Running head: Dupont Dupont Case Study Tammi Ball Ashford University Dr. Nwabueze BUS 661 – Leading Organizational Change July 11, 2011 Abstract Tom Harris, the plant manager of DuPont, greeted everyone by name when he walked through the plant. This was the atmosphere within the company and seemed to be business as usual at DuPont. Recently, Orion, a DuPont manufacturing operation had been closed, the equipment disassembled and shipped to China, despite this change there seemed to be no particular concerns regarding the plant closing.

When Tom contacted the University of Virginia, his motive was to gather information that would help improve the overall effectiveness of the organization. He was not looking to solve any particular problem; rather to introduce new ideas to his managers and apply those ideas to making improvements within the plant, change management was not a framework used to explain or accomplish anything. The consultant spent six months interviewing employees and observing the work environment. DuPont’s approach to change is a classic example of the model of OD.


DuPont As previously stated DuPont had closed their Orion manufacturing operation, disassembled the equipment and shipped it to China. This change seemed to have little impact on the employees, as they saw this as routine in the business world. In the meantime, Tom Harris, the plant manager, who was under increasing pressure to do more with less (Palmer, Dunford, and Akins, 2009), contacted the University of Virginia in hopes of obtaining new ideas and insights that he could share with his managers to help improve plant operations.

After six months of interviews and observations, the consultant provided Tom with the results of his study. The leadership team was instructed to introduce change to their employees as an experiment in such a way that ideas should be tried, monitored for a period of time, and stopped if they do not work. From this perspective, changes are presented as experiments and forces the leadership team (and their employees) to think things through and to decide how and when to measure any results. In analyzing the potential outcomes ahead of time, the group is able maintain a certain amount of control over the process.

Even if the results are not as expected, the experiment can still be viewed as a positive experience from which everyone learned something (Palmer, Dunford, and Akins, 2009). The Change Approaches DuPont’s approach to change appears to fit the classic model of OD. The initiative has the support of the plant manager. Changes to the organization are planned and executed like other projects within the company, while executing real actions being a key priority. DuPont also focused on the local culture with the use of a NASCAR metaphor to help employees understand the importance of effective teamwork.

The NASCAR metaphor allowed DuPont to get across the point that performance matters in a way that employees could relate to. A weakness with strategy, however, is that it is time consuming. In order to remain competitive, changes often need to be implemented quickly and efficiently. Traditional OD is not quick or efficient. DuPont would be well served to explore a contingency approach(s) that would allow the organization to adapt quickly, if needed, to certain changes in the environment.

In keeping with the spirit of participatory management, the leaders could challenge employees to develop strategies that would allow it to respond quickly to changes in the environment. Since employees developed the ideas themselves, they would be more likely to implement the changes when needed. The sense-making change strategy is utilized with the effective supervision, high performance and a good day at work that ultimately drives the leaders to work to make improvements and introduce change within DuPont.

Compatibility of the Change Approaches The strength of DuPont’s approach has to do with the fact that management and workers appear to have a hand in decision making. Workers will exhibit responsible adult behaviors only when their managers realize that they want to be involved in making decisions. Giving workers a voice can include allowing them to help define the problems and/or solutions, or as in the case of DuPont, they are encouraged to experiment with different ideas and they are free to decide to stop if the outcomes are not favorable.

Large Scale Change A large scale change that could be imposed on DuPont would be an entire change in their quality system that ensures that their product meets expectations and requirements. The problem with this type and size of change requires full participation of all employees. Changing the way in which an organization ensures their product is good quality will require procedures, processes, techniques and testing to be changed to meet the new expectation.

With effective communication, goals, direction and instruction, results will emerge with increased commitment, greatly reduced resistance within the organization by enhancing, innovation, adaptation, and learning. (Palmer, Dunford, Akins, 2009). Conclusion DuPont’s approach to change encourages experimental learning which is taking risks. According to (Palmer, Dunford, and Akins, 2009), if you describe every change as an experiment, the ability of people to digest it goes up an order of magnitude.

From this perspective, plant management is encouraged to try different processes and procedures as long as they are willing to stop experiments that are not working. According to DuPont’s website, there is little that is secret about good management: organize resources efficiently to meet social needs effectively. The trick is that the elements in this equation change over time, forcing business managers to constantly rediscover the best way to match company resources and market needs.

That DuPont is still thriving after two centuries is evidence of its ability to successfully readjust and reinvent its basic principles of management and organization, (www. dupont. com). References Palmer. I. , Dunford, R. , & Akin, G. (2009). Managing organizational change: A multiple perspectives approach (2nd ed. ). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Dupont’s website. Retrieved July 10, 2011 from: http://www2. dupont. com/Heritage/en_US/related_topics/management_and_organizaton. html

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