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  • 1. CULTURE, MOTIVATION, AND CHANGE, OH MY: A CASE STUDY AT THE TOLEDO ZOO Kristine Hoover Bowling Green State University Case Objectives and UseAn executive director of a nationally renowned zoo has been in the job for almost a year. Duringthis time, the Zoo has begun to face the major challenge of enhancing motivation and moralalong with the strategic focus of the organization. The case allows students to focus theirattention on how to develop effective goals and on the role of employee involvement as it relatesto goal setting. In addition, students will be able to recommend actions for the executive directorto facilitate a successful planned change process. The case was developed for the use inundergraduate management, leadership, and organization development courses. Case SynopsisThis is a case study of the Toledo Zoo over a 6 year period of time. The award winning Zoo hashad an exceptionally successful track record based on public attendance and on recognition fromprofessional associations. Beginning in 2001 with the death of a Zoo animal and followed by thefiring of the Zoo veterinarian in 2004, the Zoo undertook an employee survey as a means toimprove morale that may have been sagging as a result of these events. Outcomes of the surveyindicated that although there were issues that were perceived favorably by the employees, a largepercentage of the employees reported some unfavorable opinions about the Zoo’scommunication and leadership/management. In 2006, a new executive director was hired. Part ofthe expectations for her leadership include motivating the employees and increasing the overalleffectiveness of the Zoo. The focus of this study is on understanding goal setting theory and theuse of a culture survey as a diagnostic tool for targeting focal areas for organizational change.The author developed the case for class discussion to explore use of various management concepts. The case,instructor’s manual, and synopsis were anonymously peer reviewed and accepted by the North American CaseResearch Association (NACRA) for its annual meeting, October 18-20, 2007, Keystone , CO.All rights are reserved to the author and NACRA. © 2007 by Kristine Hoover. Contact person: Kristine Hoover,College of Business Administration, Bowling Green State University, BA 3013, Bowling Green, OH 43403, 419-372-8450,
  • 2. Culture, Motivation and Change Case Study 1Running head: CULTURE, MOTIVATION AND CHANGE CASE STUDY Culture, motivation, and change, oh my: A case study at the Toledo Zoo Kristine Hoover BA 3013 Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, Ohio 43403 Ph: 419-372-8450 Fax: 419-372-6057 Email: hoover@bgsu.eduThe author would like to thank the Toledo Zoo, Dr. J. Gillespie, and Denison Consulting for their support and acknowledge the efforts of Bowling Green State University graduate students inPSYC 758 during Spring 2007 for their work to complete the culture survey and the Toledo Zoo Culture Assessment: Final Report. Review copy for use of the Case Research Journal. Not for reproduction or distribution. June 11, 2007.
  • 3. Culture, Motivation and Change Case Study 2 Case Manuscript “To be one of the world’s outstanding zoological institutions.” That is the vision of theToledo Zoo and it is the challenge faced by the Zoo’s new Executive Director. The Toledo Zoois one of approximately 500 zoos in the United States with total industry combined annualrevenues of $1.8 billion (NAICS code 7121). The zoo industry as a whole is undergoingconsiderable change as it struggles to balance pressures for wildlife conservation andentertainment. Conservation activities such as educational programs, management of wildlife,and recovery programs for endangered species must be financially supported through revenuesgenerated by patrons who may also view zoos as tourist attractions. Research suggests that in order for zoos in general to remain viable in today’smarketplace, they must strategically identify target markets, focus on visitor satisfaction, ensureanimal welfare, and enhance their creditability as providers of wildlife conservation andeducation. In addition to the common struggles that many zoos face, the Toledo Zoo faces someadditional challenges. Patronage of zoos is dependent upon local income and tourist travel. TheToledo Zoo lacks some of the benefits of higher incomes and accessibility afforded attractions inother larger cities. The major industry in the Toledo area is industrial manufacturing, which hasdeclined in recent decades. Toledo also has a declining population, measuring less than 300,000in 2006. However, Toledo is home to one of the busiest ports on the Great Lakes and benefitsfrom being the nations third busiest rail hub and 15th-busiest air cargo hub. It is uncertain as towhether these transportation assets can be translated into the benefit of increased zoo patronage.The question is, can the new Executive Director successfully lead the Toledo Zoo in thisenvironment?
  • 4. Culture, Motivation and Change Case Study 3 Toledo Zoo background The vision for the Toledo Zoo is supported by its mission statement: “Our mission is topromote wildlife and its conservation through excellence in animal management, educationalprograms, and scientific activities while providing our visitors with an enjoyable, recreational,and family-oriented experience.” The Zoo warmly welcomes guests to learn about the 4,000species that call this much loved collection of architecture and gardens their home. Adoredresidents have included Babe, the elephant and Puddles, the baby hippo. The Zoo offers patronsthe opportunity to visit the world-famous Hippoquarium as well as exhibits for Apes, Siberiantigers, Asian sloth bears, African wild dogs, and many other creatures. Recently, the Zoo wasalso able to lay claim to being home to three of only four newborn polar bear cubs in NorthAmerican Zoos. In 2003, the Toledo Zoo received the North American Conservation Awardfrom the American Zoo and Aquarium Association for the Oak Savanna Butterfly Conservationprogram. Works in progress according to the master plan include a Butterfly house opening, a newchildren’s Zoo design, and aquarium improvements funded in part by $8.6 million a year inrevenues from a 10-year capital improvement levy. With 875,000 to sometimes more than1,000,000 visitors each year, the Zoo has been a popular destination location. To maintainoperations, the Zoo has approximately 150 full time employees (both union and non-union) and500 seasonal employees. The average tenure of a Zoo employee is 12 years of service. The beginning signs of trouble In 2000, the Zoo celebrated its centennial with great fanfare. The history was documentedin photographs and prose, and many special events took place. Unfortunately in 2001, a giraffe
  • 5. Culture, Motivation and Change Case Study 4named George died at the Zoo. Based on an internal investigation, the death was blamed on afailure of animal keepers and curators to communicate. In 2004, the Zoo administration replacedthe attending veterinarian after warnings regarding the veterinarian’s poor communication skillsand intimidation of other employees. A financial settlement was eventually awarded to the 22-year chief veterinarian, at which point the long time Executive Director stepped down withoutfurther notice. The Executive Director had been with the Zoo since 1975 and was only the fourthperson to hold the position of Zoo Executive Director since the Zoo’s humble beginnings. Agreat deal of public concern had emerged with the firing of the beloved veterinarian and a seriesof follow up activities ensued, including an employee survey and the formation of a CountyCommissioners’ task force to review operations, both of which occurred in 2005. The 2005 employee survey asked about animal care, communication, fairness, leadership,quality, and compensation. Results of the survey indicated that overall employee satisfaction wasgood, with 68.9% of the responding employees answering favorably to the question “Overall, theZoo is a good place to work.” Teamwork, communication, and leadership/management wereindicated as areas in need of improvement. As the vice-chairman of the Zoo Board had stated ina May 26, 2005 press release, the Zoo had a clear intention of using the employee survey data asa “benchmark for measuring future progress.” Recovering from difficult times The Zoo Board had committed in 2005 to continue to measure progress and on-goingefforts to improve the Zoo. Following the several years of upheaval since 2001, in April 2006, anew Executive Director was hired. In 2007, the Executive Director and Director of HumanResources engaged graduate students from the Department of Psychology at a Midwest State
  • 6. Culture, Motivation and Change Case Study 5University to administer a culture survey. With input from the Zoo’s leadership, the project teamchose the Denison Organizational Culture Survey (DOCS) for its use as a tool that could providea good basis for future action planning efforts. The Denison Model is a diagnostic tool used tomeasure organizational culture around four primary traits: adaptability, involvement,consistency, and mission. Research has indicated that an effective culture as defined by theDenison Model is related to financial performance metrics, employee satisfaction, and customersatisfaction. From the perspective of the Executive Director and based on the 2005 intervention,a driving question was “To what degree do the multiple departments and various levels of theorganization work together in a synergistic way to maximize overall performance?” The project team administered the Denison Organizational Culture Survey (DOCS) andconducted several focus groups with Zoo employees in order to collect additional information foraction planning and organizational change efforts. Given the concerns expressed by the Zooleadership, deliberate steps were taken to involve the employees of the Zoo in the culture studyin both the survey process design, as well as through focus groups. Data collection process Although the change initiative was lead by the Executive Director and Director of HumanResources, to be effective the process required participation and input from the managementgroup as well as from the front line employees. This was especially a concern given that therewas still some residual discomfort over the unrest caused by the staffing changes in theveterinarian’s and Executive Director’s positions. The project team met with the Zoo Senior Management Group (SMG) to establish arelationship with Zoo employees, to identify and address concerns about the upcoming culture
  • 7. Culture, Motivation and Change Case Study 6survey and focus groups, and to determine how to analyze the data. The project team also metwith a group of Zoo employees who were selected to assist the project team with survey efforts.The project team collected information about appropriate wording of the survey, thoughts aboutthe 2005 assessment, and issues that should be considered when implementing the DOCS. Theprocess was also introduced at a Zoo-wide meeting to all Zoo employees. In the survey process, each of the four DOCS primary traits (adaptability, involvement,consistency, and mission) were measured. The survey had a 98% response rate, with 142employees voicing their opinions. The high level of participation seemed to be an indication ofthe desire by employees to work toward improving the Zoo and positive change. Focus groups were conducted with approximately 30% or 50 of the Zoo’s full timeemployees. Six focus groups were held; all of the individuals that signed up to participate didindeed participate. The focus group questions were structured around the four cultural traits(adaptability, involvement, consistency, and mission) to encourage alignment between the twodata collection processes. In several of the focus groups, there was little to no “down time” asemployees were willing to share experiences, reminisce, and listen to each other. Survey results Results of the survey were analyzed at many levels. Combined overall responses, as wellas senior management group (SMG) and non-senior management group (NMG) analysis yieldedthe most informative data. Although the Zoo employees as a whole indicated the opportunity forimprovement in all of the four trait areas of the DOCS, an area of relative strength was the Zoo’sability to empower and develop employees, and also to create a vision. The survey items thatreceived the most positive responses also indicated relative strength in the organization’s
  • 8. Culture, Motivation and Change Case Study 7flexibility regarding both customers and employees. However, the data shared by the employeesalso indicated a relatively low ability to agree and focus on the strategic direction and goals, andobjectives for the organization. In addition to analysis of the overall responses, each of the traits was analyzed bycomparing the senior management group (SMG) to non-senior management group (NMG)perceptions. There were 16 senior managers and 113 non-senior managers that had completedthe survey. These two groups saw the Zoo through very different lenses. In general the SMGperceived the culture of the Zoo to be more effective than the non-senior management group inevery area surveyed. The portrait painted by the SMG was one of an effective culture in general.Alternatively, data from the NMG suggested a meaningful disconnect between the two groups.Whereas the NMG responses still pointed to employee involvement as a relative strength, theoverall profile was considerably less positive than that provided by the SMG. Focus group results Participants in the focus groups shared a great deal of information. Although theconversations were always respectful, it was not uncommon for participants to sometimesinterrupt each other due to the clear passion and commitment they felt towards the Zoo and theanimals. Diverse departments were represented among the participants in each of the sessions.There were both union and non-union employees, as well as animal care providers and non-animal care providers. Employees with both long and short tenure participated. Through thefocus groups, it was clear that employees became aware of common perceptions and uniqueexperiences that each faced as an employee of the Zoo. A general sense of appreciation for theopportunity to talk openly about their opinions was evident.
  • 9. Culture, Motivation and Change Case Study 8 Each of the six focus groups began by asking participants how optimistic they were aboutthe Zoo’s current culture, and what they were most concerned about. Following the focus groupquestions about Denison’s four traits, participants were asked if they had any other helpfulinformation about the Zoo’s culture to offer and what could be done to make the most of thisdiagnostic process. There were stories such as employees in one department being written up forrule violations (e.g. being late or using mobile phones) in some departments whereas in otherdepartments the policy were more lax or not enforced. Frustration was also voiced about a lackof information about why decisions were made, followed by simple requests for moreinformation so that employees could better understand their leaderships’ actions. Other storiesindicated a concern for greater attention to be given to conservation efforts with suggestions forgreater funding for the conservation area and use of more environmentally friendly practices,such as not putting animal waste in plastic bags and using less plastic foodservice plates andcups. Through it all, the underlying sense of pride in their work, commitment to each other, anddesire for quality did not waiver. Between touching stories, participants mentioned the need to beable to spend more time sharing information and answering questions with zoo visitors as well asbeing able to gain more knowledge themselves through trainings and programs like Dinner withthe Doctor. At the conclusion, additional concerns were raised regarding actions to be taken once theDOCS process was completed. Participants wanted a voice both in the survey process (e.g. focusgroups) and in action planning. They valued mixing with employees from other areas and wantedto see follow through by management. There was a desire for clear communication of results andas well as rationale for decisions made regarding planning. When each focus group ended, there
  • 10. Culture, Motivation and Change Case Study 9was a sense that the participants had gotten to know one another better and desired to continue toexpand the communication process to create tangible changes for the Zoo. Next steps The Zoo leadership and employees are anxious to implement positive change. Thedifficult job now lies with the leadership to design a change process using the data from theculture survey and focus groups. How can the leaders motivate their employees to embrace thechange? Can the culture at the Zoo be changed? What steps are important to create a successfulchange process? They know there is much work ahead, but they are confident that armed withthe data, the future will be different.