For nearly eight decades, Textron, Inc. — known as the original conglomerate — operated like a classic holding company. It had owned businesses as diverse as a lingerie factory, a steel mill and a cruise ship. “Each business had to make their numbers, and ownership was pretty much hands-off. There was no enterprise-wide activity, no synergy, among the businesses,” said John Butler, executive vice president of administration and chief human resources officer of Textron.
In 2001 that began to change. CEO Lewis Campbell, along with 20 executives from across the businesses and corporate functions, formed the company’s Transformation Leadership Team (TLT) and began to take an enterprise-wide approach to leadership.
The Center for Creative Leadership’s (CCL) program for senior executives, Leadership at the Peak, was quickly tapped as the front-line resource for TLT members. The Center’s faculty also worked directly with the team as a group. CCL’s distinct approach to individual and team development gave leaders a chance to break from established patterns. They were able to make strides in terms of communication and collaboration, allowing an enterprise-wide view to take root. Working with CCL, “a diverse and pretty independent group of executives began to find common ground in our approach to leadership,” said Butler.
Today, the company is a highly focused enterprise with nine business units that include brands like Bell Helicopter, Cessna Aircraft and E-Z-GO golf cars, as well as several industrial businesses and Textron Financial. Evidence of a streamlined, networked enterprise is abundant and continuous improvement is a way of life. For instance, Textron went from offering 154 separate U.S. healthcare plans to one with three options; from running 1,800 payroll systems to one; from operating 88 data centers to three. Five years ago, Textron promoted only 6 percent of its top 175 executives from within the businesses. In 2006, that rate had improved to 74 percent.
Recently, when Bell Helicopter won a number of accounts, it needed to ramp up to deliver. “Bell had to have the resources,” Butler recalled. “We saw the call to action and quickly moved talent into Bell from the other organizations. The other businesses didn’t balk; they saw this as the right thing to do. We would not have had those experiences five years ago.”
“Through a lot of hard work on the team’s part, they really came together to lead in new ways to give them the business results they wanted,” said CCL’s Dave Loring. “Coaching and facilitating Textron’s Transformation Leadership Team has been among the most rewarding work I’ve done with CCL. When you put really smart people together and help them to understand how they can be more effective, it’s amazing what they can do.”Download Article