SwitchPoints: Culture Change on the Fast Track to Business Success


Praise for SwitchPoints

"SwitchPoints is great reading for anyone in a leadership role. The lessons on theimportance of culture are clear and transferable. I highly recommend this book." —William R. Johnson, Chairman, President, and CEO, H.J. Heinz Company

"Any successful service business is the result of both sound management and good leadership—qualities epitomized by Hunter Harrison and the team that transformed CN from an economic laggard ...

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Praise for SwitchPoints

"SwitchPoints is great reading for anyone in a leadership role. The lessons on theimportance of culture are clear and transferable. I highly recommend this book." —William R. Johnson, Chairman, President, and CEO, H.J. Heinz Company

"Any successful service business is the result of both sound management and good leadership—qualities epitomized by Hunter Harrison and the team that transformed CN from an economic laggard to the leader in its field." —Frederick W. Smith, Chairman and CEO, FedEx Corporation

"SwitchPoints is a fascinating account of how the proper use of resources and technologies can be beneficial to everyone, including workers. The sweeping changes at CN Rail were awkward and difficult to accept at first, but have influenced the renewal of rail transport across the continent." —Buzz Hargrove, National President, Canadian Auto Workers

"SwitchPoints is a powerful blueprint for transformational change for any leader who faces seemingly insurmountable organizational challenges, including the one to either perish or persist." —John Dineen, President and CEO, GE - Transportation

"The transformation of Canadian National Railway from industry laggard to industry leader is a remarkable story. SwitchPoints offers a fascinating look at how Hunter Harrison led the CN team to accomplish that transformation." —Wick Moorman, CEO, Norfolk Southern Corporation

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470283837
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 10/6/2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 254
  • Sales rank: 1,439,784
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Judy Johnson, PhD, a Partner with the Continuous Learning Group (CLG), applies behavioral science to help leaders create environments that dramatically improve organizational performance and profitability. Johnson coaches executives on personal leadership and executing strategies through pinpointing key behaviors that lead to success.

Les Dakens, retired Senior Vice President of People for CN, was responsible for strategic direction of CN's Human Resources and Labour Relations in North America and worldwide. Prior to joining CN, Dakens was Vice President of Human Resources for the North American division of the H.J. Heinz Company.

Peter Edwards, Vice President of Human Resources for CN, is responsible for human resources, culture change, implementation, leadership, and organizational development. He assisted CN's CEO in writing two landmark books for employees and designed CN's "Railroad MBA" program.

Edward (Ned) Morse, a Senior Partner with CLG, offers three decades of experience helping Fortune 500 executives develop and implement business-critical strategies. Morse has worked with clients in transportation, petrochemicals, food service, healthcare, engineering, telecommunications, insurance, pharmaceuticals, and retail.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations.




Introduction: A Broken Culture.

The Culture of Early Quits.

A New Trip Plan.


Spiking the Switch.

Part I: Building One of North America's Top Railroads.

Chapter 1: The Road to Best-in-Class.

1830: Pioneering Days.

1919: Nationalization.

The 1980s: Deregulation.

1992: Organizational Redesign.

A Quick Change.

1995: Privatization.

The Right Leaders for the Job.

1998: Precision Railroading.

2003: Passing the Reins.

Chapter 2: Culture Change on the Fast Track.


Buying Other Cultures.

The Challenge.

The Results.

The Trip Plan for Culture Change on the Fast Track.

Part II: Clarifying the Vision.

Chapter 3: CN's Five Guiding Principles.

Chapter 4: The Culture of Precision Railroading.

The Organizational Culture Continuum.

The Spectrum of Employee Engagement.

The Role of Organizational Leaders.

Washing Out the Mud in the Middle.

Part III: Choosing the Right Switchpoints.

Chapter 5: How to Change CN's Culture?

Culture Equals Behavior.

Chapter 6: Creating a Culture of Discretionary Performance.

What’s in It for the Employee?

Chapter 7: Creating Q4 Leaders to Drive Change.

Culture Change Begins with Leadership.

The Q4 LeadershipSM Model.

How Did CN Create Q4 Leaders?

Changing Your Style Isn't Easy.

Building Leadership Fluency.

Part IV: Selecting the Tools for Change.

Chapter 8: The Science of the ABCs.

It's All about Behavior.

The ABCs of Behavior.

The ABCs Make Fundamental Sense.

Chapter 9: The Commanding Power of Consequences.


Importance to Recipient.

Probability of Recurring.

Where Does the Consequence Come From?

Which Consequences Should I Use?

Consequences and Culture Change.

Authors' Note: Doing the Right Thing with the ABCs.

Chapter 10: The ABC Toolkit.

The Five-Step Model.

Part V: Aligning the Switches.

Chapter 11: Finding a Champion.

A Quiet Tryout in Capreol.

“I Hate Consultants!”

Chapter 12: Testing the Business Case.

Pilot 1: Partnering in Memphis.

Pilot 2: Partnering in Capreol (Northern Ontario).

Pilot 3: Partnering in Transcona (Winnipeg).

Learnings from the Pilots.

We Did What We Said We Would Do.

A Skeptical Hunter Gives the Nod.

Chapter 13: Gaining Visible Sponsorship: The CEO’s Essential Role.

“How We Work and Why”.

Addressing the Naysayers.

Chapter 14: Learning from a Strike.

Spiking the Switch.

Start with the Supervisors.

Chapter 15: Planning the Trip.

Going to Rome (and Paying for It).

Implementing the ABCs CN-Wide.

Selling the ABCs to the Operating Regions.

I Love Your Passion, But . . . .

Managing the Pull.

Deployment Wasn't All Rosy.

Chapter 16: Making the Case for Change.

The Case for the ABCs.

Spreading the Word.

Answering Four Basic Questions.

Chapter 17: Expanding Sponsorship.

Example 1: Visiting Sites to Set the Stage.

Example 2: Sponsoring a Safety-First Culture.

Example 3: Personally Walking the Talk.

Part VI: Assessing Switchpoints’ Impact.

Chapter 18: Applying the ABCs: Dressed & Ready.

Guess I'll Have Another Coffee . . . .

Another Switchpoint.

The Science behind the Change.

Of Course There Was Resistance!

“I Can't Ask My Friends to Do That!”.

The Rewards of “Dressed & Ready”.

Chapter 19: Early Wins with the ABCs.

Release the Brakes!

Culture Change in the Michigan Division.

The ABCs Improve ETAs.

Want Better Meetings? Show Up on Time!

Small Things Matter.

Curing Technophobia.

Chapter 20: Demonstrating Q4 Leadership Through the ABCs.

“More Work? Are You Nuts?!”

Improving Reliability: Getting KIST.

Understanding Q4 LeadershipSM—by Knowing What It Is Not.

Chapter 21: Life or Death Leadership.

A Grim Tale.

Safety and Culture Change.

Developing Safety Programs.

Zero Tolerance and Why.

Chapter 22: Sawing Our Way to Improvement.

Tackling Old Problems in New Ways.

Reducing Overtime.

“Improve” Can Even Mean Tossing Old Paper Files.

Formalizing the Opportunity.

Part VII: Spiking the Switches.

Chapter 23: Leadership Competencies to Support the Change.

Accountability and Importance.

The New Competency Framework.

Leadership Equals Bonus.

The New Power of Performance Reviews.

Chapter 24: Performance Scorecards for Unionized Employees.

Doing the Unthinkable.

Executing EPS.

Communicating EPS.

Then Came the Problems.

Rollout for Success.

Supervisors: I Didn't Know That!

EPS Was Another Switchpoint.

Chapter 25: Learning through the Railroad MBA.

The Railroad MBA.

Railroader Undergraduate Programs.

CN Is a Destination, Not a Job.

Today North America, Tomorrow the World.

Chapter 26: Hunter Camps Develop Leaders.

Expanding the Impact.

Learning from the Master.

Twelve Characteristics of Leadership.

Leadership Is about People.

Some Campers' Views.

Chapter 27: The Power of Consistency (17 out of 17).

Inconsistency in the Rules.

Inconsistency in Applying Rules.

Inconsistency Breeds Opportunity.

Be Consistently Flexible.

Chapter 28: Developing Internal Consultants.

Why Internal Consultants?

Transitioning from CLG to Internal CN Consultants.

Selecting the Right People.

Developing Internal Consultants.

Reality Hits.

The Value of Internal Consultants.

Chapter 29: Sustaining Culture Change.

Preventing Backsliding.

Techniques for Sustaining Change.

Examples of Sustainability.

Chapter 30: Sharing Our Story.

Sharing with Our Customers.

Sharing with Our Suppliers.

Sharing with Our Competitors.

Sharing with Our Communities.

Chapter 31: Improving Relations with Our Unions.

The 2007 UTU Strike.

When to Say Yes, When to Say No.

Confronting a Long Legacy.

The United Steelworkers.

Improving Labor Relations.

What CN Brings to the Bargaining Table.

The Future.

Part VIII: Learning from Our Journey.

Chapter 32: Top 10 Tips for Leaders Using the ABC Methodology.

Tip 1: Manage Your Culture.

Tip 2: Measure What You Value.

Tip 3: Challenge, Disagree, and Then Make the Decision.

Tip 4: Focus on Behavior You See or Hear at Work.

Tip 5: Ask “Would You, If Your Life Depended on It?”

Tip 6: Transition from Good to Great Performers.

Tip 7: Deal Quickly with Poor Performers.

Tip 8: Get Face-to-Face.

Tip 9: Balance Your Use of Consequences.

Tip 10: Manage the Learning Curve.

Chapter 33: The Culture Change We Achieved.

Ten Lessons Learned from Our Switchpoints.

Chapter 34: The Final Word.

The Transformation.

What Lies Ahead.

Where We Are Now.

The Trip Is Not Over.


About the Authors.

About the Companies.


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