Team building was not the most effective way to launch an Organizational Development effort, in the case of Ben and Jerry’s. There are two critical issues that must be dealt with before any kind of team building should be attempted. The first issue would be creating more of a consensus between the founders and the Board about the vision of the ideal organization and the goals of the OD effort. The second issue is the interpersonal conflict between Ben and Chico.
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The consultant may have used Ben and Jerry’s idiosyncratic personalities to his advantage in order to gloss over the lack of agreement on the company vision between the founders and the board. The board members were asked to write down their differing visions on paper and the consultant performed a ritual of burning these to represent transformation and coming together of management and the Board. This is only a metaphor, and did not have the intended effect on either the Board or Ben and Jerry. Both Ben and Jerry still felt a separation in values between themselves and management after the team building retreat. This was demonstrated by the managers wearing “we are weird” buttons after the team building. Rather than the ritual burning of the ideas, the consultant would have better served the clients with an intergroup conflict resolution process.
The division over the vision of Ben and Jerry’s had become dysfunctional and was creating conflict which polarized the two groups. The groups being the free-wheeling, hippy minded founders and the more business minded managers. This problem was affecting the productivity and effectiveness of the organization at large and must be dealt with and resolved before any interventions are carried out and lower levels of the organization. Management must buy-in to the OD effort, and if they feel that the founders are flawed in their business strategy, it will be impossible for management to carry out their wishes for the way they want their business to grow and prosper. The consultant has acknowledged the problem, yet performed no real interventions to try and resolve it.
There was also no mention of a consensus on the focus of the OD effort. It seems that the consultant just tried to make everyone happy without any real conflict resolution interventions. The next issue that should precede any team building exercises would be an intervention for Ben and Chico. The two men have a large presence and influence over the entire organization. They also represent the larger groups which are in conflict over the fundamental philosophy of the organization. The employees consider them to be two titans of power with legendary arguments.
The consultant should have focused on a third-party intervention between these two change agents. If these two powerful and influential men could come together and resolve some of their conflict, that would be the next logical step in properly motivating and developing the organization. This is a basic skill that OD practitioners should have, yet the consultant made no effort to address the conflicts between the two. It’s also very likely that the conflict between Ben and Chico could be the root cause of the polarization of the two groups in the entire organization. If that is the case, you would have to address this issue in order for team building to be effective.
The teambuilding efforts of the consultant were appropriate and needed, but only after the two more primary issues are dealt with. The effectiveness of this OD intervention was thwarted by the lack of attention to conflicts in ideology.