A Learning-Based Approach to Organizational Change: Five Case Studies of Guided Change Initiatives

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A LEARNING-BASED APPROACH TO ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE:
FIVE CASE STUDIES OF GUIDED CHANGE INITIATIVES

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Five successful examples of a learning-based approach to organizational change were studied in order to identify some key success factors. All five change initiatives, in major manufacturing corporations, were guided and supported through the MIT Center for Organizational Learning . Following the change there were dramatic improvements in business results . This article examines several factors that made these change initiatives successful.
One central finding is that the goals for a successful learning-based change initiative are typically formulated in a way that combines two crucial elements: 1) meeting a
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Lack of openness in the workplace is very costly. Design engineers who say nothing about the problem they cannot solve run the risk that, when they do solve it, they will require other key parts of the design to be changed. And by that time others have made costly investments in tooling that must now be scrapped, compounding costs and delays. In one of the cases we studied, the Epsilon new car design project at a leading auto-maker, major cost savings were achieved (over $60 million) through their ability to confront and change this powerful pattern of secretiveness, a long-standing part of their workplace culture. They recognized that this tacit norm was based on deeper-lying assumptions (shared by all of them) about what is expected from "a good design engineer" and that those "mental models" were reinforced by the behavior of managers who consistently chastised and humiliated engineers who brought up unresolved problems. So, naturally they concealed their problems, reporting nothing, until they were close to a solution. During the Epsilon change process, Epsilon's top managers learned to see how their own behavior was creating results they did not want and they learned how to behave differently and get better results -- both in terms of cost savings and in the satisfaction they all derived from their work. With less blaming, there was more trust, openness, and better

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