The Katzenbach Center

The experts on organizational culture, teaming and informal organization.

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The Katzenbach Center helps clients close the strategy-through-execution gap by putting their cultures to work. With a network of practitioners advising across multiple industries, geographies, and client situations, we guide clients as they tap the power of their cultures and unlock the wisdom of teams to foster performance.

Our time-tested methodology and focused thought leadership is rooted in the original works of leading organizational strategy advisor and best-selling author, Jon Katzenbach.

What we do

  • Culture Evolution:
    Oil company
  • Culture in Transformation:
    Car manufacturer
  • Informal Org and Motivation:
    IT company
  • Leadership and Teaming:
    Banking group

Oil company facing a challenging road ahead

A middle eastern national oil company was facing a significant demographic shift in their workforce and an increasingly competitive external environment. To succeed in this new environment, the client developed an ambitious long-term strategic plan. Leadership soon realized that in order for the plan to succeed, they needed to leverage the strengths of their existing culture and get emotional commitment from the organization. Together, we prioritized 4 critical behaviors and deployed them across a series of pilots. Ultimately, we recorded business performance improvements that were directly attributable to behavior change.

Car manufacturer recovered from the brink

A North American car manufacturer on the brink of bankruptcy tackled its deeply embedded culture after formal changes—reshaping strategy and optimizing costs—weren’t moving the needle far enough. To evolve the culture in a sustainable way, the organization relied on leaders to role model new behaviors and leveraged "authentic informal leaders" to spread the behaviors throughout the organization rapidly. Ultimately, the effort resulted in faster decision-making, increased accountability, and improved customer and product focus.

Information technology company re-found its mojo

Following a number of leadership changes and declining performance in the market, a tech company CEO began to wonder if culture wasn’t the problem. Her organization had a long history, steeped in pride, but she felt it was adrift. We helped them redefine their ecosystem of values, core principles, leadership attributes, behaviors, and "rallying cry" that made the culture unique and compelling. To help the message spread and behaviors stick, the client engaged ~1,250 "pride builders" across 85 countries globally. Within a year, engagement scores increased by 10%.

Pulling together the best diverse team

A banking group in ANZSEA had experienced rapid, inorganic growth resulting in diverse and opposing ways of working, and was looking forward to achieving aggressive 5 year targets. We helped the bank understand its cultural strengths across divisions / locations and use them to accelerate priority strategic imperatives. First, we engaged with leaders to diagnose the existing culture and sub-cultures. We identified a long list of behaviors and refined them into three critical behaviors that the organization spread across a workforce of 40,000+.

What we think

People committed to common purposes and goals can change key elements of a company's culture when they set strong ground rules that allow people to feel confident.
Following these steps will enable a credibility-first transformation that has the potential to unlock enormous value and improve your executive effectiveness.
Companies can tap their natural advantage when they focus on changing a few important behaviors, enlist informal leaders, and harness the power of employees’ emotions.

Featured books

Jon Katzenbach and co-author Douglas K. Smith interviewed hundreds of people from 30 companies to reveal what differentiates various levels of team performance, where and how teams work best, and how to enhance their effectiveness.
Jon Katzenbach writes about how pride can motivate employees to achieve higher performance and how instilling pride can be achieved.
Through case studies from enterprises of all sizes around the world, Jon Katzenbach and co-author Zia Khan reveal how top-level organizations balance informal and formal elements to achieve outstanding results.
Jon Katzenbach identifies three basic types of teams: teams that recommend things, teams that make or do things, and teams that run things. The key is knowing where in the organization real teams should be encouraged.

Key topic areas

  • Organizational Culture
  • Leadership and Teaming
  • Informal Organization and Motivation

Culture is the self-sustaining patterns of behaviors and mindsets that determine how work gets done. Many business leaders understand that culture plays an important role in business performance, but most struggle to align culture with strategy and fully harness this power. We help clients work with and within their existing cultures to drive long-term performance. Our emphasis on a critical few behaviors over mindsets is what differentiates our approach.

Companies can tap their natural advantage when they focus on changing a few important behaviors, enlist informal leaders, and harness the power of employees’ emotions.
Companies with the most effective culture seek out and continually reinforce so-called keystone habits. Companies that recognize and encourage such habits stand to build cultures with influence that goes beyond employee engagement and directly boosts performance.

Teams are a flexible and efficient way to enhance organizational performance. Clients can utilize the power of disciplined teaming to further strategic objectives. In the 20 years since Jon Katzenbach wrote The Wisdom of Teams, our experience and approach on leadership and “high performing” teams have helped many clients succeed across a wide range of business problems and industries.

Katzenbach and Smith's research involved interviews with hundreds of people from thirty companies, and revealed what differentiates various levels of team performance, where and how teams work best, and how to enhance their effectiveness.
Companies should appeal to the millennial workforce by using three attributes of effective teaming — shared leadership, strong emotional commitment, and flexibility.
While the fundamental theory of team performance is perhaps well known, many teams fall short of their full potential because they fail to move from theory to execution.
Analysis of informal networks offers a potent leadership model for the C-suite: Make top teams the hub of the enterprise, and watch performance improve.

We believe organizations that leverage their informal networks have a greater potential to achieve business results. Our tools and techniques related to identifying and engaging Authentic Informal Leaders (AILs) help clients harness the energy and skills of key people to spread critical behaviors. Pride Building in particular is premised on a simple idea: every organization has a group of employees who excel at motivating colleagues to achieve stellar results.

In spite of many leaders’ concern that the informal organization operates by its own rules, its impact on performance doesn’t need to be left to chance. This Perspective uses case examples to describe how the informal organization drives performance results.
Unleashing the Power of the Informal Organization
To return to long-term performance and good health, companies will need to embrace structures that are present in every organization. Anxieties must be counter-balanced with more positive emotions.
Article on how integrating formal metrics and informal communication can lead to new levels of performance. Also, check out Jon Katzenbach’s book on the same topic.
This Perspective shares the results of interviews conducted with executives across numerous industries, in order to better understand their views on how customer service can be achieved and used to create a sustainable competitive advantage.

Meet our experts

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