Intro -- Douglas Kaufman-Dickson LO24057

From: Bill Harris (
Date: 02/24/00

Replying to LO24030 --


> My primary interest now is in building a stronger sense of personal
> accountability throughout the organization. In our transition from a very
> strong command and control culture to a culture that places more value on
> individual and team initiative, we have struggled to find a workable model
> of accountability. With an organization of just under 1000 people, this
> doesn't seem like it should be such an intractable problem, but it has
> been.
> We have reduced our workforce by 50% in the last 10 years and were the
> subject of negotiations for sale to another company through most of the
> last year. With continuing rumors of potential sale, it has been
> difficult to focus the organization on the internal changes needed for
> success. So, I would very much appreciate your collective wisdom on how
> to approach significant cultural change, such as building a strong culture
> of accountability, with such strong external distractions. Thank you

That sounds like a challenging situation for all involved. My best wishes
to you and your colleagues. I've been through a couple of downsizing
efforts, and I know they can be stressful.

Your goal sounds very worthwhile. My experience suggests the people in
the organization won't head towards that goal unless it's in their best
interest _as they perceive it_. That suggests to me that they need to be
involved in the design of the new environment.

How do you get there? I can think of a couple of approaches that might be
worthwhile to think about. A search conference (or one of its relatives)
might give everyone an opportunity to express their feelings and to begin
to unify towards a common direction. An open space event could surface
issues and give them the opportunity to assume responsibility for
addressing those issues. These and similar approaches (e.g., Emery's
participative design) could help, but they also cede some control to those
in the workforce. I think that's consistent with the goals you expressed,
but you and the management staff must be comfortable with that.

I suspect they may need certain training to learn how to act effectively
in the new environment you're seeking. This includes how to work together
with others, how to deal with conflict when it arises (or, worse yet, when
it's there but hidden), and even how to organize work and talk with

One thing you might think about is the effect of the continuing
uncertainty about company ownership. It's hard on a team to set out in a
more empowered direction, only to be placed back into a more hierarchical
environment due to a management shift. While change can always happen, it
sounds like a sale could still be imminent. You could consider waiting
until that's done before starting. If you start now, I'd make sure the
possibility of an ownership change gets discussed: what it might mean,
what current management can protect, how the workforce might be involved
during or after such a change, and what they can do to prepare for and to
engage effectively after such a change.
> Douglas Kaufman-Dickson
> Wood River Refining Company
> Organizational Effectiveness and Training
> phone: 618 255-2625 fax: 618 255-2867
> e-mail

Feel free to ask if you have more questions.


Bill Harris                                  3217 102nd Place SE
Facilitated Systems                          Everett, WA 98208 USA               phone: +1 425 338-0512

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