Case Study 5:
Creating a learning culture in a traditional
In response to competitive pressures, this traditional, long established
distillery had rapidly introduced new technology into their production
processes over a period of several years. This led to an improvement
in production efficiency and increased profits. It was recognised that
further continuous improvement could only be achieved in small increments
by improving the interface between the technology and the process workers.
Management needed greater workforce involvement and co-operation but
found it difficult to introduce new practises. Feedback indicated that
employee attitudes towards management were hostile and uncooperative.
An employee survey confirmed that morale was very low and employees
were resentful of the way managers treated them.
We were asked to facilitate a process that would establish the foundations
for developing a learning culture. The Managing Director wanted to be
able to continuously improve results through creating a culture where
all employees could make a greater contribution, and where all employees
would have the opportunity for training and development within their
role. The employees were highly sceptical of this idea and it generated
a great deal of resistance.
A process was designed to involve employees at all levels in influencing
how the organisation could work towards developing a learning culture.
Five project teams were established, each tasked with exploring one
aspect of how people were managed with the aim of producing recommendations
on what new management practises should be introduced. The team members
were volunteers and they represented a cross section of people from
all areas of the business and with different levels of responsibility.
We coached and supported the project teams over a six month period as
they researched their individual topics, conducted staff surveys, conducted
pilots to test out their theories, developed their recommendations,
and prepared their presentations. The teams made 32 recommendations
to management on providing clear direction, improving communication,
managing individual performance, identifying training and development
needs, providing appropriate training and development opportunities,
introducing team working, and developing management skills.
The team recommendations greatly exceeded management expectations in
terms of quality of content and the professionalism of the presentations
to management. The Executive accepted all recommendations and a two
year implementation plan is now underway. The company has established
a variety of new ways to communicate with employees, it has embarked
on a management development programme, various teams have been established
to work on specific projects and it has invested in a “learning
lab”. Employee ideas and suggestions are now beginning to emerge.