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Boosting Succession Bench Strength & Changing Culture

B STATE case study transportation


A very successful shipping company was in the process of upgrading its aging equipment with the latest technologies. Their inspirational CEO foresaw three challenges that needed to be addressed:

  • They were a silo-oriented culture that needed work cross-functionally to successfully implement the new technology and keep ahead of the competition
  • Early safety indicators showed safety problems were increasing rather than decreasing, and their Safety manager had just left the company
  • His team, while all having their strengths, were not positioned to lead the needed change either as a team or individually

The question was, “How to address these three issues simultaneously and position the company for success well into the future?”

B STATE Approach

Our suggestion was to take a radical approach and address all three issues at once by:

The CEO loved it. We started by implementing a Team Accountability System with the Senior Leadership Team (without the CEO), forcing them to create direction, set priorities, and make decisions as a top team with the CEO only as an advisor. Then specific middle managers were selected to form a Middle Management Team to ensure cross-functional implementation and problem-solving. They picked two critical priority areas for focus: Safety and Working as One Team.

Immediate Culture Shift

In spite of the fact that the leaders involved started out thinking there was no way this would work, within the first two months

  • Decisions began to be made much faster – primarily because they were no longer pushing it up to the CEO each time
  • The “us versus them” silo mentality disappeared because the Middle Management Team began making decisions together, and they were already experiencing rapid results
  • Even the most negative middle managers got on board because: they didn’t have to come to every meeting to contribute, their ideas were now utilized, and decisions were being made with people closer to the issues
  • The middle manager culture of resistance, judgment, and rebelling against authority changed to a positive unified team that spoke with one voice
  • Communication improved dramatically between functions (not just between the leaders on the teams

Rapid Breakthrough Results

In the first 3 months…

  • They successfully managed the transition of the Safety Manager and Safety recordables have continued to drop
  • Employee engagement improved dramatically
  • Leaders at the Senior and Middle Manager levels were perceived as speaking with one voice, which positively impacted execution, collaboration, and engagement across the company
  • Implementation of new on-board ship technology was successfully implemented
  • New leaders emerged, including two clear replacements for the CEO and several from the middle manager group for Senior positions

After only six months…

  • An unexpected departure of a top leader of a sister organization forced the CEO to change positions
  • Because of this effort, there was a team of 3 top leaders already running the business and two were ready to be considered to move into his vacant position

Do you want to transform your culture to be bolder, braver, and to achieve breakthrough results in months rather than years?

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