Fitness Profile™*


Organizational Fitness Profiling is a powerful yet flexible strategic management process that enhances the natural process of leadership. It provides a platform for a CEO or general manager to more rapidly and effectively: develop a compelling business and organizational direction; orchestrate an honest conversation about what is blocking progress toward that direction; and create an integrated agenda for action. Profiling serves as a catalyst for improvements in short term business results while building the underlying organizational capabilities required for sustainable competitive advantage. The process creates alignment in all aspects of the organizational system including, structure, management processes, human resources policies and practices, culture and leadership roles and behaviors. It builds trust, commitment and a powerful organizational mandate for implementing fundamental change. Fitness Profiling is solidly grounded in research conducted by Professor Michael Beer of the Harvard Business School and Dr. Russell Eisenstat, formerly on the faculty at Harvard Business School and now President of the Center.

Top management teams initiate the process by defining their strategic direction, testing for understanding and agreement among the group. They then commission a task force of their best managers to interview employees on the question… “What are the barriers to implementing our business strategy?” In an intensive three- day meeting the top team receives a truthful account from the task force on how the organization is functioning. Using a comprehensive organizational framework the top team identifies the highest leverage areas for action and develops a plan, checking back with the task force to test for validity. The plan, reflecting the partnership for change forged by the top team and the task force, is then implemented. (See Exhibit 1 for a Process Overview).

Successful Applications

Fitness Profiling has been successfully applied at Agilent Technologies, Becton Dickinson, Chase Manhattan Bank, Merck, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell and the Whitbread Hotel Company PLC among other organizations. In a number of instances it has been institutionalized as the core method by which the organization goes about identifying strengths and weaknesses and managing relevant changes over several years. Profiling has proven particularly effective when new managers are taking charge. Fitness Profiling has been applied successfully to implement a merger, reorganize a new division of a company and to help a CEO launch a major cultural transformation.

It has also been used in many cultures including the United States, Latin America, Europe and Japan. The process has been applied at the corporate level, the business unit level, at production plants, at a national sales and service organization of 11,000 employees, and at corporate staff groups like the quality and human resource functions.

Organizational Fitness Profiling was used by Ed Ludwig at Becton Dickinson one year into his tenure as the president of business that had been losing ground to a competitor. Profiling allowed him to develop commitment to a new strategy and to identify key organizational changes needed to implement the strategy. Ludwig, who is now CEO of Becton Dickinson, where Profiling was developed, says that Fitness Profiling saved him 18 months in taking charge. When he recently took over as CEO of Becton Dickinson he again utilized this process to identify barriers to performance to making rapid change. Consider the following quote about his experience with Profiling. In 1995 Ray Gilmartin, newly appointed CEO of Merck, utilized Fitness Profiling to help him take charge of Merck’s world wide organization. As a new CEO he lacked the knowledge about the inner workings of the company. Like Ludwig, he utilized Profiling to engage his top team in developing a common direction and to identify organizational barriers to improving the performance of Merck. Recently Gilmartin utilized the same process to learn about launch a new strategy and learn and overcome potential barriers.

At the Santa Rosa Systems Division of Hewlett Packard this process enabled the general manager to move from a functional organization to a matrix organization, change top team behavior, consolidate two engineering functions and redefine the strategic management process. These changes resulted in dramatic improvements in performance. At Mattel Canada a new president was able to improve organizational effectiveness and performance. He estimates cost savings of several million dollars.

Overview - Organizational Fitness Profiling Process

Step 1 – Top Management Meeting
  • To develop a statement of Business & Organizational Direction
  • To select Task Force
  • Note: usually 1 day

  • Step 2 – Task Force Training
  • To train the Task Force in Profile Interviewing
  • To identify interviewees
  • Note: 1 day

  • Step 3 - Data Collection
  • Task Force interviews throughout organization
  • Profilers Interview senior team

  • Step 4 – Task Force data consolidation meeting
  • Note: 1 day before Step 4

  • Step 5 – Profiling Meeting between Task Force and Top Management Team
  • Note: 1 day after Step 3

  • Step 6 – Top Management Team meeting to develop response to key issues identified in Profiling process
  • Note: 2 day meeting immediately following Step 4

  • Step 7 – Top Management feedback of Action plan to Task Force
  • Note: usually a 1 day meeting

  • Additional follow up support provided as needed.

    Client Testimonials

    “The Fitness Process allowed us to discuss the undiscussible: it got things on the table that would have taken me years. Getting feedback from the employees is indispensable, and putting it into a strategic context is important. We were there to discuss behaviors that were consequential; it wasn’t personal. We discovered things that would help us succeed or that were preventing us from succeeding. They were strategic issues, such as delivering the goods and services to our customers better than our competitors. Once we decided it was strategic, we had to fix it or suffer the consequences; no one is willing to suffer the consequences of gradual loss of competitive position.”
    Divisional President

    “The task force feedback really served several important roles. Not only did it function as a powerful tool to communicate difficult issues, but it also showed that the top team cared about what the employees thought and that we could not institute a change process without asking for their input. Also, I believe, by asking for their ‘unvarnished’ opinions, the employees realized just how serious we were about improving [our organization’s] effectiveness. To Scott’s (GM) credit, he probably took the most amount of risk in initiating a process like this. He acted as a linchpin, and without his involvement, a process like this would have been spinning its wheels.”
    Member of Divisional Top Team

    “I had known that there were some serious issues in the division that needed to be addressed. But when these problems were spelled out in detail to me and my staff by a group of employees, the situation took on a whole new light.”

    “Some of the task force feedback directed at me and my staff was pretty hard to swallow. Frankly, I am not sure I would have taken it as seriously as I did if those remarks had been coming from a group of outside consultants. Instead, it is very difficult to ignore tough feedback when your own people are the ones giving it.”
    Division General Manager

    “The work that the employee task force did was extremely impressive. They operated much like a professional consulting firm, except unlike consultants they were a part of the organization and knew it inside and out. I think they worked so well together because they believed in what they were doing.”
    Divisional Top Team Member

    “In my mind, I believe that the new organization had a lot to do with our success over this past year. Granted, with the economic situation improving, we still would have probably done better than previous years even if we hadn’t gone through the Fitness Process. But chances are we would not have been able to capitalize on the potential of this past year without the organization that was properly focused on achieving the right goals”
    General Manager
    1 Year after SFP

    “What was really important was that we really understood what the Process was trying to do--that is align the different parts of the organization. I think that the alignment we now have after the reorganization is both accurate and necessary for us to become an effective organization. In the small systems business that we have, there is no way of getting around the matrix structure. In the past there was no clear level of top management responsibility and ownership for key decision-making...That is something that is vital for strategic success of [of our business], and it is something that the matrix is able to provide.”

    “Back before the profiling process, the morale of [our division’s] employees was at an all-time low. There weren’t too many people that thought we had a prayer as a new division. But the reorganization really lifted people back up and energized us to start moving to where we thought we needed to go as a systems business.”
    Production Manager
    1 Year after SFP

    “Our top team has taken some big strides in becoming more effective. Scott [GM] looks to be taking more control of the reins and becoming the kind of leader the division needs. He and his staff will sit down as a group now and talk strategy where before they would have only talked about administrative detail. But they are still not where they want to be as a team. They still seem to be having a tough time getting together and really coming to agreement over some tough and pressing issues. I think people in SRSD wanted an overnight change in in the top team’s behavior. But, realistically, most good teams are not made in a day. They will have to work at it.”
    Task Force Member
    2 years after SFP

    “One of the key implementation problems we have had, which I became sensitive to going through the Fitness Process, is that we do strategy development work, and we do a lot of financial planning, but so often the unknown factor is the people and the system and all the HR aspects that are needed to implement strategy. This process has convinced me that, just as we need to reduce our planning to specifics in marketing, manufacturing, and technology, so we also need to reduce it to specifics in what we are going to do with regard to people development and staffing and all the HR kinds of issues, or our plans are not going to be implemented.”

    “Until going through this process [SFP], I would not have been convinced that so much of the stuff we write on paper and so many of our plans are just nonsense without taking stock of where we are in terms of our people capabilities.”
    Corporate Strategic Planner

    For further information about Potentia’s approach to Top Team Effectiveness or to talk to someone about implementing this process in your organization please contact us.

    *Organizational Fitness Profiling™ is delivered in collaboration with The Center for Organizational Fitness.