Learning while downsizing LO21843

arthur battram (apb@cityplex.demon.co.uk)
Mon, 07 Jun 1999 08:46:50 +0100

Replying to LO21836 --

Genna said:

05 Jun 1999 11:53:59 -0700
> From: Genna Southworth <genna@mind.net>

> I'm looking for some help, with a bit of urgency in terms of time.

> For the first time in its 20 year history, the company is facing layoff's
> - -- probably 15-20+%. I believe I will be the shepard of the process and I
> have never facilitated a change as dramatic as this will be for this
> company. I want to propose a plan to the company's president for how this
> transition might take place in a way that supports the culture and creates
> an opportunity to really learn through the crisis. Additionally, I just
> need basic info about lay-off management.

> I am an external consultant working with a small (54 employee)
> family-owned manufacturing business; I used to be internal, but my
> position was eliminated 3 months ago in a restructuring.

>This company has
> considered itself a learning org (although I'm not convinced!)

> and has a
> fairly progressive culture (again, not as progressive as they think it
> is).

>it's a
> "family" envrionment.

I don't envy you your position
I hope my remarks are helpful, they are intended to be

Here are a few points:

1. maybe you 'have a bad feeling about this'
2. reflect on what you have said in your message - I've excerpted what I
heard in the above clippings.
3. what is the culture? ("family" environment ) Arie de Geus talks about
who is 'we'? Does 'we' include the little people, or just 'the suits in
the meeting'. Without a good answer to this question, the company will
die, sooner rather than later. It could be like Stalin's purges , once
the cuts start they won't stop until everyone who disagrees with 'us' is
gone, then the splits in 'us' emerge, and so it goes.
4. A warning sign would be: how many restructurings has the company had
5. read the material below, it's from a section called 'when good people
do terrible things' from 'The Dance of Change'
6. are they your only or majority client? if they are , you may be more
locked in to their mindset than you were when you were 'internal'
7. listen to your heart

Best wishes

Arthur Battram

below is page 256 of the new Senge et al book: The Dance of Change

"[...] an abusive situation. Second, organizations that squelch people can't
draw upon their freedom and creativity when they need it to tack into the
fast-changing forces of the future. Third, and most compelling, is the
inherently tragic waste of human beings.

To appreciate that waste, consider the story of Mike and Kevin (not their
real names). Mike was the chief executive of a division of a large
manufacturing company in a painful~l contraction phase. Kevin had just
become his chief of staff, in charge of both finance and human resources.
For each new set of layoffs, Mike decreed the departments to be cut. He
then dispatched Kevin to announce the cuts. Each time, people asked: "Will
this happen again?` Kevin always said, "No, this is the last time.~' He
asked them to redouble their efforts, to meet Mike's targets and save
their jobs. He fired and disciplined people whom Mike pointed out. And in
management team meetings, Kevin fiercely advocated the points of view that
everyone knew Mike wanted to win. At one important meeting, Mike spoke for
a half hour, emphatically describing a new program. In his exuberance, he
knocked over a full cup of coffee, spilling the liquid all over his
papers. Mike never missed a beat; he kept on talking. Kevin leapt to his
feet, ran for a package of towels, and spent the next few minutes wiping
up coffee. Throughout the meeting, Mike never acknowledged the spill, or
said a word of thanks to Kevin. In describing the session to me later,
another participant said, "That's when I knew our system couldn't make it
much longer." Soon thereafter, Mike retired. The next CEO set a corporate
wide change initiative in motion, inviting me to help. It took several
in-depth conversations to win Kevin`s trust, but then he poured his heart
out and broke down t~emotionally. "I spent my whole career here building
relationships with people," he said. "And 1 threw it all away in the two
years I did Mike's dirty work. I didn't think I had any choice; that was
the only way to get ahead. Now everybody looks at me like a patsy, a
stooge. And I feel the same way about myself. I wish I had the courage to
leave, but I don't think anybody else would take me.

BREAKlNG THE CYCLE Over the past twenty years, I have developed a deeply
personal process for helping organizations stop the dynamic where good
people do [etcetera]"


"arthur battram" <apb@cityplex.demon.co.uk>

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