Friday, September 28, 2012

Changing Our Culture

Executive Leadership Team at Thermadyne

The model outlined by Patrick Lencioni’s best selling book and training series The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is just whatThermadyne’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT) was looking for in 2008. ELT wanted to improve team effectiveness at the highest levels of the organization. They found a process and approach that could be translated into training and cultural shift throughout the company. The ELT worked through sessions on Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results. By all reports, they learned a lot about each other as individuals. They also learned about themselves as team members. They discovered they had similar experiences in some cases. But they also recognized how they were different from each other (e.g. how they handle conflict and about learning styles). They developed norms and commitment guidelines. They gave each other feedback about how to be more effective team members. Through these sessions they developed a shared vocabulary. They also recognized that the process is just the beginning. 

Today, the first 1.5 hours of monthly ELT meetings focus on team effectiveness. This part of each meeting includes:
• Ongoing team assessment/evaluation
• How to give/receive feedback
• Start/Stop/Continue tool (a focus on what to stop doing, start doing and continue doing)
• Team health check process - metrics designed to deliver desired results
• Team Pit Stop - an assessment around how well the team processes are working.

Team Effectiveness has become a priority at Thermadyne. To aid in this effort the company
developed a series of five workshops (one for each of the five dysfunctions outlined in Lencioni’s book). A trained facilitator is available at each Thermadyne location. Teams throughout the company are at various stages of training. The company has clearly embraced the concept. As with most skills, it takes learning and practice, but it is encouraging to see how the ongoing process appears to have changed the Thermadyne culture already. Better and more effective teams get better results. And that makes work more fun! The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is the flagship book for Lencioni having sold more than one million copies. Pat’s groundbreaking theory on teams focuses on collective team behaviors that
lead to success.

Note: This article appeared in the Q3 issue of the Thermadyne Focus Employee Newsletter in 2009. By 2010,  4 of 6 ELT members were gone. The next year, the company ownership changed from NASDAQ to private equity. It rebranded itself  Victor Technologies. Then in 2014 the company was acquired by Colfax.

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