Tom Harris is the General Manager of Dupont, which is the major employer in their community. Big changes had taken place when the Orlon plant had closed down, but few changes had taken place. Projects such as getting rid of one operation and installing another was being seen as regular business so there was no change management rubric.
GM Harris went to the University of Virginia seeking advice from the academic community to bring some of the latest thinking in business to the Dupont plant. He specifically wanted to introduce his managers to new ideas and how to apply those ideas to improving to the plant. He stated he was not looking to improve overall organization effectiveness. He stated he was under increasing pressure to do more with less.
A general bulletin was sent out to all employees stating the work culture that would be built. It stated that a representative from University of Virginia would be spending time at the plant and had been asked to give new perspectives on the work being done and the organization as whole. The hope was that it would help develop people and continually improve production. The most important goal was to help the staff appreciate and develop what goes right, assist in building on the strengths and to make the plant work better for everyone. It was also made clear that the representatives presense was not to suggest there was a particular problem, and the result is due to the plants desire to continuously improve.
Over a six month time period interviews were conducted with workers and managers. Time was spent in the workplace and the representative learned about the day to day activities at the plant. This produced a description of the shared stock of knowledge that organizational members used to interpret events and generate behavior. What was made explicit with that process was the local widely used everyday common sense model performance unique to the plant and itâ€™s atmosphere.
A part of the culture that came out of this fact finding was that the local model of teamwork was organized around a southern stock-car racing metaphor. It was used to explain teamwork and the pattern for accomplishing it. Everyone knew the metaphor, so it was understood.
The General Manager and the other managers were surprised to learn of the NASCAR metaphor, but it explained why they had not recognized existing teamwork in the workplace for they had different language used for teamwork. This metaphor gave them a language to introduce change for improvement. It also illuminated of the local meaning of effective supervision, high performance, and what constituted a good day at the plant with making improvements. Managers were instructed to use the findings of the study. It was felt the new understanding could be used to interpret the local meaning of effective work to capitalize on strengths, to expand and develop existing good practices. This would also help to problem solve.
It was found too that the findings of the study could also be used as a basis for experiements. There existed a Leadership Core Team who were instructed to introduce change as an experiment. It was to be explained that it was to be tried and watched closely, and if after a designated time it was not working as planned, it can be stopped.