Bringing Practitioner-Focused Research to People Management Practitioners
In This Issue…
Hunter Harrison and the Transformation of Canadian National Railway
Queen's University IRC 2015 Workplace in Motion Summit Proceedings
Grievance Mediation: The Impact of the Process and Outcomes on the Interests of the Parties
Hunter Harrison and the Transformation of Canadian National Railway A Case Study of the Five Ps of Cultural Change Dr. Carol A. Beatty, Queen’s IRC, 2016
When Hunter Harrison joined the recently-privatized Canadian National Railway (CNR) in 1998 as Chief Operating Officer, the company was generally acknowledged as one of the worst railroads in North America, highly indebted, perpetually in the red, and losing market share to the more efficient, flexible and newly deregulated U.S. railway and trucking industries. Recruited by Chief Executive Officer, Paul Tellier, for his skills and experience at Illinois Central, Harrison along with Tellier moved swiftly to transform CNR into a “scheduled precision railway” and to introduce needed efficiencies. Soon thereafter the company shed over 11,000 employees and thousands of miles of track.
After Tellier left the company in 2003, Harrison was appointed as his successor. The challenge was enormous. A cultural overhang still existed from the railway’s public sector days when it was more of an employment generation device than a business, complete with regionalism, isolation from commercial pressures, formal chains of command, hostile unions and a culture of entitlement. Would Harrison be able to complete the transformation or would the company sink back into mediocrity? Fast forward to 2008 and CNR was then widely recognized as the most efficient railway in North America. How he accomplished this cultural transformation is nothing short of miraculous.
An effective change leader needs five skills which I call the five Ps: Passion, Plan, Persuasion, Partnering and Perseverance, and Harrison had all of them in abundance.
Queen's University IRC 2015 Workplace in Motion Summit Proceedings Brendan Sweeney, Queen's University IRC, 2016
The world of work is changing, and the most successful organizations and practitioners are those that understand how these changes impact the way they do business. To help them do so, and to foster further dialogue, Queen’s IRC hosted the Workplace in Motion Summit in Toronto on April 16, 2015. Over 100 human resource, labour relations, and organizational development professionals from across Canada attended the Summit. Chaired by IRC facilitator Brenda Barker Scott, the Summit provided a forum to stimulate new ideas and new perspectives on the dynamic new world of work.
The Summit focused on a variety of questions of interest to today’s human resource, labour relations, and organizational development professionals. More specifically, it helped participants:
Identify issues and best practices related to current trends and practices in human resource management, labour relations, and organizational development.
Explore how rapidly emerging technologies are shaping and re-shaping modern workplaces and the way we work.
Investigate the impact of changing demographics on contemporary organizations.
This was all done with the intent of identifying how they can better lead change and promote excellence within and beyond their organizations and professional networks.
Over the course of the Summit, several themes emerged that were particularly critical to today’s human resource, labour relations, and organizational development professionals. These included the need to:
Manage change and transformation in order to advance organizational and professional interests with as little disruption as possible.
Create the physical space, infrastructure, technologies, and systems necessary to support a collaborative, open, and innovative workplace and work culture.
Engage, retain, and motivate the new generation of employees and to bridge inter-generational gaps in the workplace.
Think outside the box in order to appropriately encourage risk-taking and innovation.
This report elaborates on the most important questions, issues, and themes identified by Summit participants going forward.
Flashback Feature: Grievance Mediation: The Impact of the Process and Outcomes on the Interests of the Parties Mitchell S. Birken, 2000
The revival of grievance mediation can be traced to an experiment in mediating workplace disputes in the coal industry of the United States in 1980, which resulted in a very high success rate of 80 to 90 percent. The decades that followed, researchers comparing the effectiveness of grievance mediation and arbitration concluded that grievance mediation is a faster process with lower costs that can produce a ‘win-win’ outcome and a positive long-term impact on the relationship between the parties. However, except in a very general way, the research has tended not to explore the long-term impact of the process and the outcomes of mediation.
Using a hypothetical case of a discharge grievance, this study attempts to fill that gap by taking the grievance through both mediation and arbitration, and contrasting the impact of the two mechanisms on the interests of the parties.