Change Management

Culture Change: A Compelling Example


Understanding the power and impact of successful leadership and culture change is best illustrated with an example of a company that created an exceptional culture using concepts similar to the Integro Leadership Institute programs. In fact, it's so good it has a two-year waiting list of people wanting to work there. Its staff turnover is negligible, so the only chance people on the waiting list have is for the company to grow; and grow it does. The company is Johnsonville Foods from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, a sausage maker. Yes, sausages; their specialty is bratwurst!

CEO Ralph Stayer took over the business from his father in 1978 and launched the company into major expansion. As a result Johnsonville Foods increased sales from $15 million in 1982 to $130 million in 1990, boosted its market share from 7 percent to 40 percent, and experienced a 200 to 300 percent boost in productivity. It was during this time that Stayer transformed the culture of his organization, as he put it, from a "herd of buffalo to a flock of geese."

He saw the similarity between his situation and that of a buffalo herd in which the herd simply follows the lead buffalo anywhere; even over a cliff. On the other hand, with a flock of geese, each goose is responsible for getting itself to the flock's destination, but they work as a team to get there. When the lead goose gets tired, another goose moves forward to take its place, ensuring that the "team" arrives at its destination. And when one goose drops out of the flock due to injury or fatigue another goose drops out with it to care for the injured goode until it can proceed. To help Johnsonville Foods transform itself from a herd of unquestioning followers to a more empowered workforce, Stayer stopped merely delegating work and instead transferred ownership of the customer relationships to the organizational members; yes, members, not employees.

Johnsonville's growth continued at an astounding rate with sales reportedly passing $1 billion in 1999.

Simply stated, a great company grew from a great company culture. Is your company on the verge of greatness, but its culture is holding you back? You can change it — and we can help.