Managing your culture requires long-term focus and innovation.
Near the start of the new millennium, GreenField Specialty Alcohols began a formal process to influence work culture, which they call Performa. The idea is to get all employees involved in working toward one common theme, with a new theme developed each year. The themes are designed to closely tie in to the mission and values of GreenField.
The 2016 Performa theme was called “Find your bubble wrap!” and related to the tribulations experienced by GreenField’s plant manager when he tried to find some bubble wrap for a package. His quest involved tracking down a half dozen people in different departments and he criss-crossed the plant. Hours later he eventually found the bubble wrap in the first aid cupboard, not 15 feet from where he started. The team realized that every employee had similar stories, and the Performa theme was established.
After the theme’s key objectives are defined and assigned to the management team, they are drilled down until every employee has a piece of the theme to work on over the year, and each project is explicitly compared to Greenfield’s core principles and vision to make sure they align. The Performa project is meant to be a little more than an employee’s job description, but they are given time and a budget to work on it.
Every year the approach shifts slightly, as GreenField learns about what works for their organization and what doesn’t. For example, they found that bringing people together on a social level was important, and that formal year-end presentations by employees on their Performa results were dis-motivating.
Other lessons learned over the years were that:
- recognition is essential, and peer-to-peer recognition is as important as hierarchical approaches
- entitlement can sneak into a project and you have to constantly guard against it when designing a program
- a culture of trust is essential if you want to drive any other kind of cultural shift
- the different scheduling requirements of different departments (both daily and seasonally) will slow progress, especially if not planned for
- any plan will fail if everyone is not on the same page, and buy-in must be collaborative
- major pitfalls are funds, time, and workload
- interns and contractors can be very successful when employed strategically
- feedback on projects must occur throughout the project, not just at the year-end review
Thanks very much to our tour guides and hosts at Greenfield Specialty Alcohols. Thanks also to the friendly and patient employees who accommodated a large group of curious visitors. Finally, thanks to the EMC members who joined us, for contributing to lively discussions during and after the tour.
If you find these abbreviated notes intriguing, be sure to sign up early for future SIGs so you can take part in the discussions and get all the details.