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Case Study #1

A Global Manufacturer needed a cadre of cross-cultural thought leaders to solve a multi-million dollar problem

The client was a $750-million joint venture between two Asian and one US high tech firms involved in manufacturing. Their facility in South Korea was experiencing difficulties in producing consistent quality and was falling behind in their production agreement with the joint venture partners. Our role was to first identify the potential thought leaders in the project organization and then galvanize them into a problem-solving and solution implementation team.

Like many technical environments there was an ample supply of potential thought leaders although most did not hold formal positions of authority that would classify them as thought leaders. Perhaps the desperateness of the situation helped erode the barriers to allowing for the development of people based on potential and not position. And also like many technical problems, there were an unwieldy number of possible causes that needed to be evaluated. (Over 300 in this instance). This made it important to expand the size of the group to include the range of expertise needed, as well as build quality and commitment into the implementation.

Despite significant cultural challenges, the complexity of the technical problems that needed to be solved, and the declining morale of the project organization, this group of thought leaders came together successfully. We were chosen to facilitate the problem solving sessions as well and led them through a systematic process of testing possible causes. Ultimately they uncovered the root cause of a multi-million dollar problem through increased thought leadership. The concept is still used on an ongoing basis with the flexibility to bring in new thought leaders depending upon the issues being addressed.

Case Study #2

A Federal Government Agency relied on the development of thought leaders to meet growing demands with shrinking resources

The client was the administrative function of a U.S. Federal government agency. Although they operated with a relatively lean staff they serviced an extremely broad range of agency customers over a number of different functions. They took care of the needs of twenty-five sub-organizations for all of their personnel, financial planning, budgeting, human resource, and information technology needs. As can be common among complex organizations, many processes were dysfunctional and required extra effort to get the job done. This fact alone deflated the morale of the group and created an inordinate amount of unproductive conflict.

Our role was to develop a cadre of thought leaders who could address three primary needs. The first was the need to establish a strategy for the future emphasis of the organization so that it could stay ahead of the curve and meet expanding customer requirements with the same, or fewer, people. The second was to create a workforce and succession plan that could attract and retain a different mix of skills in order to meet those expanding customer requirements. And the third was to provide a platform for changing the culture so that performance could be rewarded, corrected, and augmented.

We developed that cadre of thought leaders and facilitated a 3-year strategic planning process cycle to enable them to evaluate the priorities within their mission. Their engagement alone did wonders for morale and commitment to their goals. The process allowed them to modify the organizational structure, enhance workforce competencies, and implement action steps to improve customer service. This resulted in an effective alignment of their core competencies with the needs of a diverse base of customers. The thought leaders remain as an intact group that is increasingly utilized to address other organizational issues.

Case Study #3

A U.S. Telecommunications company recognized that the development of thought leaders was the only way to keep up with the competition

The client was a major domestic telecommunications firm enjoying significant success and profitability. Although rare to see, the executive team correctly recognized that enjoying a period of prosperity is the best time to consider the impact of change and the potential of new competitors and new forms of competition. With the company’s rapid expansion into additional markets, it was critical to develop a scalable market strategy, to be able to anticipate the number and type of workforce competencies needed, and to assess their availability in those markets.

In this instance the development of thought leadership was a much smoother and elegant process as there were no major morale issues or divisive organizational conflicts. However, the level of thought leadership required was extremely high. By talking to opinion leaders all over the company, we were able to develop a cohort of people who were able to come up to speed by using our processes for strategy formulation, decision-making, and project management.

This resulted in the successful assessment of the current market strategy, skill base, functional competencies, and the development of strategies to prevent gaps as expansion took place. This has enabled them to maintain a competitive level of service while making concurrent technical upgrades and adding new service capabilities.

Case Study #4

A Major Defense Contractor invests in the development of thought leaders to break down silos and create critical collaboration

The client was the Shared Services Organization of a major defense contractor. Its goal was to bring together and consolidate literally thousands of legacy systems and procedures from nearly twenty different business units, each the size of a company in and of itself. Whenever technology is brought to bear on functions such as Procurement, Environmental Safety, Human Resources, and Finance, there is quite a bit of “right-sizing” as jobs get eliminated. This creates exactly the opposite kind of environment needed to make the shared services concept work.

The nature of shared services has some inherent potential for dysfunction as well as it cuts across significant organizational boundaries, which are often siloed. This wreaks havoc on the ability to coordinate resources and to implement a consistent level of quality. The challenge was to raise up thought leaders who could help employees and the company’s internal customers align their business units to meet the goals of the shared services strategy, prevent any dip in efficiency and process quality, and establish a high performance culture – all at the same time!

Many from this group of thought leaders were drawn from deep in the bowels of the organization chart. But because of the synergistic effect of their perspectives, they were able to effectively evaluate the impact of different future strategic and operational scenarios. The assessment included the organization’s structure, the division of functional roles and responsibilities, and the technical capabilities needed to accomplish their corporate support mission. This has resulted in changes in their service delivery matrix, operational footprint, as well as enhanced training, development, recruitment, and retention strategies for senior leadership.

Case Study #5

A Global non-profit leverages thought leaders across its national system to communicate a clear and consistent strategy

The client was a global non-profit organization with a central organization supporting over 2,000 local entities. In order to stay ahead of the curve of change in their industry, they were required to spread a consistent message about the development of strategic direction, the acquisition of world-class leadership skills, and the creation and maintenance of an inclusive organizational culture. This is a monumental task in even a small firm, never mind an enterprise of this size and scope.

The development of thought leaders began with the local Boards of Directors, cascading to the operational level of the core of the local entities. The real uniqueness of this effort was the task of a blended model of staff and volunteers in facilitating and implementing strategic planning and leadership development. The real power of the non-profit environment is the presence of a sincere passion for the goals of the organization. Our ability to harness and focus that passion made the process of developing thought leaders much easier than it might sound given that mix of participants.

Our most recent involvement has centered on thought leader development to address the assessment of core competencies implied by a shift in mission at the national and local levels. The outgrowth of this work has enabled them to understand the approaches needed to build an inclusive community focused around key business issues, rather than simply suggesting that “diversity” is just the right thing to do.