Dow – Engaging 50,000 People in Transformational Culture Change

Dow combines the power of science and technology to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress. The company drives innovations that extract value from material, polymer, chemical and biological science to help address many of the world’s most challenging problems, such as the need for fresh food, safer and more sustainable transportation, clean water, energy efficiency, more durable infrastructure, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow’s integrated, market-driven portfolio delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions in high-growth sectors such as packaging, infrastructure, transportation, consumer care, electronics, and agriculture.

The Big Challenge

In 2009, Dow acknowledged that a confluence of external factors was fundamentally changing the rules of the game it had successfully played for so long. The most critical change was that oil producers wanted to move downstream into the space that Dow had been leading.  The company needed to shift direction. This required a significant change for the business, both culturally and strategically.

Engaging a Global Organization in Positive Transformation

The company crafted a new business model and strategy, but getting that message out and understood by a global organization of 50,000+ people would be a big challenge. Root worked with Dow leadership to approach the change through a three-step process:

  1. Define the Future: Create buy-in and define the story at the senior leadership level.
  2. Build an Organizational Movement: Engage a broader group of leadership and broadly share the story to kick-start the culture and strategy shifts.
  3. Creating Lasting Change: Drive the change deep into the organization through teams down to the individual role to become “the way we do things at Dow”

Disruptive Methods

Our Immersive Process

To return consistent shareholder value and generate sustainable long-term growth, Dow needed to move the business into “economies of skill” while maintaining our “economies of scale” – from a product space to a solution space, heightening the focus on technology to achieve market differentiation. Dow partnered with Root on the transformation process that included:

  1. Bringing leaders to the table to get on the same page and change the trajectory of the business. This included getting clear on the story behind the business strategy divesting non-strategic, commoditized businesses, acquiring new businesses to quickly grow as a solution-based company, and transforming the business model from one that was internally focused to a customer-centric, high-value solution business.
  2. A three-day workshop for all senior leaders to launch the transformation process by getting broad-based buy-in on the urgency for change, the business model and strategy, and the operationalization of the strategy.
  3. Root and Dow developing a refined a plan of action to execute the new strategy while being able to answer important questions for employees like:
    • Do we really need to change?
    • How will this affect me?
    • How can I contribute?
  4. Partnering with the Dow steering committee and Project Management Office for Transformation laying out the journey, Root facilitated dialogue and helped Dow leaders create an environment where people felt that their opinions truly mattered.
  5. Building a coalition of thought leaders by engaging its Global Leadership Team (GLT), which included the top 250 leaders to address gaps and inconsistencies as they were identified. As the transformation progressed, the team identified transformative best practices and processes as examples of how to operate across the company in the future.
  6. Identifying six more areas for further exploration – each a key area of implementation concern cited by the top 250 leaders in the earlier session. The GLT held workshops to identify best practices and examples of where the transformation had taken hold and explored how to accelerate, expand, and scale early successes.

Results

  • Leaders journeyed from cynicism and skepticism to hope and advocacy
  • Dow is consistently positioned to deliver growth well beyond the industry norm
  • Fortune magazine recognized Dow as of the “10 Best Stocks for 2011”
  • Gross margins increased
  • Long-term debt decreased
  • Performance-based businesses grew rapidly

“We know that Dow is changing by our conversations – how we think, what we ask about, and what we are tracking to gauge progress. Our leaders are leading – they are not waiting for someone else to go first. They are demonstrating, every day, the change they expect to see in others.”

– Dow Leader

Thinking

Healthcare Transformation
Diversity and Inclusion
Workplace Culture
Strategy Deployment