Case Study

Revitalizing culture in the US Army

Helping a US military organization revitalize culture to the benefit of reducing operating costs by over $85 million

Seeking to make powerful and quick improvements to broad organizational capabilities, a US military organization leveraged Wilson Perumal & Company to expertly diagnose its organizational culture, develop a plan for achieving quick and sustainable gains, and build a foundation upon which a healthy and robust culture would be sustained.

Despite years of trying various approaches to improve the overall culture of the organization, surveys and annual assessments revealed little had actually changed in the view of employees, and managers were frustrated by their lack of progress. Skepticism that the organization could meaningfully change was rampant, and employees said openly they wished the culture were better but knew it would not change. The most successful companies know their culture is a powerful competitive advantage that competitors cannot replicate. They are deliberate about developing a robust and healthy culture that is rooted in strong values that guide decisions and actions at every level of the organization. They make proactively managing their culture a strategic imperative and an operational requirement.

Wilson Perumal & Company’s proprietary culture change framework—LEADS—provided the perfect approach for understanding the unique aspects and challenges inherent in the organization’s culture. It also yielded a roadmap for managing an effective culture change program. The framework specifies four distinct phases of the program:

  • Learn—Baseline the current culture, understand the appetite for change at all levels of the organization, and map the barriers to change
  • Establish—Define the desired culture, build the roadmap to develop the new culture, and secure leader buy-in for the path ahead
  • Align—Educate the organization at every level on the characteristics of the desired culture, and correlate job-related behavior expectations to specific roles
  • Develop & Sustain—Reinforce the desired culture through work practices and management processes, proactively assess progress in bringing the culture to life, and achieve real performance improvements across the company

Wilson Perumal & Company began understanding the current culture by using yardstyck®, WP&C’s proprietary culture measurement and diagnostic tool. Validating the tool’s results with employee feedback from interviews and workshops, the next step was to commission a Steering Committee of senior organizational leaders that used employee input to define the desired organizational culture.  After only a few short sessions, WP&C helped the Leadership Team articulate the culture and operational values with a degree of clarity they had strived for years to capture.

With the newly created vision for the culture, the WP&C team engaged employees and managers at every level and every role in the organization to translate the expectations into specific actionable behaviors. To ensure the transformation would be sustained, deliberate evaluation against cultural expectations was integrated into employee hiring and evaluation processes, and a process for quantitatively and qualitatively measuring the organizational culture was established.

As is common in organizations suffering from poor or weak cultures, employee support for the transformation was exceptionally low at the program’s onset. Remarkably, in less than 24 months, WP&C guided the organization to achieve the following results:

  • Reduction in operating costs by over $85 million (over $50 million in recapture of overtime expenditures and over $30 million in facility operating costs)
  • Productivity improvements ranging from 9 to 61% across multiple manufacturing activities
  • 89% of the workforce actively supported the transformation effort
  • “Is Trusted” and “Is Determined to Succeed” became the two most common descriptors employees used to describe their manager
  • Over 75% of employees cited improved organizational communication and better feedback from their supervisors
  • Over 2/3 of employees reported increased accountability across the organization

Despite years of trying various approaches to improve the overall culture of the organization, surveys and annual assessments revealed little had actually changed in the view of employees, and managers were frustrated by their lack of progress. Skepticism that the organization could meaningfully change was rampant, and employees said openly they wished the culture were better but knew it would not change. The most successful companies know their culture is a powerful competitive advantage that competitors cannot replicate. They are deliberate about developing a robust and healthy culture that is rooted in strong values that guide decisions and actions at every level of the organization. They make proactively managing their culture a strategic imperative and an operational requirement.

Wilson Perumal & Company’s proprietary culture change framework—LEADS—provided the perfect approach for understanding the unique aspects and challenges inherent in the organization’s culture. It also yielded a roadmap for managing an effective culture change program. The framework specifies four distinct phases of the program:

  • Learn—Baseline the current culture, understand the appetite for change at all levels of the organization, and map the barriers to change
  • Establish—Define the desired culture, build the roadmap to develop the new culture, and secure leader buy-in for the path ahead
  • Align—Educate the organization at every level on the characteristics of the desired culture, and correlate job-related behavior expectations to specific roles
  • Develop & Sustain—Reinforce the desired culture through work practices and management processes, proactively assess progress in bringing the culture to life, and achieve real performance improvements across the company

Wilson Perumal & Company began understanding the current culture by using yardstyck®, WP&C’s proprietary culture measurement and diagnostic tool. Validating the tool’s results with employee feedback from interviews and workshops, the next step was to commission a Steering Committee of senior organizational leaders that used employee input to define the desired organizational culture.  After only a few short sessions, WP&C helped the Leadership Team articulate the culture and operational values with a degree of clarity they had strived for years to capture.

With the newly created vision for the culture, the WP&C team engaged employees and managers at every level and every role in the organization to translate the expectations into specific actionable behaviors. To ensure the transformation would be sustained, deliberate evaluation against cultural expectations was integrated into employee hiring and evaluation processes, and a process for quantitatively and qualitatively measuring the organizational culture was established.

As is common in organizations suffering from poor or weak cultures, employee support for the transformation was exceptionally low at the program’s onset. Remarkably, in less than 24 months, WP&C guided the organization to achieve the following results:

  • Reduction in operating costs by over $85 million (over $50 million in recapture of overtime expenditures and over $30 million in facility operating costs)
  • Productivity improvements ranging from 9 to 61% across multiple manufacturing activities
  • 89% of the workforce actively supported the transformation effort
  • “Is Trusted” and “Is Determined to Succeed” became the two most common descriptors employees used to describe their manager
  • Over 75% of employees cited improved organizational communication and better feedback from their supervisors
  • Over 2/3 of employees reported increased accountability across the organization

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