Winners of the Hull Daily Mail Management Learning Award 2001 and Business of the Year Award 2002
Redesigning a Company by MeshWORK
Updated: 10 April 2009
Hodgson Sealants Ltd, headquarters in Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire, is a specialist manufacturer of butyl tapes, putties, cartridge sealants and adhesive tapes, with a workforce of around about 80 and a turnover of around £14M. It sells all over the UK and is Europe’s single biggest supplier of putty, with a small but growing export market – approximately 10% of turnover. North Africa is an increasingly important market.
Around the beginning of the new century the company experienced substantial growth – 14% 2001-2002, and a further 10% growth 2002-2003 – enjoying record sales and profits. This growth, however, created its own set of problems which the Senior Management Team decided to resolve through a MeshWORK approach.
Being a family firm with a strong sense of tradition, to develop its future, the company inevitably had to reconcile its past.
Hodgsons was founded (as Peter Hodgson & Company) by Peter Hodgson in 1968. Peter, very much a single-minded and focused individual, ran his ‘Infant’ company in a fairly autocratic manner. (This is typical of an Infant organisation on Adizes LifeCycle.)
In Gravesian terms, Peter’s rule could be seen as RED. His word was law; he made all the decisions that mattered (and many of those that didn’t). However, Peter Hodgson was also very good at feeding the PURPLE tribalism of his workforce.
The work in manufacturing and packaging putty was labour-intensive. The kind of people this manual work attracted were largely those whose thinking was straightforward and concerned with basic practicalities in life – putting food on the table, clothing the kids and having enough money left to have a couple of nights entertainment at the weekend. In mythological terms, these people were “good old-fashioned working class salt of the earth”.
Yet, for the good employer that Peter Hodgson was, these workers were outstandingly loyal and hard-working. There was a sense of belonging for many of the workers. Hodgsons was their company, their workplace – in a kind of instinctive way that was not necessarily rational. They worked for Peter; he was their leader, their tribal shaman. How strong the PURPLE vMEME in Hodgsons was at that time was reflected in the very low turnover of staff.
The times they are a-changing
By the mid-80s Hodgsons was leading a fairly comfortable existence in what Ichak Adizes (1988) calls the state of ‘Go-Go’. The company was successful, with regular repeat business and a stable workforce.
However, the world and the markets in which Hodgsons operated were starting to change – and at an ever-accelerating pace. Peter’s two sons, Max and Charles, had been invited to join the business in 1982; and, as the 80s turned into the 90s, new technologies and applications were changing the requirements of Hodgsons’ customers quite considerably.
Peter, together with Max and Charles, began investing in new technologies, with the new equipment and the new working practices that came with them. Hodgsons would, in this new direction, become a highly successful manufacturer of specialist adhesive tapes.
Whilst it was the PURPLE/red shaman of Peter Hodgson instigating incremental changes, the workforce accepted them (with varying degrees of reluctance). Indeed, for some years after Max and Charles joined, nothing much changed in this respect. The ‘shaman-ship’ style of behaviour remained largely unaltered on both sides – it simply passed from father to sons. However, as the 90s wore on, the need for accelerating the pace of cultural change within Hodgsons became more and more urgent.
By now Peter had ceded most of the control and responsibility to his two sons, whilst he retained a strong desire to continue influencing matters that he considered important. Bringing family in to succeed as the owner-managers of the business is often the start of a successful business’ decline – what Adizes calls ‘The Family Trap’. As noted by any number of business commentators – eg: Tim Schooley (2004) – 60-70% of all successful family businesses fail by the third generation.
However, Charles and Max, functioning as Joint Managing Directors, were very much what the business needed. Having initially followed the style of management of their father, they came to realise that it was impossible to run a larger business in this way. There were increasing problems with organisation, teamwork and external customer and legislative demands which could not be resolved using the existing paradigm. It was becoming much more difficult to satisfy the customers with fast delivery and outstanding quality. (Hodgson’s reputation was built on these elements.) There was even a danger of ‘pathological Go-Go’ in Adizes terms. Charles and Max sought to stabilise and consolidate on the one hand whilst gearing up to compete more effectively and aggressively in changing markets on the other. The management style had to change!
The company obtained ISO 9001:1994 in 1998, and began to form a senior management team which, for the first time in the company’s history, included non-family members – most notably Bernard McGuinn as Operations Manager.Although they knew nothing of the models at the time, Charles and Max were effectively moving from Adizes Go-Go into the state of ‘Adolescence’ – the company going from being a one-man fiefdom to building a professional management structure with systems, processes and a team of specialist managers looking after sections of the business. NVQ training was introduced throughout the workforce and the emerging new Senior Management Team undertook a programme of formal management training together at Hull University. A huge dose of BLUE was being injected into Hodgsons.
Interestingly enough, what Charles and Max found was that, when they were seen as the instigators of change, these were, by and large, accepted. As the heirs to the PURPLE/red kingdom of Peter Hodgson, they were still shamanic figures to the Hodgsons tribe. However, if change was seen to come from one of the new managers, it was often tested as to its authority or power.
This is exactly the Old Guard-New Turks conflict Adizes warns usually characterises the turbulent period of Adolescence in an organisation’s development. Using the Don Beck-Ken Wilber 4Q/8L model (2000; 2002, it is possible to see that, in Hodgsons, the largely PURPLE/red workforce culture of the Lower Left Quadrant was out of kilter with the systemised and increasingly-automated BLUE/orange and going blue/ORANGE structure of the Lower Right Quadrant.
To help them get some new perspectives on the cultural conflicts they were experiencing, the Senior Management Team (of Charles, Max, Bernard, Paul Norris (Senior Chemist), Adrian Hartley (IT/Accounts) and Ian Ford (Technical/R&D), together with the company Human Resources officer, Judith Horsman, called me in on a referral from Jack Holt of Stelram Engineering Ltd.
What I found was that Charles and Max had created around them a most remarkable Senior Management Team, built on a solid purple/GREEN vMEME harmonic, with tangible ORANGE aspirations. The GREEN culture of the team was reflected in that all members of the team were given equal weight and that the expertise of each was respected; but amongst them were beginning to develop real PURPLE bonds of affection and belonging, facilitated by social activity outside of the workplace.
Undoubtedly, all this was underpinned by the ORANGE realisation that they could use each other as resources for personal advancement. (When I put the team through some NLP-based values testing, ORANGE came out clearly as the prime driver at an individual level.) Just as importantly, when seen in Adizes terms, all four aspects of P(roduction)A(dminstration)E(ntrepreneurship)I(ntegration) were now more equitably covered, and each member of the team had developed sufficient respect and affection for each other to enable all 4 perspectives to be heard and considered, thus dramatically improving the quality of the decision making and the sharing of ownership of problems.
During a course of intensive training in the Gravesian approach, related NLP models and Adizes LifeCycle, the Senior Management Team realised just how far apart their cultural values and the blue/ORANGE/green structure they wished to develop were from those of their workforce. They also realised that not everyone working in the company had to think like they did; and that they could still use the way other people think to serve the business’ ORANGE ends.
The SMT then began to work on a MeshWORK design for the company, in which the values of all the stakeholders in Hodgsons could be identified, understood and (hopefully!) met. The fundamental learning that they took from the Gravesian training was the realisation that one size does not fit all, and that each vMEME can only move to what is next for it. This helped significantly in the planning and implementing of a successful change programme.
They started off by mapping each department and level of responsibility by vMEMES and their harmonics and then comparing that with the vMEME structure which they thought would best serve the needs of the company. Their action planning involved satisfying positively the needs of each vMEME and using controlled dissonance to create the conditions necessary for movement along the Spiral.
So rewarding did they found this approach that they began looking at how to improve relations with customers through vMEMETIC mapping.
As Clare W Graves (1978/2005) stated, people can only move to what is next for them. In this respect, one mistake the Senior Management Team, still early in their understanding of the Gravesian approach, soon acknowledged was to introduce a merit-based pay system, actually using the principle of one size fits all. The intention was to reward hard work, initiative, and specific achievement of goals. Those who had made no discernible contribution to the company’s improvements or their own competencies would receive no increase. Coming off the ORANGE values predominant in the SMT, they had hoped to incentivise those showing potential and to create sufficient dissonance amongst those who weren’t to trigger change.
This approach was very favourably received by some sections of the organisation who were clearly coming off BLUE/ORANGE on the Spiral; but the response they got from the majority of the workforce was: “Where’s our pay rise?” The lack of sureness in a merit-based system did not sit at all well with the PURPLE across the workforce; morale dropped and some signs of dissonance were seen. In spite of this, PURPLE’s loyalty to the family business held fast and attempts to increase unionisation of the Hodgson shop failed. Having recognised that the dissonance created was not what the business required at that time, the Senior Management Team took steps to address the needs of the Purple vMEME and awarded an across-the-board cost of living pay rise , whilst coupling it to the achievement of the Hull Daily Mail Business of the Year Award. At the same time the company announced the piloting of a high challenge/high recognition scheme for a group of workers who were ready for that next step. In this way, the business was able to take a problem and wrap it around the Spiral, addressing the needs of several different vMEMES within the organisation .
“Insurmountable compelling evidence that we are the best company in the Humber”
Another major outcome of the way the Hodgsons SMT effectively challenged themselves was the way the ownership of the business and the executive management of the organisation started to become separated.
The ‘official’ retirement of Peter Hodgson in 2001 paved the way for Max to assume the role of Chairman, concentrating on the interests of the owners while Charles became sole Managing Director. He displayed, according to Adrian Hartley, “perfect leadership for the position the company is at”. Charles promoted BLUE values into Hodgsons to facilitate the journey into Adolescence.
The quality of thinking amongst the Hodgsons SMT was reflected in the company winning the Hull Daily Mail’s Management Learning Award in 2001. In November 2002 they won the Mail’s Business of the Year Award. At the latter awards ceremony Charles told the audience: “This award represents a huge effort from our entire workforce, in particular the Senior Management Team which has provided us with a very clear sense of direction.”
It was also reflected in the company having made the transition to the new more customer-focused ISO 9001:2000 standard with little difficulty and in achieving Investor in People recognition.
To champion IiP in Hodgsons, the SMT set up a self-selecting Kaizen Team, sliced vertically right down the management hierarchy and horizontally across all sections of the business. Without a trace of irony, the team named themselves ‘The Champions’ and lived fully up to their name. One of the comments of the IiP Assessor was that the people who had been on that team “felt great about themselves.”
That team stayed together of its own volition after the achievement of IiP and was heavily involved in developing the Hodgson company handbook.
By facilitating PURPLE’s need for security and belonging and then offering opportunities for getting involved in decision-making, the SMT were witnessing some growth up the Spiral – embryonic RED: as in those who volunteered for ‘The Champions’, enjoyed that participation in power and were keen to carry it on.
For those who remained comfortable in PURPLE and thus tended to run Externally-Referenced meta-programmes, winning the Hull Daily Mail’s Business of the Year Award acted as a kind of external and trusted higher authority validating the changes in management style…and managers! Bernard McGuinn: “It was insurmountable compelling evidence that we’re the best company in the Humber – that they worked for the best company. Unbelievably powerful!”
The SMT found the Spiral design process made dialogue and decision-making amongst themselves much smoother. Bernard commented: “What would have taken us weeks – if not months! – we can now accomplish in days because we share the common language and understanding which Spiral Dynamics gives us.
“It also enables us to choose the level and type of dissonance to bring about the best effect and to understand what problems any change initiative we try is likely to throw up.”
Lookng back on his time at Hodgsons and in particular since the SMT started working with the Gravesian approach and Adizes LifeCycle models, Bernard stated unequivocally: “These have been the most exciting and fulfilling eighteen months of my career!”
The ongoing journey
To build up further knowledge and understanding of the models I introduced them to, Max, Bernard and Adrian joined the Humberside MESH Network – with the aim of disseminating insights gained amongst the SMT. In October 2002 Bernard and Adrian attended the ‘First Annual Integral Leadership Conference’ in London with Ichak Adizes and Don Beck; in April 2003 they led a MESH Network session based on 3 key points Beck had spoken on.
By the time they attended a conference hosted by Adizes Scandinavia in 2003, the paradigm of scanning the landscape to prepare for the next change(s) had started to become embedded and several of the SMT were effectively mutating into ‘MeshWEAVERS’.
Further changes included the purchase of the Lymington manufacturing facility of the SCAPA Group, effectively positioning Hodgsons as the leading UK manufacturer of butyl sealants. Using the concepts of Adizes LifeCycle, the company eventually underwent a series of management restructures that completed the separation of ownership and executive management, with Adrian assuming the role of Managing Director. As part of the restructures, Bernard McGuinn finally left the company to apply his considerable talents in fresh settings. This series of changes have resourced Hodgsons not only to survive the recession brought on by the global credit crunch but to be ready to take full advantage of the first signs of market recovery.
As for Charles Hodgson, he is now so enamoured of Adizes’ concepts that he is dedicating his new company, Prime Developers Ltd, to promoting them in the UK!
Hodgson Sealants Ltd can be contacted at:-
East Riding of Yorkshire HU17 0LN
Tel: (+44) (0)1482 868321
Fax: (+44) (0)1482 870729
Note: I wrote an abridged account of the Hodgsons story, with some slightly different emphases, for Integral Leadership Review. This version, in a marginally different format to the published version, can be read here.