Worthington Armstrong Venture (WAVE) is a joint venture of Worthington Industries and Armstrong World Industries. Worthington Industries being a global leader in metals manufacturing and steel processing while Armstrong World Industries, a global leader in ceilings, walls and flooring solutions both support WAVE through their strong organizational philosophy and brand reputation respectively.
WAVE Fundamentals of Leadership
WAVE celebrates 26 years and is constantly evolving as a leader in the manufacture of superior suspended ceiling solutions and this has been achieved through strong leadership and innovation. Being able to succeed as a joint venture, there are fundamental concepts of leadership that have been adopted by the WAVE executive team and most primarily is the ability to influence on multiple levels.
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Starting off in 1992, there were little to no grounds for this business but for the facilities, personnel and equipment made available by both parent companies for a start. However, one of the key leaders at the time, now of late, took on the challenge to provide these small teams with a vision of suspended ceilings to integrate with the parent company’s portfolio of ceiling tiles. With a few more talent additions, they began designing the first product which has to date expanded into several product types. He and other supporting leaders influenced the people, towards a goal that has proved sustainable. Leadership as described by Lussier and Achua (2012) is being able to influence people who are in turn known as followers to achieve organizational objectives through change. Influence was key to creating this organization and some of these initial team players are still present at the company leading in several functions.
As traction picked up for WAVE, the leadership structure and style has adjusted over the time to accommodate for the changing business needs and players but remains within the boundaries of the Integrative Leadership theories wherein the leaders balance relationships with employees and team members, project and daily tasks and situational contingency to effectively influence. In addition to the integrative theories, there is an emphasis on Conscientiousness and Openness as described by the Big 5 Leadership styles. It is never a question to see leaders acting with integrity and willing to take new risks – ideas are embraced and opportunities sought after with a desire to assess feasibility.
WAVE Communication & Leadership
Communication is a fundamental trait needed by every individual and most especially for those in authority and leadership positions. Being able to plan and clearly articulate the message for the intended audience is key to achieving the communication objectives. WAVE’s leadership exhibits a high dedication to communication and makes essential use of all available IT tools to connect near and far with all her employees in different parts of the world.
At the corporate level, there are weekly communication meetings where Employee Safety is discussed, Monday morning meetings where departments meet for weekly alignment, monthly meetings to review project state of affairs, quarterly meetings to discuss business sales, revenue and profit, and quarterly meetings for celebrations and recognition. Throughout these various forums, there is an inherent desire and plan to connect with teams and develop rapport alongside follow up of the critical deliverables. A point worth noting is that at every one of these meetings, the executive team is present to kick-off or close and there is an open table for Q&A. Very much line with the PMBOK Project Communications Management (2017), which explains the need for different communication channels used to convey messages due to the different urgencies, environment and sensitivity of information.
WAVE Organizational Culture & Climate
WAVE owes a lot of her organizational culture and climate to the strong legacy of her parent company – Worthington Industries. Worthington Industries is deeply centered on organizational philosophy and the Golden Rule. These are essentially the underlying principles of WAVE and works to shape the culture and climate.
According to Lewis, Project Leadership (2003), being able to understand what motivates the people and the different needs – not a one size fits all ideology is instrumental to inspiring a change in culture and or behavior. The WAVE/Worthington philosophy declares “people are the most important asset”. For departmental leaders, midlevel leaders and the executives, this means they are all seeking ways to better understand and build trust and credibility with the respective teams and this is successfully seen in the team work, fair play and information sharing climate prevalent at work.
The personality of an organization comprised of beliefs/assumptions, values/norms, and artifacts is defined as the organizational culture (Schien, 1985). WAVE being so diverse, allows for an innovative, cooperative and reliance on wisdom system of beliefs/assumptions, operating at a well-defined traditional standard of values emphasizing respect and social responsibility. These cultural systems are visible through the freedom displayed in team interactions and the open door policy of leadership. Embedded in this value for people and at best employees, organizational changes in the form of position changes or personnel changes are communicated in a way that protects the employees and details are only provided per the employee’s discretion. At the WAVE plants, there is even more of a family culture. The teams have a sense of connection to one another and foster relationships outside of the work environment through sports and candidates for leadership positions are encouraged within the organization.
WAVE Managing Change
Change is the only constant thing as is well known and this is the typical day in the life of WAVE. Change at WAVE has been both transformational and incremental and happens in various forms like office building changes, facility location changes, new hires, positional changes and process changes. No matter how small or large the change is, WAVE’s leadership has proven to master the art of change and work to ensure smooth transitions.
Significant changes recently that displayed WAVE’s strength for managing change was the realignment of the CEO position. In May of 2018, WAVE’s CEO left the company to pursue other opportunities. Immediately, the board and parent companies alongside some of the executives, put together an interim “committee” of three leaders who will temporarily carry on the responsibilities of the CEO. This plan however has been in effect to date and has been running smoothly. As Kotter will say, WAVE has defied the status quo about running a company without a president and shown a pattern of success to successfully navigate through such a drastic change while still maintaining a strong business presence (Kotter, 2012).
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Second in line as an example of managing change is the recent purchase of Steel Ceilings, a previous competitor. One of WAVE’s businesses was an acquisition and has been plowing through the transition from another company to WAVE and the cultural shift. 3 years from the acquisition and experiencing tremendous growth, there is another acquisition in place. This has been a significant change involving new customers, product transitions, manufacturing changes and process changes but the leadership was pro-active enough to assign change agents and leaders who oversee the requirements for change at every functional level ensuring that previous mistakes are avoided and the voice of the teams are captured. This is in line with Lussier & Achua’s strategy of open and regular communications and transparency (2012).
WAVE Problem Management & Decision Making
Problem management involves activities to determine root causes of problems and solutions. This therefore implies that with every problem identification, decisions are needed for resolution. As WAVE expands its business value, product selections and business units, it is certain there are accompanied problems but the leadership has been diligent at working through these issues.
In problem solving, the rational decision making ability of the leader is critical to the process as discussed by Lussier & Achua (2012). WAVE’s leadership team often makes use of the rational decision making model and its six step process. An example has been in the launch of its top product “Indirect Light Coves”. This product was launched in 2016 and has not been without multiple defects. Being produced in the Alpharetta location, the leadership identified the goal to assess the manufacturing capability and processes needed to create a quality product produced and delivered to the customer on time. With this goal, they deployed resources to follow through the process and begin executing the plans. This leadership support marked a reduction in complaints in specific areas of this product and is ongoing.
Furthermore in the decision making process has been in evaluating performance strains among teams. As Tushman & O’Reily explains, the first step in organizational problem solving is identifying crucial performance and or opportunity gaps (Tushman & O’Reily, 2004). This was displayed in the recent performance evaluation of one of the design teams. During this process, a low performing team member was put on a performance improvement plan to help drive his output and productivity. This decision resulted in a new sense of awareness for the team lead from this awareness, decisions were made to set operating standards that are being used now for future onboarding and evaluations of team effectiveness and efficiencies.
WAVE Strategic Planning
Strategic planning is well known to be a critical component of successful businesses and is a functional aspect of the leadership to keep the organization moving towards its goal. WAVE’s strategic planning strength is very evident in the year on year business growth. The leadership team has made it an intricate of their mid-level teams to engage in strategic planning activities which as defined by Bryson is a disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does, and why it does it (Bryson, 2011).
WAVE’s strategic planning efforts are shown first in the quarterly strategic planning meetings held nationwide. These meetings are usually led by the CEO and top executives with team leads across the organization. During these meetings, the CEO presents the mission and vision of WAVE with the plan to execute this vision. As explained by McNamara, there is no strategic plan without knowing the overall purpose and desired results of the organization (McNamara, n.d). That was the underlying purpose of these meetings; realigning the team to why WAVE exists and what the customers expect inspiring a vision to achieve the expectations.
Fundamental to the strategic plan of WAVE is being customer focused in all activities. Being in the commercial and residential ceilings business, there is rapid change to what is considered good by the customer and several of these strategic efforts are through sales entertainment meetings. Although not apparent in the nature of the meetings, the leadership strategically empowers the sales managers to host costumers and during these meetings, seek information concerning customer needs, expectations and areas of opportunities being leveraged by competitors. These meetings always result in significant organizational changes that position the company at an edge over its competition; also known as detailed action planning with activities necessary to achieve desired goal (Jensen, 2014).
In summary, WAVE as a business continues to exemplify fundamental leadership styles that have resulted in record business growth and presence in the market.
Some of WAVE’s strengths are seen in the organizational culture of putting people/employees first and empowering the inside talent to leadership as well as not shying away from the complications associated with change but effectively putting in place the communication paths that build trust and transparency with the teams, and processes and resources needed to ensure change is smoothly transitioned. This is primarily due to the interactive leadership style that involves collaboration and decision making with the teams at the core.
WAVE accounts most of its successes to the strategic thinking patterns of the leadership teams. From the corporate to the plant level, strategic and alignment meetings are hosted quarterly and team members are challenged to think in this direction with unique tools and authority given to specific team leaders to drive customer focused goals which assessing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats posed by the market forces. WAVE is a successful organization and effective leadership is at the core of this success.
- Bryson, M. John (2011). A Strategic Planning Process for Public & Non-Profit Organizations. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.458.5630&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- McNamara, Carter. (n.d). MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC; From the Free Management Library
- Jensen, David (2014). Executing the Strategic Plan: 5 Actions Midlevel Leaders Can Take. Retrieved from https://moodle.harrisburgu.edu/pluginfile.php/447049/mod_book/chapter/59351/Jensen_ExecStratPlan.PDF
- Kotter, John P. (2012). Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
- Lewis, James P. (2003). Project leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Lussier, R.N & Achua, C.F. (2012). Leadership: Theory, application, & skill development
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- Project Management Institute (2017). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK Guide, 6th Ed.) Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute, Inc.
- Schein, E. H. (1985). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
- Tushman, M.L. & Anderson, O’Reily. (Ed.) 2004. Managing Strategic Innovation and Change (2nd Edition); Chapter 14 – Managerial Problem Solving: A Congruence Approach.