These slogans are tied to statements of mission and vision, and they provide messages that are clear to employees and customers alike. They are meant to reflect underlying values that the organization holds dear and can help provide continuity with the change vision. Consider, for example, the one adopted by the Cleveland Clinic: Every life deserves world-class care. If you were to take the words at their face value and were an associate there, change initiatives that facilitate access for the poor at the Cleveland Clinic are more likely to be viewed as positive change initiatives than ones focused solely on improving profitability, because they have the potential to be consistent with what the organization is all about.
The slogan “Quality is job #1” was used by Ford to symbolize its determination to improve quality in the 1980s. In the aftermath of quality and safety concerns that buffeted Ford, the automaker successfully used these words, with an accompanying concerted program of action, to refocus employee and public perceptions of the importance of quality to Ford and, ultimately, the excellence of its products. This major initiative spanned several years and was ultimately successful in taking root in the minds of employees and the public. However, the Ford Explorer/Firestone controversy in 200089 concerning vehicle stability in emergency situations reopened public questions of Ford’s commitment to quality and safety and put extreme internal and external pressure on Ford and Bridgestone, Firestone’s parent organization, to restore the public trust. The lesson to draw from Ford’s experience is that an image built on a vision that took years to develop can be shattered quickly. Ford appears to have learned from the experience and their recent slogan, “Drive Further,” is intended to address customer concerns around quality by committing to deliver products that are up to the challenge.
GM is relearning this lesson now, due to its decade-long failure to address an ignition switch problem that has resulted in a number of deaths, lawsuits, and the recall of approximately 18 million cars in North America in 2014. CEO Mary Barra has worked hard to get out in front of this horrible situation, be transparent with the internal and external investigations, take concerted action to address the issue, and restore public confidence that inaction, such as this, will not recur under her watch at the GM.
Johnson & Johnson’s response to the 1982 Tylenol deaths and tampering of bottles scare91 and Procter & Gamble’s92 response to inappropriate competitive intelligence activities related to hair care products provide two examples of how clear vision can help organizations develop initiatives that respond effectively to potentially damaging events. In the case of Tylenol, this best-selling brand was pulled from store shelves until the company was confident it had effectively addressed the risk of product tampering, at the cost of tens of millions of dollars. In the Procter & Gamble situation, when the CEO found out, he fired those involved, informed P&G’s competitor that it had been spied upon, took appropriate action with respect to knowledge that P&G had inappropriately gained, and negotiated a multimillion-dollar civil damage payment to the aggrieved competitor. The actions of these two firms demonstrated their commitment to their respective visions of how they should operate and reinforced public and employee confidence in the firms and what they stood for.