Fixing a Broken Plant
In 2011, the Ocean Spray plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin—the plant responsible for juice production, packaging, and over 80% of all of the country’s cranberry sauce—was facing widespread problems. The plant struggled with safety, performance, and employee satisfaction. Things had to change.
“The key to our ongoing success is going to be our ability to continue to embrace our Cultural Beliefs and our willingness to accept personal accountability in delivering on our Key Results.”
Tim Peoples, Former Kenosha Plant Manager of Ocean Spray
The change began one August morning in 2011. The new plant manager, Tim Peoples was being introduced. When he accepted the position, Tim knew that things had become progressively worse at Kenosha, but he was shocked to learn how bad it really was—and that he had only 18 months to fix their record:
- Poor safety performance
- Highest cost producer in the Beverage Network
- Poor material loss results
- Poor employee morale and engagement
- Concerns over introducing a multi-million dollar capital investment in the plant
To make matters worse, in a subsequent meeting with senior management, the direness of the situation was hammered home when the VP of Manufacturing showed Tim a picture of how the Kenosha plant was viewed by Ocean Spray’s senior leadership—a rusty, broken down VW bug. Tim got the point, the plant was broken. After the meeting Tim asked his VP boss for the picture, telling him, “I got it, I own it.” But Tim knew it wasn’t enough for him alone to see and own the problem, if they were going to turn things around, everyone at the plant would need to take accountability for where they were.
Tim soon showed the broken down VW picture to plant employees, explaining, “The only way we’re going to change this image is to own it.” But Tim didn’t want his people stuck with this negative image of themselves, so he then showed them a Porsche Carrera GT convertible, saying, “This is who we’re going to become!” Tim soon had the broken down VW blown up into a 4’ x 5’ picture and hung in the employee cafeteria, labeling it “Broken Down Kenosha.” He also blew up the picture of the Porsche and cut it into 24 puzzle pieces—each piece representing a challenge they needed to overcome or an obstacle they needed to solve. As they earned the pieces over time, they would eventually cover up the broken down Volkswagen. This ongoing puzzle build would be a daily reminder to all the employees about their progress in turning the plant around.
One of the first things that needed to be addressed was getting the Kenosha’s management aligned around the plant’s Key Results, and what type of cultural transformation was needed in order to achieve those goals. In a two-day workshop that Partners In Leadership facilitated, the plant’s leadership teams defined four Key Results that everyone at the plant would be accountable to achieve, and then developed the plant’s Cultural Beliefs.
Cultural Beliefs are core beliefs that demonstrate how people in the company need to think and act in order to create and sustain a culture that is accountable to achieve desired results.
Peoples remembers that, “We deconstructed the culture and then reconstructed it around six Cultural Beliefs…The Cultural Beliefs are our guiding principles on how we behave and how we expect others to behave.” Partners In Leadership eventually trained everyone in the plant, and management and operations together presented the new Key Results and the Cultural Beliefs to all plant workers, emphasizing that delivering on Key Results would be a direct output of how well they lived their Cultural Beliefs. And to show they were serious, about this new culture of collaboration and team mindset, the leadership team began spending time on the shop floor. At first, this shocked plant employees and made them nervous, but they soon came to expect management to be there, listening, helping brainstorm obstacles, solve problems. The management team even set aside time to go offsite and review the feedback they were getting.
Did everything flow smoothly without any setbacks? No. As Tim explains: “There were times at those early stages, despite my being gung-ho, that we wondered if we were making the progress we wanted or were seeing the results we wanted. PIL coached us through this and helped us believe we’d see the change in time.” And they did. In February of 2015, Tim was thrilled to report that their efforts had paid off. The picture of the old broken down Volkswagen had been completely covered by all 24 Porsche puzzle pieces, erasing from memory the idea that Kenosha was ever that rusty, beat-up VW bug. Now Kenosha is seen as the “New & Improved Kenosha”—a plant and a team that is top-of-the-line, powerful, and fully capable of continuing to deliver on Key Results. Their current success blows away any concerns about them ever failing:
- 506 days without a loss time injury
- 600,000 safe hours without a loss time injury
- 75% reduction in recordable injuries
- EHS (environment, health & safety) plant of the year
- Lowest cost producer in the beverage network
- On track to ring up a $750,000 credit in their material loss line item
And perhaps the biggest compliment, the Ocean Spray Kenosha plant has been recognized as “the best place to work in Kenosha County,” which reflects 60+ employees nominating the plant as the best place to work.