Case Study 1 : Hewlett Packard Micro Electronics Division


“We were like a refugee camp. We worked for the same company but spoke different languages. Shock resulting from a downturn in our industry permeated everyone. We were confused and without organizational homes. Survival meant creating a new way of life.” – Mike Freeman

The Process

Step 1: Mike sent two of his organization development consultants, Gary Hochman and Dennis DeMaria to the Axelrod Group’s Conference Model Training where they learned about the Conference Model Process.

Step 2: Gary and Dennis went back and met with Mike and decided the Conferenence Model Process was for them.

Step 3: The Axelrod Group entered into a licensing and coaching agreement with the Micro Electronics Division, which provided the organization with the workbooks, outlines and materials to implement the Conference Model Process. Additionally, Dick and Emily Axelrod provided coaching to the internal consultants as they implemented the process before and after each conference.

Step 4: Five large group conferences were conducted to redesign the organization. In between each conference, walkthrus were conducted to share information and solicit input from those who could not attend. Nearly everyone in the organization attended either a conference or a walkthru.

Step 5: Today this former refugee camp into an efficient, collaborative, customer focused organization, one that has recorded productivity improvements of 18% for five consecutive years.

“We were able to reverse a downward business trend and get performance back onto a positive path. . . . We attribute much of our success to the Conference Model approach and believe it complemented our other management and leadership tools well.”
- Mike Freeman

Case Study 2 : Detroit Edison


For over a year, using traditional methods, Detroit Edison managers had been working to improve their supply chain process. Although they had formed many committees and had been working with a leading consulting firm, they had little to show for their efforts. They knew drastic action was required.

The Process

Step 1: Dick Axelrod and Nancy Voss met with the Detroit Edison Team to understand the situation and to develop a strategy that would significantly accelerate the change process while increasing the level of commitment.

Step 2: Over the next few weeks a strategy emerged that included meetings with middle managers, two conferences and walkthrus. Dick and Nancy met continuously with the Detroit Edison team refining the approach as they developed outlines for the sessions. Steve Treacy and Nancy Aronson were added to the team to assist with facilitation and design.

Step 3: To avoid the “flavor of the month“ problem, a communication and education strategy was developed to explain the change in direction. Additionally, the work to date was used as a starting point.

Step 4: The purpose of the first three day conference was to identify gaps in the current supply chain process and potential solutions. One hundred eighty people attended the first conference including, customers, suppliers and union officials.

Step 5: Each night the Axelrod consultants met with the Detroit Edison team to adjust the design of the sessions based on participant feedback and emerging issues.

Step 6: Detroit Edison then conducted a series of walkthrus to share the results of the first conference and gather input from the organization. As a result over 500 people volunteered to attend the second conference. Since the facility could only accommodate 250 people, a lottery was held to determine who would attend the second conference. Over nine hundred people either attended a conference or a walkthru.

Step 7: The purpose of the second three day conference was to identify how to implement the ideas developed in the first conference. Because the Detroit Edison team did not want to impose something extra on an overburdened organization they used current projects that required supply chain emphasis as the basis for this work.

“For years we have said how come they don’t ask us. I do the job. I’m involved with it.But someone is always making decisions for me. Now, I feel that they did ask us and we gave our input. Let’s see if we know what we are talking about!”
- Detroit Edison Employee

Step 8: Today there are over twenty six active supply–chain improvement projects at Detroit Edison, with savings in the millions. Engagement at all levels has replaced withdrawal and lack of interest. And when the Nuclear Division needed to meet the challenges of deregulation, they used a similar process.

“My personal experience is that I enter these processes with one mental model of how things should be, and, as a result of working with others, my mental model shifts to one that is much better than the original. More importantly, I have learned that when people can put their own thumbprint on a change process, there is no need to sell them on the benefits; they own it.” - Joe Aresto, Director Supply Chain Mangagement