Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fast change at Weyerhaeuser, contd.

There are three key ideas in increasing strategic velocity (velocity = speed + direction):
- are people thinking strategically?
- are they focusing energy and resources on the right things?
- are they implementing quickly and learning as they go?
All three of these must be addressed simultaneously rather than sequentially.

At Weyerhaeuser, the success of the transition depended on all 15,000 associates understanding the new iLevel strategy. This was done using a leader-led DVD presentation, coupled with an innovative gaming platform. Each associate went online and was assigned a game character (an avatar) and placed on a virtual team whose purpose was to solve a challenge in the new iLevel world. There were four challenges, one each week for four weeks. Each challenge took an average of 15-minutes to solve. Thus associates learned what it took to build a completed house in the new iLevel business.

While all the associates were touched by the transition, none were touched more than the sales associates. The new value experiences promised to builders through the dealer channel required that the organization act so each customer thought they had a single point of contact for all the products and services they purchased. To do this, iLevel sales reps had to become strategic problem solvers for their customers. In four months, 670 sellers received extensive training in solution-based selling. They were also trained on new software, in conjunction with real blueprints and live examples, to help them compare material options with their customers and address their technical needs. This meant taking these sales reps out of their markets at a time when the company was getting ready to launch the new strategy. 

The iLevel Five Key Customer Experiences:

1. Reduce time, labor, and callbacks when building homes.
2. Optimize structural frame and reduced waste.
3. Streamline design customization (through innovative software).
4. Provide efficient, reliable delivery of products & services.
5. Simplify the way business is done.

In return, iLevel receives commitment to its branded products and services, and a premium price for its solutions.

Cultural change didn't happen overnight, but momentum was quick, resulting in a dramatic adoption of the new brand within Weyerhaeuser. The adoption was so successful that the brand launch team received the prestigious Weyerhaeuser President's Award.

Today, Weyerhaeuser is focused on managing through the housing downturn, driving the five key customer experiences, and implementing SAP software to improve supply chain efficiency. In addition, the division is looking for a correlation between associate survey feedback and customer and brand awareness data to continue to drive cultural change. 

Internally, employee survey results are up across the business and turnover of sales associates has decreased over historic levels. While it's still too early to claim victory, the indicators all seem to be pointed in the right direction. 

For more information on high-velocity execution, I suggest, Winning In Fast Time, by John A. Warden III and Leland Russell.

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