For Kimberly-Clark, a Dallas-based global consumer products company, the process for launching new products is practically its heartbeat. But after repeated efforts to teach Kimberly-Clark employees about the process with PowerPoint presentations and meetings, a lot of them still didn't understand it. Others got it, but couldn't remember how it worked three months after they'd learned about it.
So Michael Fischer, Kimberly-Clark's director of organizational effectiveness, received marching orders from senior executives that many training professionals have heard. "They called a couple of us in and said, 'We need to bring these 15,000 folks up to speed, we don't want you to spend a whole ton of money, and we're not going to give you a lot of time to develop it; but it has to work, and we have to be able to distribute this training to all of these people in a very short amount of time,'" Fischer says.
Fischer turned to a concept that was part simulation, part game and part video presentation. All 15,000 Kimberly-Clark employees attended four-hour sessions in which a video-simulated presenter named Norman taught them Go To Market, an education program about Kimberly-Clark's supply chain. Under Norman's tutelage, small teams of employees discussed Kimberly-Clark's key customers and other supply-chain issues presented visually on a discovery map. Team members then received roles in a fictional company that was bringing a product to market, and were guided through the pitfalls of supply-chain management. At the end of this role-play, employees discovered that a competitor had beaten them to market with a similar product.
This served as a springboard to a second discovery map, which guided employees through a discussion about the future of Kimberly-Clark's supply chain. Teams earned points for finding information on the map, and the winning team received key chains or other Kimberly-Clark trinkets. Then all employees watched video messages from the CEO and their sector presidents, and listened to local leaders present at the session. All three levels of management gave progressively more specific input about the meaning of Go To Market and the ways that employees could contribute to it.
Fischer ran pilot sessions with a group of senior leaders and a group of employees at a manufacturing site before rolling Go To Market out to all Kimberly-Clark employees. From the beginning, he says, it was obvious that the learning was going to happen. "Our typical senior executive meetings are pretty quiet, relatively reserved," Fischer says. "By the end, they were standing up and cheering and high-fiving each other. When that happened, we knew we had something really powerful."
After the sessions, employee participants said that they understood for the first time how Kimberly-Clark's supply chain really worked. Later, Go To Market helped broaden understanding outside the company, as Kimberly-Clark's main transportation company, suppliers, and even some of its advertising and media companies went through the program. "In every case, we got these same comments back," Fischer says. "'Now I understand Kimberly-Clark, now I understand what I can do to help you with Go To Market.'"
In the final "call to action" segment, session facilitators encouraged trainees to suggest ways to eliminate waste and redundancies in Kimberly-Clark's supply chain. Employees found an impressive $275 million in cost savings.