To the Desert and Back: The Story of One of the Most Dramatic Business Transformations on Record

To the Desert and Back: The Story of One of the Most Dramatic Business Transformations on Record

by Philip H. Mirvis, Karen Ayas, George Roth


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Dove, Lipton, Knorr, Ben & Jerry's, and Slim*Fast are a few of the brands that are part of the $66 billion global empire known as Unilever. When the story opens, one of its divisions is in deep trouble— declining volume, eroding margins, critical quality problems— and is close to being sold off. Then Tex Gunning, its visionary new division chairman, takes the stage, an expanding circle of young leaders takes charge, and once-skeptical workers embrace a challenging message of growth. The result? The division grows by double digits, year in and year out, and energizes Unilever's path to thrive around the globe.

To the Desert and Back tells the inside story of the transformation in the words of the people in all quarters of the company who made it happen. It documents five years of personal soul-searching, teamwork, companywide learning conferences, memorable journeys to the mountains and desert, and inspired promotions that show how these efforts produced a remarkable top-to-bottom turnaround. This story delivers authentic and convincing proof that a revitalized business is about personal growth.

The lessons learned from this dramatic business turnaround provide unexpected insights and encouraging inspiration for other companies and leaders ready to embark on their own remarkable journey of transformation, growth, and success.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780470626924
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 05/13/2002
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Philip Mirvis is an organizational psychologist whose research and practice concerns large-scale organizational change and its implications for a global workforce. He is the author of numerous books, including The Cynical Americans and Joining Forces, both from Jossey-Bass.

Karen Ayas is an author, educator, and research fellow at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands, and partner in the Ripples Groups, a consulting practice specializing in growth strategies and change management.

George Roth is a consultant, author, and research associate at MIT's Sloan School of Management.

Table of Contents

Preview: The View from the Desert ix

Part I: Turnaround

1. Wake-Up Call 3

2. Rebuilding the Business 15

Part II: Takeover

3. Merger or Takeover? 31

4. Going into Therapy 41

5. Revolution and Chaos 55

Part III: Transforming the Organization

6. 180 Leaders in Charge 67

7. Community or Cult? 79

8. The McVan den Bergh Clan 89

Part IV: Transforming the Business

9. Growing a Market: Foods 103

10. Growing a Brand: Fats 117

11. Cascading Change: Uniquisine, Calvé, Royco, and Nassaukade 129

Part V: Transfer

12. To the Desert 145

13. The Legacy of Growth 155

Part VI: Takeaways for Leading Change

14. Change Models and Methods 169

15. Change as Theater 183

16. Holistic Integration 195

Appendix 1: Cast of Characters—Then and Now 207

Appendix 2: Learning History 211

Notes and Sources 221

Acknowledgments 243

About the Authors 247

Index 251

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