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This post leverages a case study format, modeled after The Hippo Show, to apply the lessons about breaking down silos. It will include several episodes, Q&A sessions with the characters, and reader-directed coaching.  You may want to download The Ultimate Guide to Breaking Down Silos to get the most out of this experience.  Read How to Leverage Case Study Episodes for more information.

Previous Episodes: Read These First

“Righting the Ship”: Episode 1

Case Study Background

Bill is the General Manager of a distribution center in Smyrna, TN. He has been in this position for approximately 3 months. The distribution center has suffered from mediocre performance and high turnover. Bill was brought in to improve performance. Jack is the Safety Manager.
I recently sat down with Jack one-on-one to understand better what was happening in his interaction with Bill.  This is a transcript from that session.

Mark: Hi Jack, thanks for sitting down with me.

Jack: You’re welcome.  What’s this about anyway?

Mark: I’m helping the distribution centers work more as a team.  I want to understand more about your interaction with Bill last night.

Jack: OK…

Mark: How would you describe the incident with Bill last night?

Jack: Frustrating…

Mark: In what ways was it frustrating?

[several moments of silence]

Jack: Listen, what’s this really about?

Did Bill put you up to this?  I didn’t do anything wrong.  In fact, if I hadn’t been on top of my job, the situation last night would have been a lot worse.

Mark: No one is doubting that – that’s not the point.  But if this place is going to start working better and feel like an actual team that makes real improvements together, we’ve got to be able to have some conversations.  I’m not going to repeat anything you say to anyone else.  I just want to understand better what’s really happening on the ground every day.

Jack: OK.

[Jack sighed before continuing]

Jack: Well, this is frustrating on a lot of levels.  First, Bill gets frustrated.  I can understand why, but it’s never fun when your boss gets frustrated.  It’s frustrating when no one listens to me.

Mark: What do you mean?

Jack: I mean that no one listens to me!  I remind everyone of safety procedures until I’m blue in the face, but no one really cares.  They just do what’s easiest.  And then Bill basically goes nuclear and dictates these meetings.  At least he reconsidered and agreed to have the meetings next week so we could do them right.

Mark: Isn’t it reasonable that Bill would feel that he needs to take action on something like this?

Jack: Yea, I guess so.  I suppose I may do the same thing if I were him.

[A pause ensued for a few moments]

Mark: What do you like about your job?

Jack: Well, I feel like I make a difference…sometimes.  I mean, we’ve made safety strides and implemented some new procedures and such.  Which should have been done a long time ago!  It’s never boring, that’s for sure.  This place is always hopping.  I like having the responsibility of safety.  I take it seriously.  I don’t want to see anyone hurt.  I want to see this place as the #1 distribution center in the network.

Mark: What don’t you like about your job?

Jack: Well, I’m a safety manager.  It’s almost like being an auditor.  Everyone knows that it’s necessary but no one really likes it when I walk in the room.  You know what I mean.

Mark: I think I do.  Do you like the people you work with?

Jack: Yea, for the most part.  I mean, this isn’t a bad place to work.  There are good people.  It’s all right, I guess.

We continued the conversation but we’ll stop there for the purposes of this post.

Answer These Questions

What did you learn about Jack?
What are you still confused about?
How is this environment like your own environment?  How is it different?
What do you think is working?  What isn’t working?

Action: What Happens Next?

You get to determine what happens next.  Send an email to casestudy@hipposolutions.com with the answer the question below.  The next episode will reflect the overall theme of the suggestions.

What specifically should Bill do in the meetings next week?

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