A case study in International projects


This case study provides a summary of why the PACER programme was developed and delivered for the Central and Eastern Europe Region of General Motors (CEE) and what business benefits it was targeted to deliver.

Whatever the business challenges facing an organisation, the clear communication of the business strategy and the willing engagement of all employees in the delivery of this strategy, are key to the continued success of that organisation.

The traditional focus in Europe is on the more established markets where the issues are not about managing rampant growth (this would be wishful thinking) but more about the challenge of maximizing return from a fairly static market share. The issues are efficiency and morale and a "playing not to lose" approach often prevails. In CEE the business climate is one of unpredictability coupled with dramatic growth influenced by the complications of managing a diverse region of over 19 Main Markets & 10 Secondary Markets, 29 Nationalities, 3 alphabets and 2 main religions. Under these circumstances a "Playing to Win" mindset is of paramount importance.

The idea for PACER grew over a series of meetings between Chris Lacey (the Executive Director for GMCEE) and ChangeMaker consultants whilst facilitating senior management team meetings, reviewing structure and direction to meet the demands placed on the region by dramatic growth. The genesis of the concept was the desire to ensure that it wasn't only the senior people who were trying to drive the complex business but that all employees at all levels had an understanding of the challenges facing the business and how they could be involved in a successful future.

We were dealing with an already successful region that needed to "shift a gear" to maintain and accelerate the progress. In the mid nineties GM had rolled out a D!fference programme across the whole organisation to communicate organizational changes and motivate dealers. It was important for PACER to be clearly differentiated as there would be a considerable number of people still in the organisation who had experienced this. Communications made it clear that it was not a "change" programme for dealers. It was targeted specifically at all GM employees; and was about breaking down barriers (cross-functional and cross border/business); it was about taking responsibility for personal behaviour in developing the business and in particular about developing a clear understanding of how the multi-brand approach is critical to the development of an ever-growing business.

One solution would have been to run events in separate countries, this may have proved a logistically simpler exercise but would not have returned the tremendous benefits of mixing nationalities and functions to develop a real understanding of how ONE TEAM needs to work together to achieve ONE VISION.

Key Themes
The PACER Programme was conceived as an organisational development and internal communication programme specifically and uniquely designed for GM CEE employees and the employees of some of their closest service providers.
The key themes of the programme were:

  • The Vision for GM CEE in the future and how the new organisation structure will facilitate continued profitable growth.
  • The role of the individual within that vision and the opportunities for personal development, growth and career development within GM CEE and the wider GM organisation.
  • How to further improve team performance and how to build teams across the various elements of the GM CEE organisation.
  • Gaining a better understanding of the customer, their needs and how to deliver excellent levels of service and support.
  • GM's multi-brand strategy and how it will contribute to the growth within GM CEE.
  • How to solve problems using existing techniques in order to facilitate growth.
  • The application of appropriate processes and standards in times of rapid growth.

The Programme Framework, Style and Delivery Process
The programme used modern, involving training techniques and processes to ensure that the participants learned through positive involvement in the sessions and maximise their understanding and retention. There were indoor and outdoor sessions. Experiential Learning was the core learning concept and the method involved the use of structured exercises to deliver specific messages.

The Learning was supported by the use of booklets during the event which carried the key messages and "Learning Log" areas for the participants to make their own notes. There was an Action Planning and Personal Commitment session at the end of each programme and then follow up by the delivery of a "personal commitment letter" after 3 months to each delegate and further follow-up materials, workshops, booklets and posters to reinforce the key messages.

All employees were expected to attend the programme which was run across 12 different sessions so that only small numbers from each operation were absent from the workplace at any one time.

Delivery was in English as this is the business language of the region. Care was taken to ensure understanding of the key messages, with colleague translation encouraged to ensure comprehension. The delivery team was led by natural English speakers but contains a diversity of nationalities and mother tongues to ensure empathy with the language issues.

Each programme was supported by a senior executive from the region, who led the GM specific business messages through a series of presentations to illustrate the history, recent successes and future plans of the region.

ChangeMaker International led the delivery, facilitated each programme and provided the following services:

  • Design of all programme content
  • Preparation of all of the appropriate learning processes, tools, aids and materials
  • The recruitment and training and on-going management of an appropriately qualified training delivery team to run twelve programmes with up to 80 participants per programme. Made up of 3 lead facilitators and 10 facilitators, a safety manager and a team of outdoor skill technicians for the ropes course exercises.
  • Consultancy with the executive team of the region to ensure close adherence to business strategy, values and direction.
  • Evaluation and Continuous Improvement of the project

PACER was designed as an all employee communication mechanism. There were clear business issues and messages in CEE related to regional complexity, lack of predictability and rapid growth. There was also a strong desire to ensure that the "Playing to Win" mentality replaced the more conservative "Playing NOT TO Lose" approach that has been evident in the organisation.
What has been developed for this programme is a delivery framework which is highly relevant to the current issues in GM CEE but which has absolute relevance to other business issues and strategies.

Using the Framework to deliver the Messages
The framework was developed in close consultation to develop core messages that make an impact on the participants so that they are enthused by the opportunities to explore the way they work, how they relate to their colleagues and how they understand what the business is aiming to achieve. This is coupled with a strong emphasis on the brands in the region and the importance of the multi-brand strategy.
We wanted participants to understand the "WIIFM". (What's In It For Me) and to see that the key for improved performance and personal satisfaction centres around taking personal responsibility. We decided on 3 main themes that are highly relevant to this region, but also have strong resonance for all businesses interested in the highest levels of employee engagement. Each day built on the theme:

Day 1: My responsibility for developing me.
Being proactive by taking opportunities.

Day 2: My responsibility for working in and helping to build even more effective teams.
Local/ cross-regional/cross functional. Breaking out of the silos!

Day 3: My responsibility for understanding our Brands.
The need to personally represent these brands and the importance of the multi-brand strategy.

Harnessing the collective power of the employees across the business region was essential and was done by ensuring that the events were engaging, fun, and stimulating. There was plenty of opportunity to network with people and even to meet people who had only been known previously on the telephone.

The Learning Content
This breaking of barriers was important but so was the learning content of the programme. Unlike some employee engagement projects the essence of this approach came from a real development base. All activities had a purpose that was related to key messages built from elements of the business strategy and also created by responses to the employee satisfaction survey. A good example of this was the work/life balance issue which were addressed through PACER in terms of taking personal responsibility for the effective use of time.
3 tables follow showing the programme format for each day and how each session was designed to achieve specific business outcomes.
The High/Ropes/Challenge activities provided a powerful approach but it is important to remember that they are just a medium. Each activity can be structured to meet a variety of objectives. It is not the exercise itself but the way it is run and the particularly the way in which it is facilitated that gets to the real-issues to be discussed. These exercises were chosen and adapted to meet the needs of PACER. There are many others that could have been utilised.

Initial feedback both during the project run and immediately afterwards has been very strong. This was based on subjective reporting from ChangeMaker facilitators, GM executives and some of the delegates.
A typical response has been:

Knowing how much you are busy, I am not writing a lot of letters to you, but need to make exception from the rule.
I have participated in two Opel D!fference sessions in Spain and this experience caused that I was coming to PACER session in Hungary with high level of expectations.

PACER experience was even better and I have to congratulate you and the whole team working on putting this together. I was in the team preparing for 2nd round of Difference, and I know what kind of effort you have to put to accommodate hundreds of participants, making sure that all of us have great fun, safe environment, unforgettable experience and proper message conveyed.

I think that PACER made the difference and it was due to the following words - One Team, One Vision, One Million. That was right choice to get through to such a big team of people coming from different functions, countries, cultures etc. And of course, participants appreciated very much that top GM Executives found time to join PACER and had quality time to talk on GM vision, and to everybody, regardless level, job or country.

So - big thank you to the PACER team for their job done!
Z powaaniem / Best Regards,
Pawe Wide
General Motors Poland
Governmental Relations Director
A detailed evaluation form has been sent out to 200 (25%) of the participants the results of this will be available at the end of the year.