‘Unbossed Culture’ Takes Performance To New Heights

Sandoz case study

Feedback from employees indicated that people were in survival mode and felt tired. The credibility of the leadership team was low, and profitability was in decline. For the past five years there had been no growth in sales. Leaders started looking for what was driving these issues. The market dynamics were fine. What Sandoz found was a sense of retribution for failure and people tired of being hounded, but their people wanted things to improve.

Read why Sandoz is seeing top and bottom line growth for the first time in five years

Leadership Glue Delivers Speed, Agility, & Aligned Action

hanes case study

Hanes first began working with HS diagnostics in 2013. At this time, the business was going through an organizational restructure as well as commencing the journey of adopting Lean in a non-manufacturing environment. Hanes felt that it was during this period of transition and transformation that leaders needed to continue to work on their leadership most. It became clear that the company needed to give its teams the tools to lead through these change programs if they were going to be successful.

Read how ‘leadership glue’ delivers speed and agility for Hanes

4 Things to Know About Group Styles Inventory

An interview with John Van Etten, Managing Director of Human Synergistics InterConnext, GmbH

Now that organizations have moved to a remote environment, developing a successful virtual team is critical to maintain productivity. Communication, collaboration, and negotiation are all skills that help successful teams make key decisions that lead to John van Etten photoorganizational effectiveness.

I recently sat down with John Van Etten, Managing Director of Human Synergistics’ office serving Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, to discuss why his customers are finding the online version of the Group Styles InventoryTM a viable solution for assessing and improving virtual team effectiveness.

Q: What is the Group Styles Inventory or GSI?

A: Group Styles Inventory (GSI) is a team-building assessment tool, run both virtually or in-person, that allows members of teams and groups to describe how they interact and approach problems and decisions. The feedback is in real-time and shows how the team can further develop to achieve synergy and be more productive.

Q: Why would an organization perform a GSI assessment?

A: There are three main reasons why I see clients reach out to us with an interest in running a GSI assessment within a subset of their organizations.

  1. Team development. Organizations often reach out because they want to improve the performance of and/or communication within a team.
  2. Leadership development. Many organizations use the GSI with their leadership teams to bring them into alignment with corporate values and encourage them to develop further. The GSI really allows leaders to see where they may need more development as they experience the individual and team behaviors that arise during the GSI event.
  3. Culture development. By using a GSI and initially focusing on their immediate teams, leaders can focus on promoting Constructive behaviors and measure team learnings/improvements before cascading development efforts throughout the broader organization.

Q: What are the benefits organizations can expect to see from using the GSI?

A: Well, to begin, the GSI is the only Human Synergistics’ tool in which participants have the opportunity to identify and recognize the styles of the Circumplex as they are being acted out. I often hear from participants during the assessment things like “I remember when I wanted to share my idea but didn’t because it was different than everyone else’s [Dependent and Conventional styles on the Circumplex]; I can see how that prevented our team from benefitting from all options and perspectives.”

It’s also the only Human Synergistics’ tool where a facilitator is present to witness the behaviors of the Circumplex ‘play out’ and report on how the team was ultimately affected.

The GSI can be experienced online, in real-time, in a variety of settings, and even with virtual teams. So, the ability to assess and develop virtual teams and how they interact has really been key to creating a more effective work environment for remote organizations. This is especially key right now, when team members are working from home and possibly feeling disconnected and unproductive.

The ability to measure GSI results in real time allows organization to “see” improvement and development opportunities more quickly than with other culture-level initiatives. This makes team development more dynamic and is ideal for serving as a starting point for change agents.

Q: What are some outcomes you’ve seen from Organizations that have carried out a GSI?

A: Greater leadership and team alignment is a big one. Team members are more informed, in-sync, engaged, and therefore more effective in achieving goals on time and in a coordinated way.

Increased alignment among leaders with respect to values has been a predominant outcome for our clients. They report stronger emphasis on “how” the organization should be led and what kind of behavior/culture is consistent with the business values.

Improved teamwork is also high on the list, including an increase in the level and quality of communication, better time management, and greater satisfaction of individual members with their teams.


Now more than ever increasing virtual team effectiveness and productivity is key to organizational success. If you’d like to learn more about your teams ability to problem solve and work together using the Group Styles Inventory visit humansynergistics.com.


Human Synergistics is currently carrying out a new research project focusing on virtual teams and the relationship between group styles and outcomes (e.g., solution effectiveness). To collect data for this study, we are making available a limited number of credits for the digital Group Styles Inventory prototype to HS Global Change Circle Accredited Consultants. Please contact us at info@humansynergistics.com if you are a GCC member and have virtual teams interested in completing the GSI and receiving feedback. This includes face-to-face teams that are transitioning to virtual operations.

How Quantitative and Qualitative Results Lead to Real-Time Change


Established in 1951, ERDMAN offers an integrated approach to healthcare and senior living, with services ranging from customized strategic planning to real estate development and delivery. As CEO and co-owner, Brian Happ has seen his share of changes over the 21 years since he joined the company. The most significant changes have been in the leaders during the transition from a family-owned, to an institutionally owned, to being sold to a publicly traded company, and now back to a privately-owned company. It’s safe to say ERDMAN and its employees have been through a lot.

As Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development at ERDMAN, Andrea Hopkins is a key leadership team member dedicated to the success of the organization’s cultural development. “We faced many challenges before partnering with Human Synergistics. Our biggest opportunity was with aligning our Senior Leadership Team to new leadership expectations and agreements.”

Commitment to People

In 2003, ERDMAN transitioned from being family-owned to institution-owned. “At this point, we had grown significantly while we focused on measuring and improving our employee engagement and satisfaction,” says Happ. After selling to a publicly traded company in 2008, Happ and his business partner bought the company back and went private again in 2012. Happ and the leadership team were able to return to focusing on people and the work that they had started years before.

“Rebuilding the work on culture that we had started in 2003 was always part of our strategic plan because, in our organization, we have different people from different backgrounds and a lot of diversity,” remarks Happ.

Change Starts at the Top

The leaders at ERDMAN saw an opportunity for the senior leadership team to set the tone and expectations for the entire company and help drive needed business results.

“It was a two-pronged approach. First, we wanted to build a leadership team that could take the company forward in a transparent, productive manner. Secondly, we needed to rebuild the nucleus of the organization. We had a vision, a strategy to clear barriers for people – to allow them to grow – and we needed the right leadership team in place to be able to implement it,” says Happ.

Establish a Behavior Baseline

In 2016 ERDMAN participated in its first Leadership/Impact® (L/I) program with Human Synergistics to identify their leadership strategies and impact on the behavior of others. “This was going to be our benchmark going forward, knowing that we probably had a fair amount of change in front of us,” notes Hopkins. “All ten of us verbally committed, saying we would work on ourselves first and then develop an action plan for the team as a whole.”

Along with the L/I, the team completed the Organizational Culture Inventory® (OCI®) to assess and profile behavioral norms and expectations within the organization. The results were better than the team had expected. Coupling in some qualitative data that had been compiled during focus groups allowed for feedback they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. “As we looked at the first measurement from the L/I and the OCI, we were getting good data. With the addition of the focus group feedback, we now had some solid starting points. So, we just went to work creating a roadmap on what we thought we should tackle first,” says Hopkins.

Invest in Development

The team’s L/I results naturally led and influenced the culture work that continued to be a focus and priority for the organization. The leadership team at ERDMAN had a very intentional communication plan to further this work along in a more Constructive way. “We knew how dangerous it was to ask for feedback and then not act on it,” says Hopkins. “Every employee had already participated in a survey. Now we wanted to make sure we were able to cascade the results throughout the organization and find areas of celebration where we could. We also wanted to be sure each senior leader was equipped with enough information that they could speak intelligently on the survey results and their meaning.” Leaders had to model these behaviors and share the areas of development, not only for themselves, but also for the rest of the organization.  Throughout this roll-out, the culture work never lost momentum, and they continued to get buy-in at all levels as improvement plans were implemented. 

Roughly 12 months after the initial OCI, the ERDMAN leadership team prepared for a re-measure. “The results of the second OCI were amazing! We had improved dramatically along all four Constructive styles. We had set far-reaching goals in each style and hit those in all but one area. It showed that we were becoming more aligned. I can’t really pinpoint an exact date or time, but you could feel the difference. You could feel less resistance and watch people bringing ideas forward who normally wouldn’t,” says Hopkins.

While never an overnight change, culture transformation is a vital part of an organization’s success when done correctly. ERDMAN has already begun to see the results of the culture journey they embarked on in 2012. “Our goals are to continue to do more and continue to do better. Our hiring pipeline has been great in large part to the culture work and the environment we’re creating, our growth trajectory right now is outstanding, and our bottom line has greatly improved and continues to get better – which is the result of people working really well together,” concludes Happ.

Does your organization need help assessing or managing the impact of its current leadership? The experts at Human Synergistics can help you understand what’s expected of your employees and how those expectations affect your business. Also, check out our newly released book, Creating Constructive Cultures to learn how organizational leaders around the world are creating more productive workplace cultures.

Contact us if you would like assistance and guidance in assessing the current or ideal culture of your organization.

Quantifying and Aligning Workplace Culture Post-Merger

constructive culture in long-term healthcare

Founded on January 1, 2017, Inclusa is a not-for-profit organization delivering a person-centered and community-focused approach to long-term care. The organization is the product of a recent merger between three Wisconsin-based organizations that were in business collectively for almost 20 years. Supporting over 1,100 employees across the state, the company was experiencing some challenges after the merger, as a result of different cultures and environments.

Commitment to People

“I joined our organization right after the merger process had been initiated. At that time, we were challenged with bringing three organizations together, which included 1000+ colleagues who were accustomed to different workplace cultures and varying sets of business practices. We were officially one organization in name, yet needed to bridge the gaps that existed everywhere else, especially the culture gap,” says Michelle Fellenz, Chief Talent Learning & Culture Officer.

Michelle, along with the leadership team at Inclusa decided cultural management was one of the core issues that would need to be addressed early on for the organization to come together and align on other key business issues. The team had collected feedback using various qualitative methods in the past, but they knew they would need to dive deeper in order to understand what was going well in the organization and where opportunities existed for development.

Change Starts at the Top

CEO Mark Hilliker, Chief Member Experience Officer Kris Kubnick, Michelle, in addition to the rest of the Inclusa leadership team, were all introduced to Human Synergistics at the Regional Cultural Conference in 2018. It’s here where, as a group, they participated in the Culture Journey Experience and immediately felt a need to connect.

“The conference really provided two things for our leadership team. First just starting to understand a little bit more around what culture really is. I think we talk a lot about culture…we know what organizational development is, but it tends to leave the room when you start talking strategy. So, it was good for our leadership team to digest what the word culture really means. It also created alignment. It helped everyone get onboard and recognize that there needs to be an investment at the senior leadership level in order to make any change move across the organization,” says Kubnick.

Mark, Michelle, and Kris all saw an opportunity to take the idea of culture and make it more tangible for the company. “With 12 years of experience and the assessment tools that provided quantitative data showing where we are, where we want to go, and how we need to get there – Inclusa’s culture journey seemed attainable. There was also alignment in both our organizational values and Human Synergistics’. And I think ultimately that really got us excited to partner with them on our journey,” Kubnick explains.

Establish a Behavior Baseline


The leadership team surveyed the entire organization using the Organizational Culture Inventory® (OCI®) and Organizational Effectiveness Inventory® (OEI) in order to establish a baseline for the climate and culture at Inclusa. Mark, Michelle, and Kris also went through Human Synergistics’ accreditation workshop in order to help implement and understand the assessments and results.

Additionally, being able to visually represent the preferred culture to Inclusa colleagues, using the OCI Ideal, was key to creating universal buy-in and an investment to work towards a more Constructive culture. The team also executed the Culture Journey Event (updates pending, check back soon) at multiple locations, which helped employees more easily digest the assessment results.

“The results were fantastic!” Hilliker says. “We had over an 80% response rate which I’m really proud of. I think it demonstrates the interest that our colleagues have in the organization and in its future. With this information, we were hopeful that we’d be able to build a strong baseline to better understand what our culture looks like today and the ideal culture for us to move towards.”

Michelle and Mark share what they discovered in their survey results

Invest in Development

The Inclusa

The Inclusa leadership team has gone so far as to take their results on the road. The team has hosted over 13 organization-wide “road shows”, in which they travel to regional locations across Wisconsin in order to share the survey results and findings firsthand.

As they look towards the future and where the culture of the organization is headed, there is a beacon of light shining on the opportunity for change.

“One of our focus areas, and another catalyst for our culture journey, was that we were all working in a very transactional mindset…very much siloed across the organization. We are, and will continue to, look at ways to reinvent how we’re structuring our teams to help improve interactions and collaboration,” says Kubnick.

Inclusa’s leadership team share how culture is still transforming

While it’s never an overnight change, culture transformation is a vital part of an organization’s success when done correctly. Inclusa has already begun to implement some crucial steps to make this change happen for their colleagues. They’ve implemented a philosophy called The Inclusa Way to reinforce the cultural norms around Humanistic-Encouraging, Achievement, and Affiliative.1 The team has also adopted a downward communication approach using Pop-Up Webinars to engage the broader organization and share information and updates more regularly.

Does your organization need help assessing or managing the impact of its current culture? The experts at Human Synergistics can help you understand what’s expected of your employees and how those expectations affect your business. Also, check out our newly released book, “Creating Constructive Cultures to learn how organizational leaders around the world are creating more productive workplace cultures.

Contact us if you would like help assessing the current or ideal culture of your organization.

1 The terminologies are from Robert A. Cooke, Ph.D. and J. Clayton Lafferty, Ph.D., Organizational Culture Inventory® and Organizational Effectiveness Inventory®, Human Synergistics International, Plymouth, MI. Copyright © 1987-2007. All rights reserved. Used by permission.