Driving Effective Organizational Change


We all love a success story, and I would like to share a recent experience of successful change within a petroleum company that is earning big results.

In October 2018 I met with a Study Group comprised of owners who invited their credit managers to attend the meeting for their own session of networking and sharing. As I guided the group of credit managers through two days of discussion, it became very apparent they were hungry to learn from each other and compare best practices. We discussed everything from credit applications all the way through to collection techniques. It was a great meeting, and everyone left to travel home with a long to-do list.

I followed up with the group a few months later and heard some great reports of improved results based on information from the other credit professionals. But one attendee really caught my attention as an example of a true success story that is just going to continue to build.

Gail Weeks is the credit manager for Sampson Bladen Oil Company, an 83-year-old North Carolina petroleum distributor. She was an attendee of the Study Group and responded to my inquiry with the following, which I have edited in length:

“We have had tremendous growth and are learning valuable lessons from it. We are slowly chipping away at the old ways of doing things and are rapidly making changes throughout our department that will make us better able to support the growth.

Upper managers and owners are very involved, which gives me a great support system. We are growing and learning together. There is more accountability and greater backup support as we move into the new year. Experience is a great teacher, and we plan to use it to our advantage.”

It struck me that Gail pointed out the key components of most successful change in an organization.

  • Identifying old ways of doing things, and seeking out better practices and procedures
  • Solid involvement by owners and management, including regular KPI reporting
  • Implementation of a plan to actually change customer behavior
  • More accountability coupled with improved support
  • Learning from past mistakes, and working hard not to repeat

Reading Gail’s report really warmed my heart and was a great reminder that none of us should tolerate the status quo of antiquated systems not delivering best results. It takes a lot of time, effort and planning to effect true change in an organization, and it’s obvious that Howell Clark, Gail Weeks and their other team members have done a fantastic job in perfecting management of their credit risk while facilitating rapid growth in new sectors. This kind of change, especially in a successful, established company, is not easy. Nor does it happen quickly, but it is possible to achieve, as evidenced by Gail’s story.

I encourage everyone to take these short bullet points and consider where they might be applied internally to achieve the same positive results that will continue to work for your company’s gain for years to come.