KMMC's Case Studies in OD

KMMC works to determine the exact issue or cause and provide guidance and alternatives to 1) help mitigate the problem, and 2) implement sustainable solutions that support teams, leadership, and customers. Take a look at examples of case studies to understand how we have helped turn difficult experiences into productive interpersonal outcomes. 


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A Case Study in Working through Distrust and Team Development

Overview/problem: When faced with pressing issues, large organizations such the federal government often default to reorganizing their structure. Practices known as “reorgs” are implemented to resolve problems quickly. If done repeatedly over time, these methods become embedded in the culture. In cases where appropriate planning occurs before implementing reorgs, the system is more likely to adapt and issues have a better chance of being resolved.  However, when an organization's structural decisions are made without considering the impact on people and their functions, roles and responsibilities, new problems can and often do arise. Decreased morale, increased apathy, innate distrust and mismanaged conflict are among the consequences of ongoing reorganizations. 

Opportunity/root cause: Groups of employees in a large  client (1,000 employees) were apathetic and resistant to change. Morale decreased following a series of reorgs and leadership changes that occurred over a short period of time. Managers of several workgroups were dealing with a toxic environment, which was a consequence of the latest reorg. These managers were tasked to improve interaction, resolve conflict and build teams. Data gathered from staff members where conflict had become a behavioral norm revealed an undercurrent of distrust. Productivity suffered and scores on the latest Organizational Assessment Survey were low.

Process toward resolution:  A number of facilitated all-hands and small group sessions designed to identify issues and explore alternative practices were held to allow new workgroups to form and begin the process of team development.  Specifically, a series of half-day workshops focused on: (1) understanding one’s own and new team members' behavioral style/preferences, (2) exploring specific ways to interact and communicate more effectively, (3) identifying acceptable practices to support work groups moving forward, and (4) providing an environment for interpersonal interaction.  Participants decided that actions they identified would be used when groups were reconfigured in the future.  This step has had a positive effect on the interaction between individuals and among groups.  

Result: In groups where leadership supported the group’s actionable decisions, communication among members improved and conflict decreased.  This was particularly the case where revised communication channels and processes were created to enhance the workflow.  However, success was short-lived. The culture of reorganizing was deeply ingrained; groups were again reconfigured and the status quo ensued. In this case, which is common in large organizations, a culture shift from leaders is needed to sustain change.

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A Case Study in Conflict Resolution

Overview/problem: A new branch manager in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), inherited an unresolved problem among a group of branch and section chiefs who were geographically dispersed with limited face-to-face interaction. We were contracted to identify the source(s) of conflict. This issue needed immediate attention following weeks of negative coverage in the press.  

Opportunity/root cause: We talked with each manager to learn everyone's perspective of the problem. It was clear that creating an environment where leaders would be able to speak and engage each other in truth and integrity would be paramount. We anticipated and planned for the initial resistance encountered as each participant was locked into his or her position. As the session progressed, we took every opportunity to dive into deep conversations that ultimately revealed one critical and unknown turnkey issue. This revelation changed the tone of the meeting from one of position and territory to collaboration and working toward mutual interest and possibility.

Process toward resolution: By the time we met, it was clear that these leaders would benefit from better ways to communicate. Their overall communication was noticeably defensive and expressed only as needed. Providing a safe space, introducing and modeling open-ended communication techniques and posing a series of non-threatening questions were needed to provoke the dialogue participants admitted was long overdue. Conversation ensued and leaders eventually discovered they had been operating based on assumptions and unknown information. As the group opened up, repressed emotions were released. Apologies were offered and leaders committed to 1) listen to each other without judgment and 2) question unknown assumptions. 

Result: Following the group’s breakthrough, they crafted a communication process to 1) meet an increased demand for training and, 2) ensure that steps would not be missed in the future. In addition, the group decided to create time for team development. This intense and outcome-driven day resulted in mended relationships and new patterns of interactions for leaders to model to staff.