Leadership and Human Resources
Sunflower Electric Power Corporation certainly had compelling circumstances that motivated management to pursue cultural change. Having recently undergone debt restructuring and charges of mismanagement and corruption, employee morale was at an all-time low. The major priority for the company was to completely change its corporation culture with a huge emphasis on interpersonal relationships.
The culture of Sunflower was a command-and-control culture characterized by authoritative and conservative leadership. This culture had encouraged turf wars among managers and had inhibited effective job performance. Sunflower’s new CEO, Chris Hauck, undertook many initiatives to change the culture to a competence culture in which leadership is visionary, sets high standards and encourages people to achieved new heights.
Competence cultures, unlike command-and-control ones pursue excellence and innovation. However, resistance to change would make Sunflower’s cultural evolution a challenging one. There are four basic reasons for resisting change (Greene, Adam and Ebert, 1995):
Economic factors – a threat to economic security, such as losing a job.
Inconvenience – a threat of making life more difficult, such as having to learn new ways of doing things that were formerly accomplished routinely.
Uncertainty – a threat of not knowing the implications of forthcoming change
Interpersonal relationships – a threat of disturbing or destroying customary social relationships, group standards, or socially valued skills.
Of these reasons, interpersonal relationships would prove to be the most formidable for Sunflower’s transition.
Throughout its implementation of a competence culture, Sunflower would struggle with out-of-balance behaviors. “Out-of-balance behaviors unique to competence cultures include: mistrust, secrecy, arrogance, fear of making or revealing mistakes, excessive financial incentives, emphasis on winning, refusing to consider odds of losing, selfishness, and ethics that take a back seat to cashing in quickly? (Schneider). Hauck had initially defined these types of management difficulties as people problems that would go away if individuals could “just be given the right psychological assistance to help them “fix” their personal shortcomings. But, with the help of outside consulting assistance, Hauck, would soon begin to realize that the problem was far more complex. The company would also need to understand what organizational triggers and perpetuates that cause misalignment and dysfunctional behavior. After examining Sunflower, the consultants concluded that Sunflower’s work environment did not include any new coherent cultural values or norms of expected behavior.
Hauck’s first course of action was to change his own controlling leadership style in favor of servant leadership in which he and his managers would be responsible for managing the assets of their members and helping employees to do their jobs. According to Maxwell (2003), leadership by example is the key to successful leadership because it is the number one motivational, training, mentoring, and value principle.
The executive team developed a core value that would guide the way Sunflower conducted its business. This core value, “people are to be treated with dignity and respect” was simple, but powerful. The consulting team trained Sunflower’s executive management team using this value and recommended changes for a manager who had a personality inconsistent with the new management style. In addition, the consultants trained Sunflower’s operations management in participatory management and conflict resolutions. The training was later extended to Sunflower’s line staff and first-line supervisors. Although improvement was evident after the training program, more work was needed. There was still conflict in the relationships between managers and supervisors and a feeling that the new core value was being driven solely by the CEO. The management group was unable to address conflict openly and productively. Some line supervisors had reverted back to their old, abusive practices and employees complained of lack of empowerment.
In response to Sunflower’s issues, the consultants created individual executive coaching to help them address their real perceptions of, and feelings toward one another and to resolve conflicts. And, the consultants would introduce the notion of the competence culture in which ideas are judged on by their merit. “Having this clearly defined core culture as their goal, management now had a systematic way of thinking about their culture and the leadership practices that best suited the needs of Sunflower.”
Sunflower was successful in its efforts to allow its employees to flourish in an environment and trust and synergistic interdependence. The primary reasons for Sunflower’s success were that it developed a core culture as a goal, realized the need to address out-of-balance behaviors with the cultural change, implemented change as part of a continuous process, and involved all employees in the change management process.
Greene, C., Everet, A, and Ebert, R. (1005). Management for effective performance. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Maxwell, J. (2003). Leadership by example is key to guiding a strong company. Houston Business Journal. Retrieved November 13, 2003 from Houston Business Journal Web Site: http://houston.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2003/10/06/smallb2.html
Schneider, B., Competence run amok. Retrieved November 13, 2003 from Hanigan Consulting Web Site: http://184.108.40.206/search?q=cache:frizEcXV4IUJ:www.haniganconsulting.com/competence_run_amok.pdf+%22Competence+culture%22&hl=en&ie=UTF-8
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