Data Dome Resources – Success Stories: Telecommunications Executive Unit

middle curve

Case Study: Mismanaging the Managers

A group of 57 executives at a top telecommunications company had been tasked with finding creative business solutions in a recently deregulated environment, but their output was falling drastically below expectations...


Top US Telecommunications Company (at time of project), Group reporting to Division President


Data Dome was called in to evaluate a team of 57 executives, primarily Vice Presidents and Assistant Vice Presidents, who had been leading a unit for two years that had transitioned from a regulated to a deregulated environment. The group was having to contend with an unprecedented competitive landscape, and was tasked with finding creative ways to build business in the new marketplace. Despite two years of effort, results were lackluster. Very little new business or effective programs had been developed. The client was concerned that they had put the wrong team in place and was considering replacing the entire unit even though this team had originally been selected for their skills and creativity.


After conducting assessments and gathering behavioral profile data, Art Schoeck made the following observations:

  1. Profile information revealed that the majority of the 57 executives showed aptitude and natural behavioral support for creativity. In fact 43 out of the 57 were classified as D-C Creatives showing creative ability combined with decisive problem-solving behavior and a desire and respect for order. These were the type of individuals who like to take something apart so that they can then put it back together in a way that makes it better. This was an indicator that the group should actually have been a very good fit for the demands of the client's situation.

  2. Examination of the team's Adapted (environmentally influenced) behavioral style showed that all 43 of the D-C Creatives were, because of something in the workplace, pushing their D behavior down while actually pushing their C to even higher levels. This meant that their initiative was on the decline, they weren't solving problems or taking action, but were getting more procedural and rules-compliant. What was intended to be a nimble and creative group had become a team locked in a bureaucratic stasis.

When the findings were presented to the president of the division he recognized that if so many of the unit's members were a profile match for the needs of the job, then the underperformance had to have some other root cause and therefore met with the team to explore why they were not being creative despite having the necessary behavioral potential.

He addressed three possibilities with the group:
  1. Awareness - the division president surmised that perhaps the team was unaware of the degree of creativity expected of the group and was therefore not producing new ideas. This was shot down by the group members who made it clear that the team's mission and expectations were well-understood.

  2. Skills - it was then suggested by the president that perhaps even though the team members had the right behavioral style they might not have the skills and tools needed to produce the ideas and results expected of them. This was also dismissed as it was quickly revealed that the team had all the necessary skills, methodologies and procedures for collaborative communication of new ideas as evidenced by the volume of their internal communication regarding concepts and programs.

  3. Rewards - with awareness and skills ruled out as factors, Art Schoeck suggested to the division president that rewards (and punishment) were not supporting the group's creative goals. This turned out out be a bombshell opening up a floodgate of communication. Story after story was presented to the president, yet all with the same theme: Creativity was being actively discouraged by the management style of the group.
Successful creativity requires experimentation and it is the nature of experimentation that many attempts will fail before successful approaches are found and refined. If someone from the unit tried a new experimental approach and it failed to achieve good results, the individual was chastised and criticized. Quickly the members of the unit began to feel beaten down by this harsh response to new ideas. On the other hand, those who did not make waves, who kept their heads down and didn't call attention to themselves still got their bonuses without hassle. The group was being rewarded for non-creative behavior and punished for the very same experimental spirit and risk-taking that was at the heart of the team's mission.


Data Dome had succeeded in equipping the client with a clear understanding of the team's behavioral dynamics and an understanding of the negative impact the client's management policies had caused. With Art Schoeck's guidance the division president set out to change the incentive structure to reward experimentation and discourage status quo thinking. After putting the new reward system in place and doing some training to help shift the culture to one that encouraged and valued experimentation, the group quickly showed signs of improved performance and enhanced morale. Overall creative output substantially improved leading to the discovery of effective approaches in the new deregulated landscape..

Bottom Line:

Despite having the right people in place with the right skills and clearly communicating the group's objectives, the unit had been floundering. Behavioral assessments were the key to revealing that the problem wasn't with the team, but with the management approach which was rewarding undesirable behaviors and punishing the risk-taking experimental approaches necessary to fulfilling the group's mission. Adjusting the incentive structure and creating an experimentation-friendly culture yielded significant results for the client, while saving them the costs of unnecessarily reassigning and replacing the 57 executives in the unit.

Read more Success Stories or give us a call at 404-814-0739 to discuss solutions that are right for your situation.
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