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A Tale of Organizational Change

By: Guest | July 16, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Krista Giuffi.

Do you remember reading fairy tales as a child?

They were usually steeped in a life lesson that was subtly engrained into our psyches.

Like don’t judge others by external appearances (Beauty and the Beast).

Or don’t take candy (apples) from strangers (Snow White).

Or don’t break into a bear family’s house or you’ll meet an untimely end (Goldilocks).

OK, maybe it didn’t go quite like that…

We remember these stories and their lessons through life, much like we keep with us our professional experiences through our careers.

I was reminded of a true life tale of organizational change after reading Gini Dietrich’s post on company silos and leadership.

How the Tale of Organizational Change Begins

Once upon a time, at the beginning of the economic recession in 2008, while national advertising and PR agencies were cutting budgets and staff, a small healthcare communications agency knew it had to do something or face the same fate.

The strains of organizational silos between the agency’s four business units were growing.

Small chiefdoms formed between account teams to protect budgets and resources.

Although the agency achieved industry recognition for its work, nothing was working to keep clients or retain staff consistently.

It felt like a time of darkness and despair until a white knight appeared in the form of a new company president…

And with the power of a thousand windmills, he implemented sweeping changes to the agency’s structure and corporate culture within a year.

  • No more silos: All business units shared budgets.
  • No more chiefdoms: All accounts were pitched as integrated teams and a new horizontal company structure was introduced.
  • No more despair: Employees were rewarded for their hard work with frequent social activities.

The new company president rebranded the agency and began changing the very core of its corporate culture.

All seemed well in the land of the new agency, until…

The white knight abruptly left less than two years into the transformation, as did his senior leadership team.

While the company leadership tried to keep the brand and structure together, it began to show cracks in its foundation.

  • Little by little, the silos were built up again and an adversarial tone overtook the account teams.
  • No one supported the company culture or shared vision as they had before.
  • And almost three years later, the agency has rebranded itself once again.

I left this agency a year after the new president left, which was long enough to see how easily companies will revert to their former structures if an organizational change effort is not strong enough, nor supported sufficiently from the top down.

While this fairy tale does not have a happy ending, per se, it presents several valuable lessons for communications professionals and for those managing their own business:

That’s my tale of organizational change. Do you have a story to share or similar observations in your career?

Krista Giuffi is a PR and communications professional currently working in alumni relations. She occasionally blogs at PR in Pink. You can also find her on Twitter at PR_in_Pink. And pink is her favorite color!

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