Enabling Collaboration through Conflict Resolution Training


Alliant National Title Insurance Company was founded in 2005. They provide title insurance services including underwriting and claims processing to independent title agents across the U.S. Like all insurance companies, Alliant National faces a constant tension between managing risk and developing sales. In Alliant National’s case, however, that tension led to two opposing factions, each led by one of the company’s founders. By 2012, this conflict had become so deeply entrenched that it threatened the company’s very existence.
Alliant National had made several attempts to reconcile the two sides of the business. Each effort ultimately failed to solve the underlying issues. In fact, the bungled interventions backfired, worsening an already divisive situation. An atmosphere of mutual skepticism, mistrust, and hesitancy reinforced each side’s conviction that their position was unequivocally correct. The stalemate fostered a growing dysfunction and hobbled business productivity company-wide.

Arbinger’s tools provided a format to consider all stakeholders and how we interact with each other in the company and with our customers. This allowed for different parts of the organization to both see and align our people to a unified big picture.

Bob Grubb – President & Chief Executive Officer


In 2013, one of Alliant National’s founders read The Anatomy of Peace. He recognized that the inward mindset depicted in the text was the same root problem that plagued the company. At the co-founder’s request, other members of the senior leadership team read the book and they came to the same conclusion. The leadership team turned to Arbinger for conflict resolution training and help moving forward. 

After assessing the situation, Arbinger conducted a two-day workshop for the senior leadership team. Many approaches to conflict resolution training emphasize communication techniques or other behavioral tactics. While behavioral skills are certainly important and can be helpful, they alone cannot successfully transform persistent conflict patterns. In addition to providing actionable tools to Alliant National’s leaders, the Arbinger workshop facilitated personal insights and a shift in mindset that ultimately proved even more crucial for creating change. The leadership team began to see how they were each contributing to and perpetuating the conflict. This breakthrough realization, made possible through a change in mindset and honest accountability, enabled senior leadership to quickly start addressing and defusing the tension.

Alliant National’s leaders wanted the transformative experience of Arbinger’s conflict resolution training to extend beyond the workshop. By utilizing the tools they had learned in the training, they began to embed an outward mindset in their day-to-day work, enabling more effective collaboration and a greater emphasis on results. To spread the influence further throughout the organization, they chose to send a senior executive to be trained by Arbinger as an internal facilitator. She then worked to train and support the rest of the company in understanding and utilizing Arbinger tools. 

Arbinger consultants then led Alliant National’s senior leadership through Arbinger’s Strategic Planning and Execution process. As part of this endeavor, Alliant’s leadership was helped to reconceive the company’s work and redefine its objectives to ensure they were aligned with the needs of Alliant National’s key stakeholders. They then recalibrated their own roles and company functions to better support one another in reaching the company’s overall goals. With this foundation in place, Alliant National’s senior leaders then developed detailed personal work plans that outlined how each individual’s work served those who were impacted by their efforts. This process expanded their vision from a narrow focus on personal objectives to a broader understanding of individual impact on supervisors, co-workers, employees, and core customers.

The sky is truly the limit in terms of how Arbinger’s tools will help us as individuals, teams, and as a company trying to make a difference.

David Sinclair – Chief Operation Officer


By implementing Arbinger’s conflict resolution training and working to deeply integrate an outward mindset, Alliant National has achieved dramatically improved results. When conflicts occasionally arise, they are handled in a positive, relationship-sustaining manner. There is a sense of openness to new ideas and willing collaboration between risk management and sales. Alliant National has used Arbinger frameworks to reduce conflicting objectives among employees, align resources to better achieve corporate goals, and create personal responsibility. Employees have responded powerfully to this new way of working, enthusiastically embracing the invitation to redirect their focus and accomplish objectives while prioritizing coworker and organizational success.

The overarching impact of all this work has been to unite Alliant National as a single team pursuing the common goal of serving independent agents. The noteworthy internal impacts of this shift are reflected in external metrics as well. The company has grown at a rate nearly twice that of its competitors, received the official “Great Place to Work” designation, and become one of the top ten title insurance underwriters in the United States.

While the public recognition and business results speak impressively about Alliant National’s progress, there is another result that may be even more telling. Because of the changes in the company, one of the founders felt comfortable enough to retire, placing the future of both his company and his retirement in the hands of the other founders.

Alliant National is a fun place to work! The culture no longer one of conflict. Planning is more creative. People are energized and excited about the future. Our unity throughout the company is attractive to potential employees. People want to be a part of Alliant National because of how we work.

Bob Grubb – President & Chief Executive Officer

Improving Results by Changing Systems through Healthcare Consulting


In 1999, a small team in the skilled nursing industry set out to create a company unburdened by the persistent problems that plague many healthcare organizations. The result was Plum Healthcare. Plum’s growth strategy centered on the acquisition and transformation of deeply dysfunctional long-term care and rehabilitation facilities. Because these facilities are often saddled with significant clinical and financial challenges, Plum grew slowly at first. With each new acquisition, company management refined ways of solving the complex challenges they faced. But they knew that accelerated growth would require a replicable approach—a reliable means of building the people-centric culture upon which every successful turnaround hinges.


Because Arbinger’s healthcare consulting had helped other organizations in the industry, Plum turned to Arbinger for support. They needed to develop a leadership model, an organizational cultural framework, and front-line staff tools that would enable each newly acquired facility to transition successfully. In this case, success meant integrating within Plum’s organizational culture and empowering the previously dysfunctional leadership team of each facility to redeem a poorly performing enterprise.

Strategic Healthcare Consulting & Executive Coaching

Initially Arbinger consultants provided strategic in-person consulting and over the-phone coaching to the executive team. They guided the development and implementation of a strategic roadmap that would enable cultural transformation during and after each facility acquisition. As a result of this initial work, the executive team was able to develop policies and implement collaborative work practices that would serve as the footings of an outward mindset culture. Through ongoing coaching sessions, Arbinger worked to equip executive leaders with the skills to grow and develop every facility administrator throughout the company.

Customized Programs

Arbinger also worked with Plum leaders to develop customized training programs and reinforcement aids that could be deployed at each level of the organization. These programs integrated Arbinger’s tools with Plum’s mission and core values. Leader specific programs and front-line tools were developed to help employees implement outward mindset practices in their day-to-day work.

Facilitator Training

To internalize and perpetuate the benefits of healthcare consulting, Arbinger facilitators worked alongside the executive team members to train facility administrators in Arbinger’s tools and methodologies. Each operational leader was equipped to transform the culture, performance, and results within their respective facilities. Arbinger certified over 70 executive leaders and administrators as facilitators of Arbinger’s programs.

Facility Deployment

Through the facility administrators, Plum systematically deployed Arbinger’s programs across the organization. The clinical director and department managers of each facility— who together supervise staff of 100 to 250 employees—are introduced to Arbinger’s tools and invited to lead and develop others in a way that accelerates patient outcomes. This outward leadership approach was reinforced through regular leadership training meetings for administrators, peer-to-peer mentoring, and ongoing discussions to sustain outward mindset ways of working for frontline employees.


By implementing Arbinger’s tools across the organization, Plum grew at a remarkable rate. Plum increased its number of facilities and employees by almost 500%, growing to operate 63 skilled nursing facilities and 5 home health and hospice agencies strategically located throughout California, Utah, and Arizona. Much of this expansion happened when Plum acquired 27 of their total 63 facilities. This meant incorporating over 3,900 nurses into Plum’s healthcare system. By continuing to utilize Arbinger for healthcare consulting, Plum successfully navigated explosive growth and the complex challenges of assimilating an acquired company, all while ensuring that each acquired facility became fully integrated within Plum’s results-focused and patient-centric culture.  

The quality of care provided by Plum has also increased through utilizing Arbinger methodologies. One key quality metric is derived from mandatory inspections conducted across the industry by regulatory agencies. A particularly problematic performance metric is the incidence rate of patient experiences that result in actual harm while the patient is in the treatment facility. This is labeled in inspection parlance as a G-L Deficiency.  From 2008-2010, the average number of G-L deficiencies recorded at similar-sized competitor organizations was 29.25; Plum had 6. This important indicator of quality care also indicates Plum’s internal efficiency. Facilities that had previously been cited for significant G-L deficiencies dramatically improved their clinical results within two years of being acquired by Plum (Figure 2).

Both internal and external metrics indicate the success of Plum’s implementation of Arbinger training and reinforcement tools. From 2011-2016, Plum’s Clinical Quality Measures improved 37%. Federal citations at Plum facilities, a key indicator of quality of care, were 34% less than the average number of citations received by competitor companies. A final indicator that Plum’s outward culture enabled excellent clinical care is demonstrated by the figure below (Figure 3). It compares results from California Department of Health inspections at nine facilities, many of which previously failed to demonstrate adequate compliance. Following Plum’s acquisition of these facilities, they all successfully passed inspection with substantial compliance. 

In both quantitative measures like inspection results, and qualitative measures like client care satisfaction surveys, Plum continues to demonstrate the positive impact an outward mindset culture can create.

As a result of staff at all levels doing their work in an Arbinger way, we have accomplished a 10-fold increase in the number of 5-Star rated facilities– the highest government rating for nursing homes–among facilities we acquired. This result is particularly remarkable considering that before acquisition the average Star rating was below 3.

Mark Ballif – Co-CEO and Co-Founder

Using Arbinger has dramatically improved clinical quality, resident and employee satisfaction, and regulatory outcomes. Arbinger’s tools enable us to deliver better and better quality care for residents through deep and sustainable collaboration.

Paul Hubbard – Co-CEO and Co-Founder

Measuring Impact in Nonprofit to Dramatically Improve Effectiveness


In 2007, Chantal Carr established Hope Arising, a nonprofit dedicated to delivering clean water to rural villagers in poverty-stricken Ethiopia. Several years later, Carr collaborated with The Forever Young Institute, an organization that partners with Arbinger to help nonprofit groups improve their development, implementation, strategic planning, accountability, and overall results.

As she experienced Arbinger’s training and the application of Arbinger’s tools, Carr grew introspective. One tool emphasized the critical importance of measuring impact in nonprofit work. It identified steps for deeply understanding the needs of those you seek to serve, adjusting your efforts to meet those needs, and measuring the impact of the changes to ensure they are aligned with the needs originally identified. This process helps to guarantee that helpful intentions are actually realized. 

Hope Arising was confident that clean water was a resource the Ethiopian villagers truly needed. The organization worked diligently to provide consistent, sustainable, and abundant access to water in areas where it was previously unobtainable. After encountering Arbinger’s tools, however, Carr realized that Hope Arising was not yet measuring the impact of its humanitarian efforts. While Hope Arising had gathered anecdotes about how much their efforts were appreciated, Carr realized a sobering truth: they did not truly know whether they were meeting the needs of the Ethiopian people.

With this discovery, the Hope Arising team began to systematically assess what was happening on the ground. This endeavor uncovered significant issues. The buckets used by villagers to collect clean water from Hope Arising’s trucks were often contaminated. By the time the water was actually being used by families in the village, it was no longer sanitary. Another problem the organization discovered was that the water they delivered sometimes did not make it back to the villages at all: local thugs would steal water from the villagers to use for their own livestock. Measuring impact in nonprofit aid efforts revealed a painful situation. Despite earnest efforts by Hope Arising to deliver plentiful clean water to villages across rural Ethiopia, the villagers themselves were not actually getting clean water. Their previous measurement of success—gallons of clean water delivered to villages—was shown to be incomplete. To truly succeed at their mission to help the people of Ethiopia, they needed to find a new way to evaluate their efforts.


This finding clearly could have spread discouragement and frustration in the organization. Surprisingly, however, the Hope Arising team felt energized and hopeful. They were eager to find a way forward and better achieve their mission. Utilizing the Arbinger process, they began creating a new method for measuring the impact of their efforts. “Given what we now know,” one team member asked, “what kind of metric would show us our impact and not just our output?”

In response, another team member asked a very interesting question: “What impact do the people want? What are they hoping clean water will do for them?” She added, “If we had answers to these kinds of questions, maybe we could figure out what we should be measuring.”

With these questions in mind, the team started talking to villagers across the region. In dwelling after dwelling, they heard the same thing: “We need clean water because we need our kids to be able to go to school. When our kids are sick from dirty water, they miss school. And if kids can’t go to school, the traveling schoolteachers don’t get paid. So they move on to other villages. But if our kids don’t get educated, they’ll never escape this poverty.”


This was a revelation to the Hope Arising team in two ways. First of all, they had found a better way of measuring impact in nonprofit endeavors: number of days children are in school. Measuring this would show them their impact on what mattered most to the recipients of their services, allowing better alignment of intentions and outcomes. By contacting local governments, they were able to access data about school attendance. The second revelation was this: Hope Arising wasn’t actually in the water-delivery business; they were in the helping-kids-get-to-school business. By going deeper to uncover the real needs they were trying to meet in Ethiopia, the organization was able to expand its vision. They began to explore and innovate many additional ways they could help in addition to ensuring the delivery of clean water.

“The Arbinger tools provided the perfect solution to keep our mission on track and incorporate professional skills while retaining the humanity of our mission,” says Carr. “Our implementation of Arbinger principles has shaped our whole culture. This culture has enabled us to be flexible in our program. We have learned that you do what the people need, not what your program’s ideal is in your mind.”

The Arbinger tools provided the perfect solution to keep our mission on track and incorporate professional skills while retaining the humanity of our mission. Our implementation of Arbinger principles has shaped our whole culture and transformed our results.

Chantal Carr – Cofounder and Board Member

Averting Costly Litigation through Law Enforcement Leadership Development


Throughout 2008, tensions were building between the police department of Kansas City, Missouri (KCPD), and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The headstrong disagreements between the organizations led both parties to hire attorneys and the collective bargaining process was shaping up to be drawn-out and contentious. KCPD Chief of Police, James Corwin, was desperate to prevent the seemingly inevitable battle with the FOP. After reading Leadership and Self-Deception and attending an Arbinger workshop, Chief Corwin decided to bring Arbinger to police headquarters. 

The next KCPD workshop brought together department heads, members of the FOP, and a few other key leaders to engage in Arbinger’s intense process that was geared toward law enforcement leadership development. The room was arranged so that members of the FOP and members of the department were sitting among each other. Those present described the workshop’s beginning as “icy and hostile.” However, as one participant recalls, “it wasn’t long before we could see the walls beginning to break down and people starting to connect with the other people in the room.” 

As the training continued, officers who had not spoken to each other in years started conversing. One of the FOP members sitting in the back of the room had been Chief Corwin’s partner in the early days of their careers. Near the end of the first training session, Corwin lamented the distance that had grown between them: “Whatever happened to Jim and Steve? Why does it have to be The Chief and Officer Miller? Why do we have to have that?” By the end of the second day, the Chief announced that the department would no longer pursue collective bargaining. Instead, he agreed to a “meet and confer”, a good-faith meeting to find solutions without the wasted time, energy, and resources of legal action. By the time the workshop resumed on the third day, both sides were willing to work together.
A week after the workshop, Chief Corwin held a department-wide meeting to announce the mutual decision to forgo collective bargaining. Department members who hadn’t attended the Arbinger training on law enforcement leadership development were shocked to see members of the FOP congenially talking and joking with other members of the department. The transformation from animosity to good-will was almost incomprehensible to outside observers. And the positive changes to the KCPD were just beginning.

SWAT Solution & Results

Arbinger-trained facilitators in the regional Leadership Academy knew that continuing to transform the police department would require the buy-in of influential individuals.  They invited one such individual, Chip Huth, sergeant of Kansas City’s 1910 SWAT Squad, to attend an Arbinger workshop that was also geared toward law enforcement leadership development.

Chip’s 1910 Squad was the most complained-about unit in the department, receiving on average three complaints per month. “Most of the complaints we received for the 1910 squad were complaints regarding the use of excessive force,” said Pearl Fain, lead attorney and director of the Kansas City Office of Community Complaints. “These complaints are extremely expensive for the department,” Mrs. Fain explained. “Simply to process, investigate, and file a case costs the department between seventy to one hundred thousand dollars per complaint, regardless of whether the case goes to litigation.”  But despite the exorbitant costs, many within law enforcement assume community complaints are an inevitable byproduct of high-impact policing activities. 

The first step to implementing Arbinger in the 1910 Squad was for Chip to transform his own leadership. He recounted, “I was excited when I first encountered Arbinger because I thought I finally understood what was wrong with everybody else—why everyone else was such a problem! But when I really began to understand Arbinger, it began dawning on me that I had been a problem in ways I hadn’t been seeing.” Through honest self-assessment, Chip began to see how his leadership was not only exacerbating the problems he was trying to solve, it was inviting and creating them as well. 

Because of his experience with Arbinger, Chip began holding himself accountable for his impact on both citizens and colleagues in a way that he never had before. He seriously considered the root cause of the community complaints and honestly evaluated the conflicts that spawned them. As his team members witnessed the change in Chip, they entire 1910 squad began to accept a deeper responsibility. They realized how seeing others as objects inevitably invited resistance. The team worked to see those they were charged to serve—and even arrest—as people instead of objects. They found themselves asking “how can I help things go right for these people and this community?” even in dangerous moments of high-impact tactical intervention.

The impact of this shift in mindset has been remarkable. Since introducing Arbinger’s law enforcement leadership development practices to the 1910 SWAT Squad, community complaints have evaporated. The squad has not received a complaint related to a search warrant in 10 years since the transformation process was initiated. The change has also increased efficiency. In the first five years after implementing Arbinger, the 1910 squad recovered more illicit guns, drugs, and money than they had in the previous decade. For these exceptional results, the 1910 squad earned a special unit citation.

Arbinger is the path forward to shift mindset in law enforcement. It is the way to transform leadership and performance in any organization. The dramatic changes we experienced can happen anywhere. It’s not easy, but it works.

Chip Huth – Major | Kansas City Police Department

Firearms Training Solutions & Results

Sergeant Ward Smith, the firearm training supervisor of the KCPD, is an avid believer in the efficacy of Arbinger tools and training. Smith believes that Arbinger gave him and his team a working language and sense of personal responsibility that positively transformed the culture of the range.

In 2007, Smith became the firearms training supervisor with oversight responsibility for the department’s firearm instructors. At the beginning of the year, he noticed difficulties in his department; several “problem shooters” were not improving with time. In fact, in 2007 there were 147 first-time firearm qualification failures. Of these failures, 16 also failed their second and final attempts to qualify. This kind of performance indicated an alarming decrease in field safety, motivation, and morale in the officers.

Sergeant Smith began investigating these results. According to the range instructors, problem shooters failed to improve because they never showed up for optional Friday practice. To the instructors, this clearly indicated that the problem shooters did not want to improve. Smith sensed that the problem might be deeper, so he asked, “How are these shooters treated when they do show up to practice?”

He discovered that the instructors assigned the problem shooters to the left side of the shooting range. The instructors explained that, by limiting these problem shooters to one section of the range, it was then possible to assign two or three instructors to supervise them and ensure that “they didn’t do something stupid like shoot themselves in the foot.”
Smith also learned that some of his instructors used high-pressure language to “challenge” the shooters while they were shooting. These instructors felt that shooting under pressure was necessary to prepare the officers for situations they might face in the field. Sergeant Smith suspected that their tactics were having a destructive effect on shooter performance and motivation. He wondered, “If we are treating our shooters like this, aren’t we sending them a message? If I come to practice and I continually find that I am put on the left side of the range, or berated by an instructor, don’t I begin to think of myself as a poor shooter? What are we accomplishing by embarrassing them? Could this be why they aren’t showing up to Friday practice to get the help that they might need?”

Smith’s diagnosis of the situation was initially resisted, but he started to make changes on his own anyway. He met with problem shooters on his lunch breaks and worked with them individually to develop their skill. Many of them then committed to attend Friday practices.
As Smith’s instructors began to follow suit, so did positive results. Before long, all the problem shooters in the department began to improve their shooting skills dramatically and actually enjoy coming to the range. In 2012, five years after Sergeant Smith’s application of Arbinger principles, there were only 20 first-time firearm qualification failures; all but one passed the test on their second try.

The cultivation of an outward mindset has helped transform the KCPD’s 1910 SWAT division, the Firearms Training Department, and the department’s relationship with the FOP. The department continues to experience positive and profound changes, including improvements in tactical acumen, morale, motivation, productivity, and improved relationships between officers and community members.

There is a huge difference between the way we used to operate and the way we are now. There is an openness to others and a level of helpfulness that simply didn’t exist before.

Ward Smith – Firearms Training Supervisor | KCPD

Transforming Animosity and Mistrust into Employee Satisfaction


In 2011, a university in the US was mired in conflict between the dean and the faculty of one of its colleges. There were tremendous levels of animosity and distrust between the parties, leading to a festering enmity with widespread negative impact. The dysfunctional relationship between administration and faculty made collaboration essentially nonexistent and rendered meetings pointless. The ongoing conflict detracted from the college’s overall mission to provide quality educational experiences for the student population. Despite the involvement of highly educated and experienced university employees, previous attempts to reconcile the estranged parties had proven ineffective.

In order to gain perspective on the scope of the issue, a faculty survey was conducted in February of 2011. The results were sobering, especially when compared to the same survey results from faculties at comparable universities. Only 26% of the faculty respondents at the struggling university felt they had opportunity to provide evaluative feedback on the performance of their administrators, a response that was 43 percentage points lower than the results reported by comparable schools. While nearly 80% of the faculty felt that administration was aware of their needs and challenges, only 42% believed that the administration was responsive to those issues. That result suggests that the majority of faculty felt that the administration was deliberately neglecting to respond to their problems, despite knowing that the problems existed. Unsurprisingly, given the deeply contentious relationship between the dean and the faculty, most of the faculty believed the dean to be an ineffective leader. In nearly every measured category, the faculty response showed levels of dissatisfaction substantially more pronounced than those at other educational institutions.

The university direly needed support to rebuild a working relationship between administration and faculty. They did not have a conflict resolution process in place to effectively deescalate tension or the means to nurture a culture of mutual respect and collaboration. They sought out Arbinger’s expertise in mindset change and cultural transformation to improve the situation.


An Arbinger consultant met with the faculty and administration. Over the course of two days, the consultant facilitated a tailored intervention designed to transform dysfunction into willing cooperation. Addressing both historic challenges and future disagreements would only be possible by creating an atmosphere of trust, shared understanding, and mutual concern.

Deploying a process that has been successfully used to help clients facing seemingly intractable conflicts, the Arbinger consultant knew that two days intentionally used could lay the foundations for a fundamental shift towards an others-focused, outward mindset. The consultant introduced Arbinger principles and provided opportunities for the faculty and administration to see each other’s viewpoint more accurately and sympathetically. With greater self-awareness regarding their limiting perspectives, the participants began to recognize how their beliefs and behaviors had been reinforcing unproductive patterns and undermining the conflict resolution process. These new insights facilitated greater levels of accountability and empowerment to create changes.

With Arbinger’s help, participants brainstormed ways they might better offer support. When considered with an outward mindset, roles that had before been narrowly defined in terms of administrative tasks were reimagined. Where fault-finding and blame previously ran rampant, the faculty and administration began to set aside accusation to instead take responsibility for the impacts they had on other members of the organization.


Three months after beginning to work with Arbinger’s mindset change tools and conflict resolution process, the faculty was surveyed with the same questions that had captured their dissatisfaction earlier in the year. The results were so dramatically transformed that one might have assumed they came from a completely different group of respondents.
Arbinger’s work helped increase clarity regarding administrator responsibilities with 100% of faculty survey respondents now feeling that administration roles were well-defined. There was a nearly 30 percentage point increase in faculty members who believed that faculty meetings effectively helped the governance of the college, reflecting improved processes and an increased sense of empowerment. The number of respondents who felt that the dean was competently fulfilling her leadership role essentially doubled, a remarkable change of sentiment nearly unimaginable before Arbinger training. The faculty viewed the administration as a more unified team, with 88% of faculty members believing administration was attentive and responsive to their needs and problems. Three months earlier, that number had been a paltry 42%. Overall faculty satisfaction scores also went up nearly 60% in the second survey.

These substantive changes experienced by the faculty reflect the fundamental role that mindset plays in organizational success. A transformed mindset opened the way for this university faculty and administration to productively resolve conflict, clarify role responsibilities, and enhance personal accountability.

Identifying $130 Million in Growth Opportunities


Wipfli ranks among the top 20 accounting and business consulting firms in the nation. They have built a solid reputation as industry experts and trusted business advisors to more than 44,000 clients across a wide range of industries. An integral ingredient of Wipfli’s success has been the proactive investigation and implementation of future-facing business adaptations, including changes to their leadership development strategy. Navigating these transitions can be difficult; it requires leaving behind familiar routines and adjusting work processes, even those which had previously been successful. It also requires clear, articulate communication and employee buy-in. The risks inherent in organizational change need to be carefully balanced against the dangers of stagnation.

Before becoming a multi-service industry leader, Wipfli had to transition from its primary identity as an accounting services provider. With accounting services becoming increasingly commoditized, Wipfli had both the opportunity and need to expand their offerings. The firm set a key strategic initiative to deploy an integrated business model, one that mixed traditional accounting services with other high value offerings like consulting and outsourcing. In order to achieve this new organizational vision, the firm required a major mindset shift. They needed to shake off the complacency of narrow service delivery and devote energetic attention to growth and cross-functional selling. Knowing of Arbinger’s expertise in mindset transformation and leadership development strategy, Wipfli engaged the institute to help spark and establish their vision of a “tenacious growth culture”. In addition to spreading this shift in mindset and company identity within the partnership ranks and across the organization, Wipfli required organizational restructuring to drive the growth envisioned by leadership. In substantive ways, Wipfli needed to shift and expand its identity, culture, and practices. Eventually, these changes would create a firm reimagined.


Successfully shifting the mindset and culture of an entire professional services firm requires the buy-in and commitment of key leaders. Effective organizational transformation is deeply intertwined with effective leadership development strategy. Hence, Arbinger began working with Wipfli by spending three days in a workshop and consulting environment with the firm’s top thirty leaders. Arbinger tools were utilized to productively frame discussion around the firm’s new key initiatives. Traditional organizational practices relied on hierarchy as a default means of establishing responsibility for new objectives. With an Arbinger lens, Wipfli’s top leadership was able to clearly identify which leaders had the necessary capacities, positively impacted others, and possessed the energy to productively direct the diverse range of initiatives. This guided the reorganization process, dramatically reshaping how the firm approached the transition and laying crucial groundwork for future success. The innovative delegation of responsibility was made possible in the Arbinger-led workshop as leaders took honest self-inventory and set aside personal ambition in pursuit of organizational progress. By the end of those intensive initial workshops, the firm’s entire leadership was fully committed to realizing a tenacious growth culture through Arbinger’s ideas and methodologies.

In order to help ensure that the new tools, information, and mindset would be fully integrated throughout the firm, Wipfli requested that Arbinger create a customized training program. The resulting training program adapted Arbinger’s training and tools to the specific challenges Wipfli faced and provided employees of the firm with a common language, approach, and orientation towards their coworkers, clients, and collective mission. Within a very short time frame, this training sparked cross-functional and regional collaboration to a degree unprecedented at this stage of the firm’s history.


Armed with a transformed mindset and the tools to build accountability and collaboration, Wipfli was able to quickly achieve remarkable results. New levels of cooperation were reached even in the initial training session, where a contingent of company leaders identified $85 million in client revenue opportunities for the next year. The next two levels of the organization were able to identify an additional $44 million of opportunity. Due to their employees’ immensely positive response to Arbinger’s process, Wipfli enrolled twenty of their key leaders in Arbinger’s train-the-trainer program. These in-house facilitators then worked to keep positive momentum building as Arbinger principles were disseminated throughout the entire firm as a key strategic initiative. 

As teams started employing the new way of working, Arbinger helped capture their success stories. These became a series of customized online video clips that helped drive continuing implementation and sustainment across the organization. From structural reorganization to the redefinition of leadership roles, Wipfli continued to use Arbinger methodologies to inform their leadership development strategy. Over several years, Wipfli leveraged Arbinger’s principles and tools to help sustain their growth and expansion. The firm views these changes as being key strategic differentiators in the marketplace.

Arbinger has helped us instill in our firm an outward mindset way of working. I am convinced that this will be our differentiator in the market for years and years to come.

Rick Dreher – Managing Partner | Wipfli

Accelerating Collaboration through Workplace Culture


Samo and Iza Login established Outift7 in 2010. This software developer was founded with a mission to “bring fun and entertainment to all.” To support this mission, Samo and Iza consciously created a workplace culture of characterized by fun, respect, and collaboration. In June 2010, Outift7 launched Talking Tom, a smartphone app featuring an interactive animated cat that repeats everything a user says. Talking Tom was an immediate hit, achieving a record 300 million downloads within 19 months.

By early 2013, with the success of Talking Tom and the rest of the “Talking Friends” franchise, Outfit7 had grown from its original 8 employees to 45 employees scattered across offices in Cyprus, England, Slovenia, South Korea, and the United States. This growth, though undeniably exciting, also strained the young company’s cultural foundations. With more expansion on the horizon, Samo and Iza were worried about losing the special culture that had created their success in the first place. Despite intuitively knowing what they wanted internal company dynamics to look like, the pair struggled to articulate it in a way that would allow them to effectively scale.


As they grappled with this challenge, Samo and Iza came across Arbinger’s Leadership and Self-Deception. The book convinced them that Arbinger’s framework could foster the workplace culture they were seeking.

Outfit7 brought in an Arbinger facilitator to conduct a two-day workshop with its leadership team. Many members of the team were initially skeptical about the need to work differently. However, the session helped them realize ways that an inward mindset was contributing to the growing cracks within the company culture. During the workshop, several team members were able to resolve lingering disagreements, thereby laying the groundwork for more collaborative work going forward. 

The team was enthusiastic about the results of the initial workshop and wanted to ensure they could successfully embed an outward mindset in their day-to-day work. They also wanted to spread this way of working throughout the company. An Arbinger facilitator returned two months after the initial workshop to lead the team through a series of half-day implementation training sessions. These sessions provided team members with tools for planning, executing, and evaluating their work. The widespread adoption of these tools helped to institutionalize an outward mindset approach and make its implementation more tangible and sustainable. 

In addition, Arbinger trained five members of the leadership team to be internal facilitators. These internal facilitators were equipped to support fellow leadership team members and to train the rest of the company’s employees, helping them work with heightened levels of collaboration and accountability.

Each of Outift7’s 200 employees participated in Arbinger’s workshops and implementation training. Outfit 7’s own internal facilitators have trained over 90% of these employees.


Outfit7’s leaders report having an increased capacity to listen to one another more objectively. They are more willing to reevaluate their perceptions and conclusions, which allows them to see issues differently, overcome their differences with each other, and focus on results.

According to Iza, Outfit7 employees previously tended to focus solely on their own tasks and didn’t think about how their work was affecting others. However, after working with Arbinger to establish an outward mindset, employees across the company regularly look for opportunities to help their colleagues.

Rok Zorko is a case in point. Outfit7’s Vice President of Product dDvelopment described how he used to brush off what he deemed as “obscure requests coming from obscure departments.” He assumed that whatever he was doing had to be more important than what others were asking of him. Now, Rok says, “I don’t see it that way anymore. I recognize that these people obviously want to get something done—something valuable for the company. Maybe it’s not as important as I think my work is, but it’s obviously important to them so I’ll go the extra mile—I’ll do it. The time that I was previously using to get upset about it is usually the time that it takes to get it done.”

Outfit7’s employees are also discovering that when they help their colleagues, their colleagues are more likely to help them in return. As a result, the company has developed a workplace culture in which people are not afraid to ask for help. According to Iza, “People are more effective and people are more responsible. What we have learned through Arbinger is good for them as well as for the company.” This was echoed by Igor Lautar, Vice President of Technology, who believes that the company is achieving results more efficiently than ever before.

This accelerated collaboration has allowed Outfit7 to strengthen its workplace culture even as its workforce has more than doubled since Arbinger started working with the company. The business results have been spectacular. By October 2015, 2.5 years after the organization started applying the Arbinger approach, Outfit7’s Talking Friends had generated over 3 billion app downloads, were attracting more than 250 million active users each month and were generating more than 3.5 billion views of its videos on YouTube. Outfit7 believes this change in how they work is permanent. As Rok says about the Arbinger approach, “Once you have this knowledge, you can’t ‘unthink’ it.”

People are more effective; people are more responsible. What we have learned through Arbinger is good for them as well as for the company.

Iza Login – Cofounder & Deputy CEO |  Outfit7

Using Key Metrics to Improve Team Performance


Dr. Reddy’s Foundation works to support India’s most underprivileged youth in attaining sustainable livelihoods. Its flagship social responsibility program LABS—Livelihood Advancement Business School—has trained over 290,000 youth.

Until very recently, the LABS program was free of cost for participants and supported by grants received from a sponsoring company. Due to financial constraints, the program was limited to 75 centers and 25,000 youth a year. This model was incapable of scaling to meet the massive demand for the program’s services. To overcome this challenge, the foundation adopted a more sustainable social business model in which aspirants contribute a nominal fee to offset program costs. While this change would enable the foundation to serve significantly more youth in more locations throughout the country, it also required the foundation to become more lean and efficient in its operations.

Reaching the necessary levels of efficiency seemed impossible at the time of the change.  The organizational culture was broken. Friction between internal departments resulted in interdepartmental issues being delivered to the CEO who was expected to arbitrate and provide solutions. When asked to account for lagging results, each department would blame the other departments for their failure to improve team performance. The quality of the training program delivered to the youth suffered, and enrollments steadily declined.
To combat lower enrollment levels, the foundation began exerting more energy to recruit new students, reallocating resources that previously ensured program quality. Program instructors felt significant pressure from administrators, and without adequate support, their morale and motivation plummeted. It became a common practice for the instructors to register youth who didn’t meet program need requirements in order to reach enrollment quotas. These core issues were exacerbated by an internal stream of formal complaints, poor response to internal emails, and irritation at the demands of the students.


Many interventions fail when leaders delegate ultimate responsibility for change to someone else. Because the Arbinger consultant who arrived to assess the foundation’s problems knew the critical importance of leader buy-in to improve team performance, he invited the CEO to expressly state what his role as the organization’s leader would be in the transformation effort. Once the CEO had expressed this commitment to his key leaders, the CEO and leadership team began an initial facilitated work session. The workshop provided a common language for the top 30 leaders that (1) helped the leaders heighten their self-awareness, (2) provided a framework and tools for self-management, and (3) provided opportunities to apply the framework and tools in their work with each other.

After experiencing a new and better way of working together, and equipped with Arbinger’s tools, the foundation’s leadership embarked on an intense three-month process to transform three key aspects of their organization. They focused on: (1) redefining organizational and individual objectives; (2) shifting from holding people accountable to helping people hold themselves accountable; and (3) refining policies and processes to ensure they were inviting an outward mindset. Department leaders worked alongside individual team members to revise department and individual objectives. They focused on doing work in a way that enabled the foundation’s stakeholders—especially the students—to accomplish their goals and objectives. The foundation also instituted monthly meetings between the students and department leaders as well as between leaders and their direct reports. Feedback from the students was now shared in real time with the instructors and their managers, helping them make rapid course corrections and adjustments to improve team performance. Before every meeting, employees determined together whether they were approaching the meeting from an inward or an outward mindset. This has enabled the foundation to focus on results instead of allowing their personal biases or emotions to impact key decisions and influence the strategic agenda.

The final piece of the puzzle was to review key processes and structures within the organization. Unhealthy attrition rates signaled the need to closely assess program quality and recruitment policies. After identifying a significant disparity in instructor quality, managers worked one-on-one with lower performers to help them assimilate student feedback and create their own improvement plans. Guided by Arbinger’s tools for self-correction, instructors and their managers were able to clearly define and rigorously track improvement. 

In order to maintain momentum and continue applying an outward mindset to the practical and ever-changing needs of the organization, the CEO and department leaders met with an Arbinger consultant weekly. Through these regular sessions, the team ensured an outward mindset by measuring their impact on other departments and working in a disciplined way to assimilate feedback. These sessions were marked by straightforward and honest interchanges and spontaneous efforts to help each other succeed.


As a result of working with Arbinger to improve team performance, complaints have all but disappeared, student enrollment and retention has dramatically improved, and the interdepartmental blaming and resulting silos are relics of the past. Raghu Gudipati, a senior department head, described the change this way: “There has been a significant improvement in collaboration, teamwork, and support between departments. People are now treating people as people. I can surely say that this has brought considerable change in our way of working and has dramatically impacted our results.” Because of their new way of working, the leadership team was able to generate the consensus needed to take major, unprecedented steps to remove roadblocks to success. One example is the reduction of the enrollment fee cost per participant, a substantial shift only made possible by newfound operational and cost efficiencies. “Arbinger provided the courage to make key decisions which have resulted in improving course registrations,” then-CEO Jitendra Kalra remarked. With this new way of working and a sustainable model, Dr. Reddy’s Foundation is poised to continue its aggressive growth strategy and better enable economic empowerment for the rising generation in India.

Arbinger provided the courage to make key decisions which have resulted in significant internal improvements and dramatically improved enrollment rates. Through Arbinger we have completely transformed our culture.

Rod Larson Jitendra Kalra – Former CEO | Dr. Reddy’s Foundation

Executive Coaching for a Troubled Leadership Team


The leadership team of Spandex, the European subsidiary of an American multinational company, was burdened by dysfunctional team dynamics. Internal politicking and self-promotion prevented team members from truly listening to one another and accusations of mistreatment and dishonesty abounded. Spandex President Rod Larson described a deterioration of relationships that had progressed to the point of utter unproductivity resulting in a leadership team that was unable to capitalize on business opportunities or solve organizational problems.

Rod was familiar with Arbinger’s approach but was unsure if it could work for a multinational team with members from diverse cultural backgrounds and business perspectives. However, he knew that something needed to change.


Rod engaged Arbinger to deliver a two-day workshop to the leadership team, with a focus on building trust and cooperation. Rod also requested a year of ongoing, post-workshop implementation support and executive coaching from Arbinger in order to help team members embed outward mindset strategies and tools in their day-to-day work.
According to Rod, the workshop had an immediate and tangible impact on the dynamics of the team. The follow-up executive coaching and implementation support helped sustain that initial change and reinforced the impact of Arbinger’s approach on an individual level. Shortly after the implementation support began, Rod began hearing team members marvel at how the team had started to function. They said things like, “That was the best business meeting that I ever participated in,” and, “I’ve never been a member of a team that has worked so well together.” With time, members saw their team transform into the most productive and honest team they had ever seen.

In fact, when Spandex’s corporate parent was in the process of being acquired by another firm, the purchasing company specifically mentioned the unusual cohesiveness and rapport they noticed within the Spandex leadership team. According to Rod, the implementation support and executive coaching work ensured that the impact of the Arbinger training remained just as intense as it had been immediately after the initial session. Rod said the difference in his team after the Arbinger work was “like night and day” and credits Arbinger with producing “remarkable results.”

As part of its work with Spandex, Arbinger discovered that the company was embroiled in an adversarial relationship with a manufacturing division of the same multinational corporation. As a result of this ongoing feud, tremendous mistrust had built up between the two units. Both parties would withhold important information—such as new product plans and market intelligence—that would have helped the other unit operate more effectively, better serve the company’s end-customers, and increase sales.  Ironically, the president of the manufacturing division had previously been president of Spandex. The situation became so caustic that the divisions even began providing each other with misinformation.
Spandex managers knew exactly what the other side was doing wrong, but they were blind to how they were contributing to the problem themselves. Despite the extremely high costs of the conflict on both sides, the divisions were trapped in a perpetuating cycle. Each side focused on self-justification, emphasized tangential issues, and failed to seek resolution to the primary issues underlying the conflict.

Through a combination of workshops, consulting, and executive coaching, Arbinger helped Spandex managers to understand the true nature of the conflict and then see the situation in a totally new light.


As a result of this work, Spandex managers were able to see how they were contributing to the conflict and, much to their surprise, how they were unwittingly inviting the very behavior they claimed to despise in the sister division.

Spandex managers committed to changing themselves and the situation. Guided by Arbinger’s principles, these managers were able to quickly determine what they needed to do. The core of the change was in the way they viewed themselves, the sister division, and the situation as a whole. By adopting a more objective, blame-free way of seeing things, they were able to effectively implement an outward mindset that powerfully animated the subsequent behavioral shifts. The transformation in the way that Spandex viewed and dealt with the sister division was so stark that the president of the sister division told Rod, “We don’t know what you’re doing over there, but whatever it is, it’s working.” In response to the changes made by the Spandex team, the sister division quickly reciprocated, becoming open, honest, and helpful themselves. As a result, the overall relationship radically improved in both directions, even though Arbinger worked only with one party to the conflict. The change was so radical that executives within the parent company, who were not themselves directly involved in the conflict, were nonetheless able to sense a profound shift had taken place.

Rod summed up the changed relationship in one word: “remarkable.”

Arbinger delivered immediate, tangible results. Where we were highly dysfunctional and totally unproductive, there is now honesty, individual accountability, and collaboration. I have no other word for it than ‘remarkable.

Rod Larson – CEO | Spandex

Building Community Trust through Culture Change


Chief Greg Dagnan of the Carthage Police Department knew that successful law enforcement requires maintaining a delicate balance. On the one hand, you need policing that effectively responds to legal violations and prioritizes officer safety. But it is also crucial to cultivate trusting relationships with the community. With inherently stressful situations and a slim margin of error, the stakes in law enforcement are high.  Even though Carthage, Missouri enjoyed an exemplary reputation among area officers and within the community, Dagnan was concerned about the increasingly fraught political landscape and the frequency with which police departments across the nation were in conflict with the communities they exist to serve. The aftermath of high-profile events like those in Ferguson, MO, and Baltimore, MD, illustrated a dangerous erosion of trust between law enforcement and local citizens—an erosion that too often escapes detection until after situations escalate. Dagnan was determined to proactively implement law enforcement leadership training to create a sustainable culture within the department; a culture that would ensure ongoing success without compromising the well-being of officers or of local residents. After reading Leadership and Self-Deception, he realized that Arbinger had the guiding vision, principles, and experience to provide the law enforcement leadership training he was looking for.


Chief Dagnan wanted a sustainable solution with deep impact. In order to provide every officer with Arbinger’s outward mindset tools, Dagnan selected key personnel to become certified to facilitate Arbinger’s leadership training program for public safety. This investment enabled the department to internally promote cultural transformation far into the future. Under Dagnan’s leadership, Carthage PD implemented outward-mindset practices in multiple areas throughout the organization. Arbinger principles began influencing recruitment, leadership development, de-escalation, crisis management, and community engagement. 

The impact spread well beyond internal department protocol and procedures. The agency wanted to strengthen its community ties by establishing unprecedented transparency and accountability for every police action. By applying Arbinger’s “Voice of Your Community” program, Carthage PD started offering all community members the opportunity to rate and provide feedback following any interaction with a Carthage officer. This feedback was then linked via the department’s technology to the specific event and officer(s) involved. In this manner, the Carthage PD could proactively address citizen concerns, deepen trust within the community, and develop their officers.


While gathering feedback is an important step, it ultimately makes little difference unless the recipient is responsive and willing to change. Because the department worked to establish an outward culture, the community responses received via their feedback program have sparked powerful learning and improvement among Carthage police officers. “We’ve received responses from people who have received tickets, people who have been arrested, you name it. Any type of situation, we’re getting feedback,” shared Dagnan. And while the department certainly enjoys receiving positive responses from their community, it is not the only feedback they get excited about. They eagerly respond to negative feedback because they have come to view it as a valuable opportunity to build relationships and make things right. “To be successful as a leader,” says Dagnan, “you have to say, ‘I really want to know. If it’s good, if it’s bad, if it’s ugly—I really want to know and I need to be open to it. I need to be willing to do something about it.’ No matter who’s filling out the survey, or what reasons they’re filling it out for—there’s something we can learn from it. That’s the leadership challenge. It’s real easy to talk yourself out of doing something with feedback, but you can’t do that.” The remarkable willingness to engage with and learn from feedback—even from people caught breaking the law—has strengthened the position of Carthage PD as a community leader. 

The seasoned police chief believes this survey mechanism is a useful tool that can help transform any department. However, he is quick to attribute their own department’s success in embracing feedback to the shift in mindset enabled by Arbinger’s law enforcement leadership training. “At Carthage PD we have all been through the Arbinger training, and we have a culture of treating people right, especially when in our minds they may not deserve it.” Nourishing a mindset that prioritizes the humanity of others can be particularly challenging given the nature and constraints of police work. The changes implemented by Carthage PD have allowed a powerful relationship to develop between the community and their police force. The Carthage Chamber of Commerce recently recognized the Carthage Police Department for “Community Contribution”—an award generally reserved for businesses. Chief Dagnan is also confident that department efforts to apply Arbinger principles have contributed to the lower crime rates Carthage enjoys compared to other similar agencies and communities.

When we started the Arbinger process there were leaders who were angry, frustrated, and ready to end their career. As a result of the Arbinger work, these are now some of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with. This change in our people has translated into a tangible increase in trust within the community we serve.

Terry Lim Greg Dagnan – Carthage Chief of Police

Creating a Cultural Competitive Advantage


Pet Food Express opened its first store in San Francisco in 1982. As the pet supply industry grew, they created a niche for themselves that combined leading-edge pet nutrition with the best employee training and customer service in the industry. The remarkable commitment to building a customer-centric company fueled Pet Food Express’ steady growth from 6 stores in 1994 to 63 stores in 2017, transforming it into an acclaimed industry leader. However, Pet Food Express faced stiff competition from big box stores that had come to dominate the national market through sheer size, brand recognition, and aggressive advertising and sales. Considering these market realities, company leaders became convinced that their primary competitive advantage was the unique culture of Pet Food Express—the special way that their employees work together and serve their customers. If they were to continue growing profitably, they needed to prioritize and preserve their culture. They also recognized how the very growth they were pursuing could easily disrupt their operating culture, the loss of which would likely alienate the fanatically loyal customer base so critical to the company’s success. Pet Food Express’ management knew they needed a systematic way to sustain their culture through effective team performance management as they continued to pursue growth into the future.


It was with this need in mind that Terry Lim, the company’s chief operating officer, read Leadership and Self-Deception as his first assignment in a new business book club. Immediately, he knew he had found the framework of ideas that would provide the company’s foundation for ongoing growth. “I stayed up all night reading it,” Terry said. “It was immediately obvious that this was the way—this provided the structure, the language, the philosophical underpinning for our company culture.” Terry and others in the company became certified as facilitators of Arbinger’s training programs—programs which have now been delivered company-wide.

“There is real substance in the training,” Jose Sanchez, a Bay Area store manager, remarked. “It provides a guide for everything we do.” The training is reinforced periodically in refresher courses. Just as importantly, company employees from at every level apply the Arbinger principles in all aspects of their work from customer service to team performance management. The executive team, for example, ensures that company policies and practices invite, encourage, and reward an outward mindset across the organization.
Similarly, Petfood Express has applied an outward mindset to its team performance management philosophy. Leaders give each employee the decision-making authority to do what is right for fellow team members as well as make decisions that impact customers. “We’re expected to really help, off-script,” one employee in her late teens said. “I love working for a company that trains you to do the right thing and really take care of the customer, and then allows and encourages you to actually do that.”

Though fun, lively, and warm, the company culture is anything but soft. A central feature of that culture is the sharing of straightforward and honest feedback, stemming from a genuine desire to help employees grow. “You can’t get sustainable change in a store until everyone is connected and communicating,” Kellyn Fuller, a store manager, commented. “And it’s not always a soft approach—sometimes you need to be direct with staff about what they need to work on. But it’s how you deliver that message that really determines your impact.”

As Amy Vargas, a district manager, noted, “Now that I have the tools, I don’t hesitate to give the truth.” This helpful honesty and directness is the foundation of the way Petfood Express approaches team performance management and is at the heart of the trust that exists at every level of the company. Kathy Bretz, a district manager who was promoted from within the company from a sales associate position all the way to district manager, believes it is this trust which has proved critical in maintaining the culture through Pet Food Express’s aggressive growth. “Our customers trust us, staff trust us, we trust each other. It’s about honesty and expectations.”


As a result of their systematic approach to developing an outward mindset in every employee, Pet Food Express has successfully maintained and deepened their unique culture while growing to over 60 retail stores throughout California. For seven consecutive years, the company has been honored as the recipient of a “Bay Area Top Workplace” award, a distinction based on the ratings of company employees. It is the only retail company so honored. The company has also been recognized multiple times as “Retailer of the Year.” In 2015, Business Insider spotlighted Pet Food Express as one of “25 Companies That Are Revolutionizing Retail,” highlighting the company as a true innovator in its industry.
Although Pet Food Express has seen their competition mimic many of the company’s initiatives, Terry Lim is not concerned. “They routinely copy the wrong things,” he says. “The deep-rooted culture that drives the way we treat people is what drives our success, and that is something our competitors simply can’t, or won’t, copy.”

Arbinger provides the structure, the language, and the philosophical underpinning of our company culture. The deep-rooted culture that drives the way we treat people is what drives our success, and that is something our competitors simply can’t, or won’t, copy.

Terry Lim – COO | Pet Food Express

Changing Systems to Meet Employees’ Needs


Horan & McConaty (H&M) was founded by John Horan, who believed that his funeral home’s most valuable asset was its strong reputation for providing high quality service to families of the deceased. Leveraging this reputation, H&M grew from two locations in 1986 to seven locations serving the entire Denver metro area.

As H&M opened new locations, expanded its geographic footprint, and hired additional employees, it encountered difficulties in scaling its culture, processes, and management leadership training. With these challenges came poor communication, conflict between departments, functional silos, and employee dissatisfaction. Valuable employees became frustrated and left the company. Not surprisingly, these problems hurt the quality of H&M’s service to its customers, dragging down customer satisfaction and, along with it, H&M’s reputation. As a result, H&M’s costs rose while revenues and profitability fell.
The internal conflict came to a head in 2013, when the three core functions—funeral directors, scheduling, and operations—stopped working effectively with each other. The funeral directors complained that they were not in charge of their own schedules; the scheduling team blamed the funeral directors for providing poor service; and the operations team blamed the funeral directors for all the company’s problems.


Realizing the risk such problems posed for the organization, H&M’s leadership turned to Arbinger for help. After conducting exploratory work to assess the situation, Arbinger proposed an initial two-day workshop for management leadership training. Afterwards, two of H&M’s leaders were selected to become internal facilitators who could train and support the rest of H&M’s employees.

The management leadership training had a significant impact on H&M’s leaders. They began to systematically apply Arbinger’s self-awareness, mindset-change, and collaboration tools. These tools helped them re-examine the persistent conflict among scheduling, operations, and the funeral directors. Leaders in each function began to ask how they themselves might be contributing to the problem and to start looking for ways that they could better support each other.

H&M’s leaders also started to carefully listen to the needs of employees across the company, learning things that they had never known about their employees’ day-to-day work. This newfound understanding led them to reconsider policies, procedures, and common practices as well as examine data that they had previously ignored.

The leadership team was surprised to discover that the funeral director with the highest customer satisfaction scores and greatest revenue generation was the newest in the company. After digging deeper, they realized that this high performer was working with two funeral homes located 20 minutes apart from each other. Other funeral directors were responsible for multiple sites that were more widely dispersed. When asked what made her so effective, the new funeral director confirmed that she benefited greatly by having only two locations and minimal travel time. This setup had allowed her to quickly develop positive relationships with the staff at both locations, become intimately familiar with the differences and specific needs of each location, develop long-term relationships with families, and to oversee more funerals per day. Upon receiving this new information, H&M implemented a companywide change so all funeral directors would work with two funeral homes and have more autonomy over their own schedules. This enabled them to better meet the needs of grieving families while building a more cohesive, concentrated team culture.


By placing funeral directors in charge of their own schedules, H&M increased how promptly funerals could be scheduled. They were also able to streamline their company and reduce operating costs by eliminating the scheduling function entirely. Because funeral directors were helped to view their work in terms of how they impact others, and because they spent less time driving between facilities, directors experienced greater empowerment and motivation. Rather than avoiding calls from bereaved families, they now welcomed those calls. They also began volunteering to help colleagues and train new hires—tasks that had previously been neglected.

The positive change wasn’t limited to management leadership training for funeral directors alone. With Arbinger’s help, H&M experienced a cultural shift where employees across the company began seriously evaluating their impact on coworkers and customers. Teams began spontaneously collaborating to meet the needs of families and each other. Key indicators tracked by the firm improved from these changes. Clients’ ranking of H&M’s “Support and Follow-up,” improved by 10%, and H&M’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) showed a commensurate increase of 10% as well. Tangible benefits were also experienced within the organization. As a result of providing improved service through increased collaboration, employee satisfaction, and engagement improved while overtime and employee turnover were significantly reduced. According to H&M’s CFO Dan Frakes, “We discovered that there is a direct correlation between collaboration and decreasing costs.” With lower costs and higher revenues, H&M is now more profitable than ever and is growing the collaborative culture that the families they serve depend upon.

Using Arbinger’s programs to systematically implement an outward mindset in our work has dramatically improved the experience our clients have with our firm and the experience our employees are having with each other.

Darren Forbes – COO | Horan & McConaty

Mobilizing Employee Support for Business Reorganization


CenturyLink, a major telecommunications company, had announced plans to undertake a massive business reorganization. The restructuring entailed layoffs, relocation, increased workloads, and fewer resources, leading to significant job insecurity and an extremely charged atmosphere among the company’s employees.

The company’s largest division had 25,000 employees, and its management was particularly concerned about the success of the business reorganization as well as its impact on productivity and employee morale. Realizing they needed to enlist the employees’ support in order to make the reorganization successful, the division’s management turned to Arbinger for assistance.


The work with the division began with training conducted jointly by Arbinger and internal company facilitators who had been trained by Arbinger. This training was followed by three implementation workshops held at one-month intervals and conducted by Arbinger consultants. Virtually all of the division’s 3,500 managers completed the Arbinger training. Following this training, team managers were provided with advanced training, teaching plans, workbooks, and videos to further drive the Arbinger way of working within their teams.


Following the Arbinger intervention, division managers reported significant process improvements in a wide variety of areas. They reported that the division—which had been characterized by feuding, competition for limited resources, and conflicting objectives—was now moving toward an environment of collaboration, resource sharing, and harmonized objectives. They attributed this to the fact that the Arbinger ideas provided common ground with which to identify and solve problems in a very difficult environment. According to one manager, “There is a tremendous change in the company since the Arbinger training—more respect, more follow-up, and a higher level of trust…. I have never felt better.”

Importantly, this change was felt at even the most senior levels. One corporate officer noted, “Things are much different now on the senior team; we respect and honor one another more than ever before. We have sincere mutual regard. People are willing to forgive mistakes. Once, I lost my temper at someone and then apologized…. We talked things over and when we were done, the issue was completely settled. Before, this kind of thing could have lasted years.”

Managers also began taking greater initiative and, in an environment where the possibilities appeared limited, found creative ways to serve the division’s customers. Employees at all levels became more attentive to others’ specific needs and started taking initiative and personal responsibility for meeting those needs. This help was not confined to work issues, but extended to helping fellow employees who were affected by the business reorganization. Employees rallied to support one another by sharing job postings, coaching each other on interviews and resumes, and providing formal and informal managerial training.

Arbinger’s work also had a strong, positive impact on employees’ morale and well-being. Many reported feeling more in control of their lives and better able to cope with the changes taking place in the company. They also reported less stress, less anxiety, and increased ability to deal with common problems. Because of this, work satisfaction among employees increased by 20%. One of the senior managers said, “The Arbinger training has saved my career. I would have left or been forced out of the company had I not gotten control of my attitude and developed new ways of being with people. It has allowed me to make a contribution to the company I otherwise was not prepared to make.”

Results of the company’s internal employee survey helped quantify the impact of Arbinger’s work. Even though this survey was conducted more than a year after the Arbinger intervention, those who worked with Arbinger responded more favorably on all questions compared to employees who had not worked with Arbinger (see chart below). As a result, despite the difficulties posed by the business reorganization, work groups experienced gains in productivity and were better able to proactively anticipate and meet customers’ needs. One regional operations manager remarked, “Without the Arbinger training, I don’t think I’d be able to get any good work from my people at this point. But in spite of the reengineering decisions that are beyond my control, we’re doing some pretty good stuff.” This was not only felt within individual units, but across the whole division. As one corporate officer reported, “We’re getting a lot more done, and we’re doing it a lot faster now.”

Because people at all levels were working more effectively together, business results dramatically improved. The division president reflected, “As a direct result of implementing Arbinger’s process and human technology, at the very time we were going through massive organizational changes and downsizing, we delivered the product our company depends on for its revenue more efficiently, at lower cost, and with higher quality than ever before, as measured by the following:

  • Revenue grew by 17%
  • Customer satisfaction increased by 21%
  • Efficiency improved by over 10%
  • Supplier relationships improved, resulting in a decrease of materials cost by 23%
  • Capital efficiency improved by 50%
  • Capital efficiency improved by 50%

Immediately there was an increase in quality as a result of the Arbinger process. In meetings together, there was less division, there were no feelings of protectionism, and there were fewer boundaries between people as to who could speak and who had a voice. We all feel like we’re on the same team now, because everyone feels like they have a piece of what’s going on. Everyone is doing their job because they feel empowered.

Carla Debow – Former VP of Marketing | Qwest

Overcoming Silos in Business During a Shrinking Market


Tubular Steel, a national steel distributor headquartered in St. Louis, was burdened by politicking and infighting. The heads of each operational department only communicated through the CEO; lateral interaction was nearly nonexistent. The silos in business operation created massive amounts of waste, throttled productivity, and eventually placed at risk the very survival of the organization. The timing of this widespread disfunction could hardly be worse, as the global market demand for Tubular’s products was in steep decline.

Yet, despite engaging one of the highest-profile change management consultants in the country, Tubular could not seem to gain any traction. Turnover rates were high, with several of the top performers in the organization leaving in search of less contentious working conditions. After exhausting their repertoire of solutions with little substantive effect, the management consultancy pronounced Tubular’s situation “hopeless.” The CEO’s ineffectual attempts to turn things around turned to desperation as the company he had founded hemorrhaged talent, profit, and potential. Without a dramatic, fundamental change to reconnect the estranged silos in business, Tubular Steel would fail.


Arbinger began working with Tubular’s executive team in weekly training sessions, supplemented by one-on-one sessions with members of the management team. This combination of group training and executive coaching helped company leaders reevaluate their mindsets. They began to understand their impact on each other, see the toll it was having on organization, and reorient their work to account for that impact. The silos in business that had become entrenched as normal operating procedure were systemically dismantled. 

This organizational integration was facilitated by the reexamination of longstanding conflicts. One such conflict had been occurring between the sales and credit teams. The teams had been at odds for years, each viewing the other as an obstinate barrier to successful performance. Credit saw the sales team as reckless, fixated only on closing deals without assurance that potential clients could actually afford the agreement. In turn, sales viewed the credit team as overly restrictive, undermining at the last moment deals that had been months in the making. With the help of Arbinger principles and practices, these teams began expanding the scope their objectives, changing their definition and metrics of success to include the enablement of the other team’s goals.

As the importance of these shifts began to be felt throughout Tubular, Larry Heitz, the executive assistant to the CEO, delegated all other responsibilities in order to devote his full time and energies to operationalizing Arbinger within the company. This commitment to change reverberated widely. Heitz oversaw various aspects of implementation including the company-wide training of staff and the development of new metrics and processes that would enable each employee to measure their impact on overall company.


Equipped with an outward mindset, the employees at Tubular Steel transformed the company. Silos in business dissolved as collaboration blossomed between historically divided departments. Less than one week after the credit team reoriented their objectives to include the sales team’s success, the sales team was overheard freely praising the same coworkers they previously criticized: “If anyone can figure out how to work with customers to help them qualify, it’s our credit team.”  This rapid transition from enmity to genuine goodwill and mutual support unleashed potential in Tubular that was previously inaccessible. Team members devised new and innovative ways to adjust their work to improve productivity and performance. They rallied together to develop unique approaches that created competitive advantage in a declining market. As a result, despite a dramatic decrease in market demand for their products from 10 million tons to 6 million tons, the company’s revenue nevertheless grew by a factor of four. “We grew from $30 million to over $100 million and more than quadrupled our profits,” said Mr. Heitz, who later became president and CEO.

Within two years of implementing Arbinger methods, Tubular was producing the best return on investment in the industry. To those who might be skeptical regarding the power of shifting organizational mindset, Heitz responds, “This is not soft stuff. Bottom line is that Arbinger can help a company make more profit. You get further ahead with a cooperative culture and you make more money because of it.” Unlike so many training initiatives that seem to amount to nothing more than a flash in the pan, the change Arbinger enabled within Tubular Steel was a fundamental change in mindset, buttressed with new ways of working. Remarking on the longevity of this change, Mr. Heitz noted, “The training and infrastructure that was put in place was so deep-rooted that the company has continued to be successful ever since.”

We were such a basket case that the most effective consulting firm we could find (and it has a very high national profile) could do nothing with us, despite months of trying. Fortunately, this firm was familiar with Arbinger and referred us to them. Nothing has been the same since. We are now the most profitable company in our industry–doubling and even tripling the ROI of our nearest competitors. As a result of Arbinger, we have exceeded goals and created camaraderie to an extent completely unprecedented in my career.

Larry Heitz – Former CEO & President | Tubular Steel, Inc.

Enabling a Collaborative Approach to Organization Restructuring


Staples is a globally recognized office supply retailer with more than 34,000 employees. Over the course of 35+ years, Staples has navigated changing markets and a competitive landscape to establish itself as a multinational industry leader. In 2013, Staples announced a massive organization restructuring of its European operations, launching what was possibly the largest transformation endeavor in their industry. The changes involved were tremendous in scope and difficulty, including large-scale layoffs and significant revisions of roles and responsibilities. The employees of Staples’ European division faced intense pressure and substantial uncertainty, a combination that fueled the buildup of tremendous negative tension within the company. One senior vice president described how he allowed the challenging situation to detrimentally impact his leadership: “I had reverted to my own instincts, was short with my teams, really not patient with them, just wanting to get things done.” As a result, he saw that “the teams were getting quieter and quieter, and I was getting less and less feedback.” The strain became so pronounced between different locations and operational functions that the president of Staples Europe described it as being virtually “a state of warfare…where people were constantly barraging one another.” Under these deteriorating conditions, very little business was being accomplished.

For many Staples’ employees, the proposed changes were so far-reaching that they were difficult to accept. There were high levels of resistance that prohibited real change from taking place. Recognizing that their carefully conceived plan for organization restructuring was doomed to fail without proactive intervention, Staples Europe leadership turned to Arbinger for assistance. They needed a fundamental shift in mindset to cultivate greater collaboration between team members and to inspire employee dedication to a new vision for the company’s future.


Arbinger consultants carefully gathered relevant contextual details to inform their efforts and support Staples’ organization restructuring. This information was utilized to design customized workshop sessions for the senior levels of Staples Europe leadership. Arbinger facilitators met with the leadership team every three to six months from June 2013 to January 2015. This format provided flexible, ongoing support adapted to the evolving needs of the transitioning division. Every work session was carefully crafted to support a specific stage of the restructuring process. Subsequent meetings supported implementation efforts, and provided the opportunity for reflection, clarification, and further application refinement.
Arbinger provided the leadership team with an overarching structural framework and workable vocabulary to facilitate a transformation in mindset. Team members learned to magnify their influence by taking greater responsibility for the impact of their work on various constituents. They were also equipped with tools to invite greater collaboration and sustain synergy, thereby becoming better capable of resolving the specific challenges of each restructuring phase. Rather than providing an externally mandated and ultimately unsustainable change in policy or procedure, Arbinger worked to unlock the capabilities that were already within the Staples Europe team but were curtailed by stress and high levels of uncertainty.


Because of their work with Arbinger over the course of several months, Staples Europe was able to better execute the multiple intricate components of their monumental organization restructuring. By focusing attention on the mindset that underlies productive behaviors, senior leadership was able to strengthen their working relationships. The president of Staples Europe described the change in this way: “I think the Arbinger Principles are very powerful really because they change your philosophy. They change the way you’re thinking about business. Instead of blaming each other, which has been our historical approach, we started asking ‘how can we help one another?’” He went on to describe how that adjustment, which can sound simplistic on the surface, helped create tangible impacts: “Just that simple shift in mindset has made an enormous difference in the quality of communications, the quality of our understanding, and our cooperation between units and locations.”  Improving understanding, communication, and cooperation were crucial elements for their successful restructuring effort.

This change in the leadership team helped to spread an atmosphere of collaboration throughout the transitioning organization, helping to temper what had previously been runaway levels of stress and negative tension. The managing director of Staples’ retail operations in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, credited the new mindset among employees as an important contributing factor to the division’s success. Without a strategic and sustained shift in mindset, navigating the complexity inherent in a restructuring enterprise of such scope would have been exponentially more difficult. One senior vice president praised the Arbinger framework for offering “a neutral way of bringing up the issues” that had been inhibiting effective professional relationships, one that allowed teams to be “far more collaborative.” Arbinger was able to help the Staples Europe leadership team unleash the latent talent and cooperation waiting within their workforce.

Staples has better results thanks to the new mindset of all the players within the company.

Roland Laschet – Managing Director | Staples Retail Benelux

Transforming Culture Following Multiple Mergers


Following the acquisition of General Dynamics (GD) and its more than 8,000 employees, Hughes Missile Systems (HMS) was in disarray. HMS faced not only the multifaceted challenge of rapid expansion, but the additional turbulence of clashing organizational cultures. General Dynamics was characterized by a strict hierarchical structure where employees were rewarded for domineering and aggressive behavior. When former GD employees secured many of the top executive positions in the newly consolidated company,original HMS employees were left feeling unrepresented, unrewarded, and unseen. Resentment flourished and productivity steeply declined.

The situation was further inflamed when HMS was acquired by major defense contractor Raytheon and renamed Raytheon Missile Systems (RMS). Integrating employees from three different companies after two organizational overalls proved an immense obstacle; RMS was a fragmented organization. Its leaders recognized the threat that infighting posed to the company’s future. They needed a means for ending the internal battles, uniting the organization, transforming culture, and unlocking continuous, measurable improvement for the consolidated division.


After evaluating nearly 40 different consulting firms, RMS chose Arbinger because of its unique approach. Where other consulting firms claimed the ability to solve RMS’s problems, Arbinger offered to equip RMS with the guidance and tools that would allow the division to solve issues on its own. This approach would center around the empowerment of each employee, enabling them to both understand their individual contribution to the division’s problems and to devise creative ways to hold themselves accountable and work collaboratively.

Arbinger began its work with RMS’s leadership team with rapid dramatic effect. RMS faced a 30 day deadline to engineer a $100 million expense reduction. Before joining forces with Arbinger, the leadership team believed employee layoffs were unavoidable; even cutting 200 jobs would only create 20% of the necessary savings. Determining which departments would lose employees became a contentious battleground. But as a result of the work with Arbinger, the executive team sought alternative ways to cut costs. They came together and succeeded in finding $7 million in savings on the first day of the project alone. By continuing to utilize this same Arbinger-based process over the next two months, the leadership team reached its target of cutting expenses by $100 million. Remarkably, this achievement was realized without having to lay off a single employee and without any individual department or team feeling misused. The president of RMS said that “it was like magic.”

Experiences like this convinced RMS leadership that Arbinger principles were the solution for unlocking unanticipated business opportunities, inviting widespread collaboration, transforming culture, and powerfully impacting bottom-line results. They decided that all 17,000 of the division’s employees would be trained to work in the Arbinger way.
Over the next several years, 3,000 of the division’s employees were trained to embed the Arbinger approach into their work practices. Some of this training was provided directly by Arbinger facilitators and the rest was presented by RMS employees who had gone through Arbinger’s train-the-trainer program. In addition to this division-wide effort, Arbinger consultants continued to meet with the leadership team on a monthly basis. This supported management’s commitment to deeply understand Arbinger principles and enabled them to effectively apply, authentically live, and persuasively teach these principles.

As RMS’s employees began to learn how to implement the Arbinger approach, a powerful shift began to occur within the division. Employees began to look beyond the narrow confines of their own individual roles and needs and started instead to focus on the needs of their colleagues and of the organization at large. A spirit of genuine interconnectedness and mutual concern spread throughout the division, transforming culture as employees from the top down started to make dramatic, organization-wide changes with demonstrably positive impact.


By transforming culture, RMS transitioned from being a collection of 17,000 disparate employees—each with competing interests and lingering tribalistic loyalty to a former company—into a unified organization. Meetings ceased to be characterized by yelling, finger-pointing, and defensiveness. Instead, sincere listening and genuine collaboration began to take place. Decisions were made much more quickly as stalemates were mutually abandoned for the greater good. When each of the 17,000 employees was able to adopt RMS’s vision as their own and became determined to work toward that vision, the division started to thrive. The results of this widespread shift reverberated far beyond an improved relational atmosphere. Annual sales skyrocketed from $1.9 billion to $5 billion. According to RMS executives, neither the cultural transformation nor the substantive financial growth would have happened without Arbinger.

Today, RMS is the world’s largest producer of its sophisticated products and the largest division within Raytheon.

By transforming culture, RMS transitioned from being a collection of 17,000 disparate employees—each with competing interests and lingering tribalistic loyalty to a former company—into a unified organization. Meetings ceased to be characterized by yelling, finger-pointing, and defensiveness. Instead, sincere listening and genuine collaboration began to take place. Decisions were made much more quickly as stalemates were mutually abandoned for the greater good. When each of the 17,000 employees was able to adopt RMS’s vision as their own and became determined to work toward that vision, the division started to thrive. The results of this widespread shift reverberated far beyond an improved relational atmosphere. Annual sales skyrocketed from $1.9 billion to $5 billion. According to RMS executives, neither the cultural transformation nor the substantive financial growth would have happened without Arbinger.
Today, RMS is the world’s largest producer of its sophisticated products and the largest division within Raytheon.

Louise Francesconi, Former President | Raytheon Missile Systems