Owens Corning is a $5.8 billion global leader of the building materials industry. The company has more than 19,000 employees at manufacturing, sales and research facilities in more than 30 countries on six continents. The company had experienced several years of continuous decline in annual sales, market share and earnings, and in 2002 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection due to increasing pressure from asbestos-related litigation in the industry. This resulted in the cancellation of the company’s stock (causing significant financial loss to employees) and employee disengagement.
After 60 years of growth through acquisition, Owens Corning had become a complex array of 27 separate business units, each with its own culture and distinct ways of operating. With different systems, processes and unique cultural identities, each business unit was content to operate independently.
CEO David Brown approached Gap International with a commitment to meld the 27 separate business units and 19,000 employees into “One Company”—an organization with a shared purpose and universal commitment to performance and results.
Gap International partnered with the CEO and the senior executive team to design and implement a transformational initiative that would unify the company’s culture and dramatically increase performance across the organization. There were two primary focal points of this initiative. The first was developing a shared purpose—building a compelling reason why Owens Corning mattered to employees, to customers, to the communities they served, and to the world. The second was developing an ethos of pride in performance and an intense focus on results.
In order to deliver these goals, Gap International implemented a multi-phased approach, including comprehensive organizational performance analysis, breakthrough strategy development, executive and organizational alignment and leadership development, and a focus on organizational effectiveness and execution.
THE MINDSET SHIFT
First, the CEO realized that he had been asking, “Who is going to own Owens Corning in the future?” instead of “Who is going to own the future of Owens Corning?” By shifting his mindset and getting clear that he wanted to increase the level of shared ownership in the company, he was able to galvanize the employee base around this new question. In addition, seeking to reverse a view that accidents are “unavoidable,” the CEO committed to “zero accidents.”