Organizational Consultation XVI The Chartering Process: Part One
Case Study: The New England Standard Corporation
Gary is the president of New England Standard Corporation. One of us met Gary several years ago. He indicated that he wanted to move his insurance company toward greater “alignment.” He felt that the 180 employees in his company were moving in different directions. They didn’t have a clear sense of New England Standard’s priorities and often seemed to respond to crises and immediate demands, without any regard for longer-term outcomes. This seeming fragmentation was quite understandable, given that New England Standard had recently gone through a major growth spurt, the revenues of the company doubling within the past 18 months and the total number of employees growing from 75 to 180 within a 12 month period of time.
Gary initially called a colleague who owns a consulting firm in Minnesota. Gary’s colleague is an expert in the assessment of organizational culture, having devised a comprehensive organizational culture inventory. Gary asked his colleague to conduct an assessment of the culture at New England Standard. The organizational culture inventory was distributed to the sixty New England Standard employees who had been at the company more than three and one half years. This assessment revealed several areas in which employees at New England Standard were in agreement with regard to the underlying values in this organization.
The agreed upon values included: (1) an abiding concern for fairness in the treatment of employees; (2) a commitment to diversity in the workforce (especially with regard to women in key decision-making roles); (3) a shared enthusiasm about growth and financial prosperity for both the corporation and individual employees. The assessment also revealed several critical areas where there was very little agreement among the long-term employees. There was great divergence in responses to items that concerned: (1) the centrality of leadership in the organization (is it a good thing to have strong, central leadership?); (2) the contributions being made by New England Standard to the welfare of the community it served; (3) the amount of work that is expected of New England Standard employees if the organization is to excel as a provider of innovative financial services.
Gary found this information to be of interest—but didn’t quite know what to do with it. How might he align the various operations of his company around a core set of commitments? His colleague didn’t have much to offer in this regard, having devoted most of time to developing the culture inventory. Gary realized that he had to turn elsewhere for assistance and decided to contract with one of us as an appreciative consultant who specializes in moving organizations toward clarity regarding intentions and toward specific action steps based on these clear intentions.