Leading Positive Change Case Study

Case | HBS Case Collection | November 2005 (Revised May 2007)

Leading Change at Simmons (A)

by Tiziana E. Casciaro, Amy C. Edmondson, Stacy McManus and Kate Roloff


Explores the challenge of managing large-scale organizational change at Simmons, an old and established company that manufactures and distributes mattresses. The new CEO, Charlie Eitel, hired to turn the organization's performance around, considers whether to implement an untraditional training program that includes outdoor experiential team-building activities as a central element of his change strategy. Asks participants to consider the decision of investing in the expensive training program following the loss of the three largest customers--retailers that together had contributed a third of Simmons' revenues. One central theme is the role of leadership in engaging and motivating employees to implement changes that improve product quality and operational efficiency and cost.

Keywords: Organizational Change and Adaptation; Motivation and Incentives; Leading Change; Employee Relationship Management; Manufacturing Industry; Consumer Products Industry; United States;

Drawing from the fields of positive psychology, positive organizational scholarship and educational administration, this case study reports on the process used in a large K-12 school to implement the strategic goal of fostering student wellbeing. This case study outlines the three strategic phases used to build wellbeing over a two-and-a-half-year time period: 1) development; 2) implementation; and 3) monitoring. The school aligned its change process to the goal of achieving wellbeing by adopting appreciative inquiry as the overarching change approach. Appreciative inquiry is a systematic, holistic, and collaborative methodology that follows a strengths-based model of change. Through the use of appreciative inquiry, 15 bottom-up (instigated by students and staff) and top-down (instigated by leadership) initiatives were generated over a two-and-a-half-year period. This paper provides an applied example of how AI can be woven into a strategic change process to support the wellbeing of students. The paper aims to contribute to the rapidly developing field of positive education.


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