.  Much of the impetus for their improved performance has come from a new strategic focus coupled with a set of leadership and organizational development initiatives championed by CEO Jim McNerney.  While preserving the innovative spirit that has made 3M one of the most venerated companies in the country, McNerney has managed to make 3M an efficient, streamlined, high-performing organization.

The flagship change initiative at 3M is their Accelerated Leadership Development Program (ALDP).  That initiative was designed and is coordinated by a team of 3M HR professionals headed up by Staff VP of Leadership and Learning Margaret Alldredge.  That team has involved McNerney and a number of 3M senior executives as advisors, helping to create focus and energy around the company’s new strategy and business performance initiatives.

Moreover, more than two dozen of 3M’s senior executives have been involved as teachers in the program.  Often they’ve been paired with professors and other external experts to help them perfect their leadership points-of-view and hone their communication skills.  McNerney himself joins each session for a couple of hours, using the opportunity as a platform for making the case for change at 3M. 

In 3M’s 2002 Annual Report, McNerney noted in his letter to shareholders, “the Accelerated Leadership Development Program, now in its second year, continues to inspire and energize participants and senior management alike.  Its dynamic content and interactive format are energizing leaders from around the world.”  The company needed to change.  A new strategy and direction was defined.  The ALDP team created a forum to get the ball rolling for 3M. 

The 3M example shows just how leaders can create focus and drive momentum during times of change.  It starts with a commitment at the top and a clear direction.  It involves cross-organization teams of individuals who champion the effort.  Those teams create initiatives that help to communicate strategy, focus behaviors, and drive change.  And when done well, they drive business results--the best measure of success for any endeavor.

Copyright © 2004 Albert Vicere

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