Case Study 10.1: Open Communication at 3M Neck et al. Chapter 10
With more than $30 billion in annual sales, and almost 100,000 employees worldwide, 3M produces products from adhesives to medical device parts to car care products. 3M has been a leader in innovation for over a century. Innovation is, after all, its slogan. Consider, though, what allows this company to sustain its pioneering attitude? The answer lies in excellent communication. As it has done with its evolving products, 3M continues to think of new ways to communicate with its employees.
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Following a careful review of the assigned course materials for this unit, read Case Study 10.1: Open Communication at 3M in the Neck et al. textbook. The case is in Chapter 10. Then, draft a formal academic composition in which you respond to the questions posed at the end of the reading.
The responses should reflect higher-level cognitive processing (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation). Students should consider the demands made of decision-makers, as their choices can impact stakeholders within the organization and in the external marketplace. No minimum number of references exists for this assignment, but appropriate business (no Investopedia, Wikipedia, etc.) and scholarly sources must be utilized to support the analysis. Opinion is insufficient to demonstrate a graduate-level understanding of the course materials and topics.
- The submission will not exceed three (3) pages in length, excluding the title and references pages.
- The essay must adhere to the APA writing style and follow conventions of American English grammar and usage
- The final document should be prepared as a Microsoft Word file, and submitted as an attachmentCase Study 10.1: Open Communication at 3M
With more than $30 billion in annual sales, 88,000 employees, and more than 55,000 products from adhesives to medical device parts to car care products, 3M has been a leader in innovation for over a century. Innovation is, after all, its slogan. How does the company sustain its pioneering attitude? The answer lies in great communication. As it has done with its evolving products, 3M continues to think of new ways to communicate with its employees.
In 2006, 3M executives felt that innovation and efficiency were slowing down, and they needed to do something about it. George W. Buckley had recently become CEO. He and the executive team outlined a strategy to engage employees that they believed would lead to positive effects in creativity and efficiency and, in turn, allow management to set more ambitious market-share goals.
Several areas that needed attention were identified by talent VP Sandra Tokach. Communication needed to be improved throughout; this included fostering collaboration and teaching leaders how to both supervise and develop people. Improved communication also entailed ensuring that employees found meaning in their work, that the work supported the market-focused mission, and that people understood their pay and benefits.
The team realized that implementing a lot of change at once is difficult and can unsettle employees. To combat this, they built upon existing approaches meant to foster innovation and communicated while changes were taking place. Two main initiatives that went hand in hand. First, leaders and employees needed to be educated about work factors that mattered to them, from company mission to pay. Next, open communication, a cornerstone of the company, was to remain front and center to preserve trust as a part of all interactions and relationships within the business.
Education of supervisors was implemented that aimed to give them the necessary skills to “Develop, Teach and Engage Others.” A series of short videos, each about ten minutes in length, was created to demonstrate the relevant aspects of these proficiencies and to teach supervisors how to bring more authenticity to their communication methods and use a coaching perspective to develop their employees. The training focused on defining employee engagement as the leader’s responsibility.
An emerging leaders program encouraged leaders to teach other employees by serving as a mentor, sponsor, and champion. As leaders help their employees achieve, those same employees develop leadership skills and help the next generation of workers. The emerging leaders program encouraged collaboration and candid conversation, behaviors that made their way back into the company culture.
Training emphasized the need for a leader to be open, honest, and available. Leaders were given guides on how to ask the right questions and listen to their employees when discussing their work. This inspired more understanding among colleagues as leaders began to understand each employee’s different needs and wants.
Engagement extended to raising awareness of the role of everyone in society, not just at 3M. The company’s three components of commitment are taking care of the environment, taking care of others, and taking care of yourself. Methods were put into place to communicate the importance of each of these aspects and train employees about how to articulate them to others.
All supervisors were trained to explain how pay is determined. 3M realized that the combination of rank-and-file layoffs and bloated executive bonuses at other companies sent a bad message to employees. Instead of treating pay as secret, the company made discussing it part of its open communication system, knowing that more understanding leads to more trust and stronger perceptions of fairness.
Many new systems for opening channels of communication were put into place. Several relied on modern technology, such as the online brainstorming tool InnovationLive. Blogs, wikis, and an internal social networking site have also been introduced. Other new methods didn’t rely on technology at all. “Random lunches” are voluntary monthly meetings in which people sign up and get randomly assigned to have lunch with three other people. This helps employees get to know people across different divisions and work areas and has proved very popular within the company. All these techniques improved both communication and innovation.
3M has never been satisfied with the status quo. By continually examining and improving internal communication, the company provides work environments conducive to pursuing opportunities. This is what creates the innovative mind-set 3M is famous for.
1. Explain why 3M attributes so much of its success to open communication.
2. Describe how 3M has utilized electronic communication.
3. Identify the direction of communication in 3M.
· Govindarajan, Vijay, and Srikanth Srinivas. “The Innovation Mindset in Action: 3M Corporation,” Harvard Business Review. August 6, 2013. http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/08/the-innovation-mindset-in-acti-3 .
· McCauley, Cynthia D., and Morgan W. McCall Jr. Using Experience to Develop Leadership Talent: How Organizations Leverage On-the-Job Development (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014).
· Oakes, Kevin, and Pat Galagan. The Executive Guide to Integrated Talent Management (Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development; 2011).
· SHRM Staff. “3M: In the Company We Trust.” Society of Human Resource Management. August 8, 2011. www.weknownext.com/workforce/3m-in-the-company-we-trust .