Original Date: 05/12/1997
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Building a Culture of Leaders
Cincinnati Milacron’s Machine Tool Group (MTG) has implemented a corporate-endorsed leadership philosophy based on principles developed by Stephen Covey. The initiative began in the early 1990s as a way to revitalize the company in response to its declining market share and outmoded corporate culture. During its first hundred years, Cincinnati Milacron became an industrial giant, but in the process developed a stifling, paternalistic culture that limited its ability to compete in a rapidly changing global marketplace. The company recognized that major changes would be required to regain its competitive position and set about building a new culture based on leadership at all levels.
The first step was to understand and assess the current state of the company. Cincinnati Milacron took the time and effort to analyze its beginning and characterize the state of the company. An employee opinion survey revealed that Cincinnati Milacron was a company without a clear sense of direction and purpose. It was a reactive company, run by top-down directives, and driven by efficiency rather than effectiveness. Employees did what they were told but did not participate in improving performance or decision making. There was little employee involvement with customers. Employees avoided risk taking and feared failure.
With a clear understanding of the state of the company, senior management defined and implemented a new direction to develop a culture of leadership at all levels. The new culture of effectiveness would be proactive and based on personal responsibility with ownership defined by a vision of the future and guided by a set of core values. In 1989, the new corporate vision and core values were defined by the senior management team. They realized that changing behavior and culture does not happen overnight. It requires long-term education, leadership, and reinforcement. Management set up an environment that provides the necessary knowledge and opportunities to experience leadership, and encourages a desire to change.
The cornerstone of the culture of leadership is the Covey “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” philosophy. Senior management attended training at the Covey Institute in Utah. A Covey facilitator was brought to Cincinnati, Ohio to train a core group of management personnel. A three-day Leadership Workshop was also developed for presentation to all employees. The Leadership Workshop is presented away from the work environment and provides the foundation in the Seven Habits concepts. The three-day course provides the basic knowledge needed for change, but is not sufficient to change behavior over time. A Leadership Renewal program was established which provides a structure for continuous integration of effective leadership principles into the every day personal lives of employees and the culture of the company. The renewal program provides a series of five modules offered to employees on a periodic basis. These are company-directed modules which provide programs and activities to help all employees develop positive habits of behavior and greater levels of personal and professional effectiveness.
The program has been implemented throughout the ranks of the company’s supervisory and professional level employees. Of the salaried employees, 90% have completed the three-day Leadership Training program, and a high percentage have completed one or more renewal modules. In the past two years, the company has devoted nearly 20,000 hours of training to leadership.
The result has been the evolution of a proactive empowered culture characterized by customer focus; active involvement by all employees; attention to detail; and balance between production and production capability. These practices and habits are being integrated to help employees deal with the constantly changing world around them. The initiative has and will continue to have long-term, profound impact by improving individual and organizational effectiveness and helping employees balance day-to-day relationships both at work and away from work.
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