ROYAL DUTCH SHELL
Shell has applied some key elements of Theory U in change efforts at Shell EP Europe. In 2005 the organization was experiencing significant problems getting its new Plant Maintenance process to work.
One site, a gas plant in the Netherlands, with about 60 staff members, was selected to be the pilot site for diagnosing what was going on.
Interviews with Shell staff revealed that the problems in the organization,
while being attributed to new SAP software, were more likely symptoms of the way people were working together.
The rich material gained from the interviews allowed a team of internal consultants to develop a number of “what’s in it for me?” propositions as a way of tapping into people’s feelings. The propositions, in the form of cartoons, were used in two small focus groups of six or seven people to help Shell staff visualize a different future.
In the focus group dialogues, Shell employees were able to express some of their deeper feelings about working at the plant and about SAP. They expressed a desire for less conflict during the workday, and they welcomed ideas for a new approach to organizational effectiveness.
Instead of seeking any specific business targets, the team sought to create a better environment for learning, innovation, and change. The results of that approach proved to be powerful and sustainable.
Says Jurry Swart of Shell: “After a couple of months we saw the output KPI’s [key performance indicators] of the process improving.
Furthermore, we saw a cultural change in the whole organization, from being negative and skeptical to one of inquiry and keenness to move forward. A survey of the Shell participants revealed greater motivation and reduced frustration at the gas plant site.”
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