S2 E109 — Rebuilding Trust Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Tomorrow they drop a bomb on the organization — the closing of 6 regional offices and the recombination of the key personnel into one location in Phoenix (over a two year period). They spent a lot of energy on crafting the announcement, but none on what they would do as follow-on actions to manage the shock.

“5”  Steve Carrell, 57; Steve Martin, 74; Steve Wozniak, 69: Sometimes, it’s as though you can read minds and tell the future. But right now, it’s better just to ask people what they are thinking and to respect the future as a question mark.” Leo

Hi and welcome to Saturday’s Episode 109 in Season 2 of  “My Pandemic Year Natural Experiment” on this 5th day of September in the fall of 2020.  

“The Tau of Steves: What You Don’t Know Could Fill a Book”

Table of Contents

Season One and Two are a two-year examination of how bits of wisdom changed during the “normal” pre-pandemic and then in this unfolding pandemic year.

Previously in Season Two, the Pandemic Year

S2 E108Why Our Reinvention Efforts Failed (and Yours Will Too); S2 E107Leaving Us Adrift in a Sea of Change;  S2 E106How We Brainwashed Curmudgeons

Related from Season One, the Normal Year

S1 E109Do All Introverts Take the Long Acetylcholine Pathway?; S1 E108After So Many Defeats is it Time to Catch a New Trajectory?; S1 E107How Do You Rate Your Sense of Curiosity?; S1 E106 — Attempts to Upset 9 of My Life Stages Apple Cart


This is a continuation of “Volume Two Manuscript — WorkFit” a work-in-progress.

In previous episodes we described Start Up, Emerging Growth, Rapid Growth, Sustained Growth, Maturity, Decline and now Reinvention stages.  

Reinvention without Decline

Image Credit: Stephen G. Howard  Copyright 2020

We described a mini-case of a major decline,  Part One, Part Two and Part Three. And, before that we profiled two mini case studies about what it was like working behind the scenes at a mature company in a financial, in a consumer industry and two more in another century-old university system — Part One and Two. 

Now turn from our 3-part Reinvention mini-case operating from within a technology company,  Part One,  Part Two and Part Three to a different industry with similar needs, but from a consulting assignment.


27. Knowledge Management — Brand Company  

A Strategy and Brand Consultancy. 

Part One

At Think!City a boutique consulting firm we crashed our models together — learning and development, knowledge creation, media production, internet communities, strategy, advertising and marketing. 

We worked together in a highly creative environment within a corrugated metal building designed by a local architecture firm in Laguna Beach, on a curve in Laguna Canyon Road. 

I fell headlong into sharing new knowledge that springs out of new innovations.

We pioneered a way of capturing the essence of a brand on digital video, searched through audio tracks for the touch points and reused portions of the interviews for orienting new coders hired at accelerated rates. 

From our studio we continued internal and external branding with clients ranging from startups to Fortune 100.

This is about our work with a Fortune 100 Mature Real Estate and Relocation Services, similar to the financial case already described.

After conducting knowledge labs for two disruptively innovative fast companies, the opportunity presented itself to apply what we learned to a mature, bureaucratic company responding to the internet threat.

Their greatest challenge was to convince survivors and potential survivors to stick around as the East Coast headquarters called the restructuring shots.  Their situational challenges mirrored those of the Engineering and Construction company in decline — history of miscommunications, changes in top management, merger of two different operating units, a move to Phoenix and the closing of regional offices. 

I received an update from Gasper about our potential engagement. 

Steve,  I was unable to connect with Bob in New York (about our Start Up consulting project there). He was shuttling around two candidates who were being interviewed: a potential VP of Product Marketing and the new VP of Marketing. I will connect with him tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I have a meeting with Steve of Prudential at noon tomorrow to further explore the relationship — get enough information to propose something. 

He has gaps in his organizational development plans. He is running an “agenda for change” and wonders why it is scaring the shit out of everyone. Tomorrow they drop a bomb on the organization — the closing of 6 regional offices and the recombination of the key personnel into one location in Phoenix (over at two year period)

They spent a lot of energy on crafting the announcement, but none on what they would do as follow-on actions to manage the shock. 


From the outside it was obvious that in the real world, in their industry, no one was framing their actions by asking:

How would a great company handle this major transition, so in before, during, and after the move it is easy to attract, retain, and develop key talent?  

    • Requires talent transition team of key influencers from day one with this charter, and an open invitation for employees at large to contact, question rigorously, and contribute ideas.  
    • Self-selection out and in.  
    • Manage unintended consequences.

PRERS divisions never really formed a common identity – their cultures so different.  One culture lost their beloved leader as a result of the restructuring.  

The surviving CEO attempted to reengineer a solution, but it never took.  He had a vision of what a wired future would look like and attempted to lay the foundation for closing the gap between their current dysfunctional culture and the desired state by launching an agenda for change. 

However, without any real leadership, 5 teams set out to identify core competencies and to make recommendations about how to close the gaps.  

    • All five teams eventually reported their findings, but nothing substantial happened as a result.  
    • Except, the top 2 executives left the company.  
    • The chairman and vice chairman inherited the baggage. 

Fear Uncertainty and Doubt

It began with what was supposed to be a 2 year advance announcement to give everyone affected plenty of time to consider their options — move, retire or stay and look for another job in Orange County.

That was the intended message. 

    • But we found out “the suits” got a hold of it (lawyers) on the East Coast, and rewrote the bulk of the announcement to protect the corporation from any liability. 
    • What was communicated was loaded with buzzwords and phrases like consolidation, without any details.  So the only real message received triggered negative implications. And watercolor estimates about when will the other shoe drop?  
    • After several of their false starts, we proposed a campaign of communications releases in a variety of formats to help reshape the culture, to support the transition to a new desired state, and to support thinking and acting more innovatively. 

We Started Immediately 

Crazy creative Dave with his digital video gear and I drove to San Diego to meet with volunteers from the other division who were attending their regional meeting — which included, by the way, an afternoon check in session in which employees could talk about any and all issues they’re challenged with by working remotely.

Since one half of the organization had already successfully navigated the transformation from working out of an office to working out of a home office, cut off from former social ties, we interviewed a dozen “experts” who had been there and done that.  

And they were eager to advise those about to confront what they had to years earlier:

    • One woman remembered how she felt others working in the office would assume she was loafing at home.  So she put in longer and longer hours in her home office at her computer, until she burned herself out.  No one felt she was slacking off.
    • One analyst told us that he wanted to make the FedEx guy his new best friend.  Everyday he’d deliver packages and pick up packages for work, but declined a cup of coffee and a danish each time.
    • One vice president told us on camera how he was in shock when word came out that he wouldn’t have a luxurious office with all the other senior executives.  “I mean here I pushed and pushed and climbed up each rung of the ladder, and then what?  They want me to work at my new townhome’s kitchen table?”
    • Others told us how they had to mimic their office routines.  In the morning after coffee and a light breakfast, for example, some would walk, or jog, or work out at the gym before returning home.  Then they’d shower, change clothes, and commute from their second floor to their first floor office and close the door.
    • Mothers told us they established the same routine basically, but still had to monitor what was going on with their kids in another room, even when grandma helped babysit.
    • Some said they carried the office routine to extremes by locking their office door in the evening.  As a reminder to them, that work was over and even if the computer pinged or the office phone rang they weren’t falling for it.  That took extreme effort to avoid the temptation to return.  But, they learned how to manage customers and bosses about their hours.

Those digital video interviews spawned two newsletters full of tips and tricks, video tapes for review in meetings of those eventually moving to Phoenix, and set in motion a series of on-camera appearances by the chairman and vice-chairman which helped them formulate their new leadership messages.  

We (they) had a long way to go, building trust doesn’t happen overnight. 


Random ones that make me want change my sign.

“3”  Steve Winwood, 71; Stevie Wonder, 69; Stephen Colbert, 56: “Today, you’ll learn how badly you want something. Either you won’t get it and you’ll use that loss as a gauge, or you will get it, and your subsequent satisfaction will teach all.”  Taurus

One can only hope, right?

“5” Steve Howey, 42:Bad moods are caused not by what happens, but by two culprits: negative thoughts and distorted thoughts. Everything that occurs is an opportunity to practice your interpretive skills.”Cancer

Not necessarily for today, but Part One, boiled down to countering how poorly the East Coast description of what was about to occur over the next 24 months triggered.

“5”  Steve Carrell, 57; Steve Martin, 74; Steve Wozniak, 69: Sometimes, it’s as though you can read minds and tell the future. But right now, it’s better just to ask people what they are thinking and to respect the future as a question mark.” Leo

Not necessarily for today, but when Crazy creative Dave and videoed the San Diego survivors of forced remote work we learned more tips and tricks and advice than what we could have created to share with the other division.  Plus, real people, sincere people shared secrets that worked for them.

“3”  Steve Greene, 34; Steve Guttenberg, 61:As you relate to family, help friends, get after work projects and do more, you’ll notice that everything you take on is a little easier than it was only a month ago. You’re just better.” Virgo

As far as the Pandemic goes, sure we’ve figured out our routines so we don’t catch the virus.  As far as this passion project goes, yeah, but, Duh!

“3”  Steve Kerr, 54:Though you feel emotionally bound to the people and projects you care about, it will benefit you to ask this thought exercise: What if your only real duty is to your own sense of adventure?” Libra

Probably sound advice, but today I’ve got more than enough things to think about!

“5”  Steve Aoki, 41: There’s a new goal to strive for, but you’ll accomplish it with the same approach that’s worked for you in the past. You’ll start with a sketch — an outline of a general vision — and then fill in the blanks.” Sagittarius

So, I have this pandemic to thank?  It’s given me time to sketch out and fill in this work-in-progress at least.

“4”  Steve Nash, 45:There are many situations that are helped by black-or-white thinking, for instance, when you have to assess quickly, act decisively, commit deeply. But for most things, allow for as full a range of color as you can.”  Aquarius

Am I wrong or as a nation don’t we have this inverted?  The black and white thinking which should be objective, is really what passes for red and blue polarized extremes.

“4”  Steve Jobs, (1955 – 2011): You might not like the information that comes your way initially, but it will be good to know, as it will deepen your understanding of the scene you’re in, thus giving you more power in it.” Pisces

Information is one thing, misinformation — not mistaken, but politically motivated is another entirely.  Why do we as a country have to politicize everything?  Dealing with this pandemic is more than enough, right?

What’s Going On

Literally Bottled and Set Adrift from KnowWhere Atoll 

    • @knowlabs followers of one or more of my 35 digital magazines organically grew from 4906 to 4990.




    • Saw the movie, didn’t realize that one of my favorite authors, Michael Connelly — his detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch book series and Amazon Prime series — also wrote, “The Lincoln Lawyer” which I just finished. Gotta tell you I can’t not see his lead character (Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half brother) as anyone else but Matthew McConaughey. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Inspired by: Holiday Mathis – Creators Syndicate


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