A Culture Change Hero

On one occasion I was part way through the transition of a culture in anarchy at one of the production units that I had inherited when I joined this company. I needed to move this organization to the next level of control and cooperation. I needed a genuine and very capable “participative manager” to replace the hard driving disciplinarian that I had used in the two prior years to get the operating unit back under control. We had control re-established but at a different price (from the original “out of control anarchy”)—we had mushroomed to eighty-seven outstanding grievances from a union who for years had had total control over the operating unit and the management.

After much searching I found what proved to be a perfect General Manager for this unit. In the context of Corporate Culture, the individual I found was a leader of stature and substance. He exemplified the style of a participative manager. He was a natural manager, a clear leader with a sufficiently outgoing personality that he became the focal point of that factory. As such, he became the icon that set the tone and the standard of the Corporate Culture for that location.

His style was distinctive and influential enough that he created a more memorable leadership role, which over time supplanted that of the nearby company headquarters (who previously tried to exert a lot of influence—unsuccessfully). The presence of the corporate senior management just a fifteen-minute drive away became secondary in the confines of that location. In the context of Corporate Culture this is not unusual. The top figures in a local operating unit are usually the ones to set the standard. The corporate influence tends to provide uniformity through policy, procedures, budgets, and reporting formality, and thereby exerts its influence. It is, however, the local leadership that shapes the local Corporate Culture. When you look at the above attributes and characteristics of leadership through a participative management style, this individual could run a scorecard and have almost every one of the characteristics checked off as a positive.

Needless to say, within another two years we had turned around a disaster (which in its history could boast the longest strike ever recorded globally for the parent company) to a unit that consistently ranked as one of the top three global manufacturing units for product quality and factory productivity. This success was indeed an enviable record. Much of the credit had to go to one of the best “participative managers” that I ever had as part of my management team.

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