Read how various organizations have implemented Table Group methodologies with the guidance of a Table Group Consultant
In an industry full of disruption and transformation, Mike Cordano, president of hard-drive manufacturer HGST, has seen many leaders bet on smart and lose. “We’re in a very difficult industry,” he says, “and I knew we’d have to transform to succeed in our new market reality.” He understood that he was going to have to get his large organization, with competing cultures cobbled together through consolidation, running on all cylinders or they’d end up toast. “We’re transforming the culture at the same time that we’re transforming the business. Last year, we had three acquisitions in five months,” explains Janice Hall, head of HR.
In late 2012, HGST invested big in organizational health globally. Their work with The Table Group has included quarterly off-sites for the executive team as well as 12 off-sites for sub-teams, support at strategic and staff meetings, facilitation of HGST’s leadership conference, some one-on-one time with executives, management classes around the world affecting about 500 of the firm’s almost 45,000 employees.
Cordano decided that the quarterly off-site cadence was right for his team. “We start to show some cracks around that three month mark. But the bar in terms of team health keeps going up, although it’s not a straight line up to the right. We make progress then we see new issues occur. It’s become a good cadence for us.”
The product development team recently beat its main competitor to market on a critical product—by an impressive six months. SVP of product development Bill Johns explains, “We were in a race with Seagate and we used the work to help pull together and really act more as a team instead of functionally silo’d areas.” Beating competition to market is becoming more usual at HGST. Johns says, “We’re set up to deliver another [product] within the next month ahead of Seagate and they have always been the people to beat.”
Cordano credits organizational health for supplying his people with the tools they need to adapt and change at the rate needed to survive in their dynamic industry. “We’re now performing at a very high level. We’ve adopted some ‘smart’ processes, but our ability to do that is a result of this work. We’re able to have candid and vulnerable conversations about what’s working and what’s not working. It’s been a catalyst to get at the tricky problems.”
Cordano also believes that the success they’ve seen has been largely due to the “capability of the people at The Table Group—Jeff Gibson and the consulting team. The models are great, but the intellectual part is written down in the books. We would not have made this much progress if we’d done it ourselves.”
Sibley Heart Center
The Sibley Heart Center Cardiology, which specializes in caring for children with congenital heart defects and acquired heart disease, lists three core values on its web site: Service, Team, Integrity. It wasn’t always that way. In fact, having Team as a core value was pretty antithetical to how most heart surgeons think and have been trained. And Chief of Cardiac Services Robert Campbell saw that as a problem. “I have all these people trained to be individually great. They were trained to be thoroughbreds. They were not trained to be a team.”
The Sibley population of patients is high acuity, short length of stay, high volume and very complex. Campbell explains, “The issue for us is that it’s so fast and furious all day long. It’s like living in a blender. And there’s an emotional and physical toll it takes to do this day-in and day-out. But it comes down to this: the reason we need teams and leadership is that ‘I can’t do all the doing.’ There’s not one person on the staff who is smart enough or has the bandwidth to handle a patient by themselves.”
“You’ve got to understand that the dysfunction started with me,” Campbell says. “And the pain had to be enough for me to do something. I was traveling and saw that little red book [The Five Dysfunctions of a Team]. I read it and took the team test. We were neon red [meaning not good]. So, basically the question became: what are we going to do about it?” Campbell took action and seven years ago started working with Table Group Consulting to establish a framework for better teamwork and a healthier organization. At various points, the off-sites with The Table Group were more frequent – particularly when the non-physician management team was having problems. But they’ve since used their regular Table Group facilitated off-sites to work on management structure, thematic goal, meetings structure, mentoring, hiring, technology investments—a wide range of issues that have affected how they perform.
They spend lots of energy on-boarding new team members and have shown incredible patience by taking the time to develop a team that works well together in service of their patients.
Now, an award winning practice and a diverse team that is routinely honored for its excellence, Sibley experiences a level of collaboration that is uncommon amongst physicians. The team is aligned around common objectives, which allows them to not only discuss strategies for the overall success of the practice but also execute with precision. There is simply no room for individual agendas.
Campbell, who regularly recommends the work to other medical chiefs, firmly believes that his organization and the success it’s seen hinges on organizational health. When talking to others about The Table Group process he says, “nothing you’ll spend your money on this year will be more productive.”
Growth was not a problem for Trace3, a 280-person IT consulting firm based in Irvine. In fact, the company had 100 percent year-over-year growth. CEO Hayes Drumwright says, “From the outside we looked like we were crushing it, but from the inside we were like one of those reality shows. When you grow that fast, everything can break. Everybody starts pointing fingers.” He talks about the situation at his annual conference. It got pretty ugly. Actually Drumwright even stepped down – for about a week.
He came back, though, and someone gave him a copy of The Advantage. The executive team hired The Table Group for a two-day off-site focused on organizational health. “The off-site was probably one of the best experiences of my career,” Drumwright recounts. “I realized that as a leader I was doing a ton of things wrong.” The offsite left him convinced that “if we were going to try to change our organization and do something difficult, we were going to have to become healthy first.” Since then, The Table Group has worked with about a dozen of Trace3’s top business units. The goal this year is for everyone within Trace3 to take part in the org health initiative.
Trace3 continued its impressive growth (from $320 million to $420 million) last year. What is especially impressive is that it did so with fewer employees, driving down its cost of sales. Drumwright says, “Once you have an engaged group of people, a healthy organization where people feel they can speak their mind and be relevant to the mission and be heard—engaged people produce two-to three-times what others do.”
Silicon Valley-based vCom Solutions, which helps customers reduce telecommunications expenses through software and services, knew it had a problem with silos because their employee surveys routinely told them so. The leadership team had tried to address the situation, even at one point implementing a Day in the Life cross-departmental program. But employee surveys continued to tell the real story. VP of Human Resources Isabel Klint says, “We knew we needed to do better.”
CEO Gary Storm explains what happened next: “When we met with The Table Group, the premise of their model resonated with me on an even more profound level with respect to seeking cohesiveness and alignment, not just across departments, but within my leadership team. I saw the opportunity for better connections, increased trust among leaders, increased transparency, all key aspects that I value in order to run my business effectively.” Over the next couple of years, the Leadership Team worked with a Principal Consultant through off-sites and follow-up meetings on all aspects of organizational health – building a cohesive leadership team, creating clarity, over-communicating that clarity and reinforcing it through human systems.
Storm talks about the changes he’s seen in the organization: “[The work we’ve done] has transformed our organization in many ways. I have experienced increased cohesiveness on the leadership team, improved communications across the board, and we are not seeing the ‘silo’ issue surface in our satisfaction surveys any longer. By focusing on both the smart and the healthy side of running a business, we are creating an environment where we are truly tapping into our talented individuals. They feel they are taking part in building the business, rather than simply checking off tasks on a task list, clocking in and clocking out. I want my team members to find their entrepreneurial spirit. By changing our meeting structure, our decision making process, our communication, and how we behave, I am seeing the ROI in terms of the impact of increasingly engaged team members. I want everyone as excited about building this business as I am, and that is what The Table Group continues to help me work towards.”
Klint also noted that “working on vulnerability-based trust required us to let our guard down, to own our weaknesses as much as our strengths, and to openly communicate about them. We became more authentic and emotionally accessible, which resulted in stronger connections, trust-building, and a greater ability to influence others. And this is where we’re continuing to focus, which is as rewarding as it is challenging. However, it is also what builds a culture of engagement.”
Bay State Milling
Family owned and operated since 1899, Bay State Milling Company was having trouble adapting to outside leadership, brought in by the mid-sized company’s board of directors to bridge a leadership gap between generations. President Pete Levangie sums up the problem: “We had unhealthy friction. We were slow, missing market opportunities and failing to execute well on the big ones we did identify. We realized that we needed to look at something besides the strategic side of our business—we needed to evaluate the healthy side.”
Bay State Milling began working with a Table Group consultant to help with their team dynamics and organizational challenges. After the first two-day offsite, Levangie says, “There was plenty of skepticism with many of the people having been with the company for 20 + years and then there were people like me who had just walked in the door. We were very surprised, pleased and exhausted by what we could accomplish at a two-day off-site. We created a common language around team behavior and conflict norms, and we drove home a framework of both health and smarts that we have stayed true to for about two years now.”
After several months, the executive team used a follow-up off-site to delve further into strategic planning and revisit their top priorities. For the remainder of the year, they visited field locations to communicate the newly established organizational clarity. Bay State also created a common understanding of its approach to a healthy organization by having the Table Group consultant hold off-sites at all of its field locations.
The company had its best year ever. And for the first time in its history, the executive team worked together around a focused list of common priorities. Their improved team dynamics helped them to make quicker, more strategic decisions in a volatile grain and commodities market—contributing to their stellar year.
President Pete Levangie says, “Last year we were in the midst of the most challenging time our market has ever faced. The work we started two years ago around The Five Dysfunctions of a Team gave us a framework for communicating and allowed us to navigate the challenge. We had our best year ever, and we can’t image having the success we did had we not addressed the health of the business and our leadership team. Our sustained commitment to maintaining a healthy organization also has us positioned to top those results as we move forward.”
Lindsay Unified School District
Lindsay Unified School District serves 4100 kids in California’s Central Valley. The population is made up of 50-60 percent English as a second language learners; 100 percent of the kids are on a free or reduced lunch program. Superintendent Tom Rooney says, "We had a long history of failure in serving these kids."
Change was in order. Rooney, explains, "We’ve dismantled the traditional education system based on age and replaced it with a performance based system. Our system is about learning, ensuring a mastery of content. We meet students at their level and challenge them. We want learners to take ownership of their own learning."
Rooney learned that in order to make the transformation in the district, they had to first focus on the leadership team.“There were issues with our organizational health, with our cohesiveness as a team, with our effectiveness to work through problems that would inhibit our transformation from a time-based system to a performance-based system. We were dead in the water if we didn't attend to the organizational health of the leadership team.“
Before long, they realized, as Rooney says, “If we really wanted to transform the organization, it needed to come from the superintendent so I took it on with a team. We built the case for the type of leadership they needed to accomplish the mission and vision. We began to focus on core values. In the first year, we spent about 75-100 hours just focusing on organizational health.“ The team relied heavily on the first 50 pages in The Advantage as well as The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
Now, organizational health is always part of the conversation. Even the skeptics started to change, “once they realized we were really going to hold people accountable as a team, we started to see team members become more courageous and have a deeper level of commitment.“
For the past four years, Lindsay Unified School District has seen its growth exceed the state average. Rooney says,“we’re still a low performing district, but the growth trajectory and where we’re going is a stark contrast from where we were for many years.“
“We’re fully committed because the kids in LU are counting on the leadership team and for every adult in the organization to work at their highest level.“ Rooney says.“ And I'm convinced that's not possible without ongoing work around our people.“
Read how various organizations have implemented Table Group methodologies with the guidance of Table Group Products
The Sheraton Birmingham sales team was struggling to reach their numbers and communicate effectively. The team, which used to work from several remote locations, moved into one building, hoping to see a positive impact on performance. That didn’t happen. Once the staff moved from their cozy offices into a bullpen of cubes together, no one spoke. The team’s fuzzy boundaries and responsibilities left a trail of distrust. And their numbers didn’t improve.
A staff member handed a copy of The Five Dysfunction of a Team to Sales Director Harry Traylor and said, “Our team has all five dysfunctions.” Traylor began to understand the problem. He scheduled an offsite for the team to work on confronting their shortcomings. The team also capitalized on the momentum from the offsite by using The Table Group’s meeting structure (from Death by Meeting).
The group went from barely being able to be in the same room together to a high performing group. They discovered a newfound appreciation for each other and what they could achieve together. They even memorialized this new way of thinking by burning papers that represented past team behavior. Their hard work did not go unnoticed. The sales team went on to receive many national awards including Sales and Catering Team of the Year. Traylor says, “Many people have been through teambuilding exercises in the past that haven’t really made much of a difference. But, given the fact that the five dysfunctions model is focused on accountability and results, I think that people see the benefit relatively quickly.”