United Rentals (A), Spanish Version Change Management Analysis & Solution

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Organizational Development Case Study | Jay W. Lorsch, Kathleen Durante, Emily McTague

Case Study Description

In December 1997 United Rentals (URI) went public on the NYSE. Ten years later, during the peak of the economic meltdown, the company's performance was in decline. United Rentals had experienced its share of problems in the prior years and was still struggling to emerge from this turmoil.In the spring of 2008, the recession had decimated the company's core business, construction equipment rental. The economic downturn resulted in a significant decrease in North American construction and industrial activities and had adversely affected the company's revenues and operating result. The stock of the company quickly fell from the mid-$30 range in late 2007 to $3 in March 2009. In addition, two of the company's former chief financial officers had been charged with securities fraud and other violations, by both the U.S. Attorney's office and the SEC. The Board was faced with the resignation of the founder and chairman, management succession issues, the failed merger with Cerberus, and the lawsuit in Delaware. The Board was responsible for overseeing the change in a number of senior management and board positions which became increasingly difficult due to the turmoil and poor performance of the company. Recruiting and retaining talent in senior management and the board was central to the success of the company, which relied on their people for strong performance. In addition the company's total indebtedness was approximately $3.3 billion, including $146 million of subordinated convertible debenture. The company's substantial indebtedness had the potential to have adverse consequences in a number of ways, including: increase their vulnerability to adverse economic, industry or competitive developments; require the company to devote a substantial portion of their cash flow to debt service, reduce the funds available for other purposes; limit their ability to obtain additional financing; and decrease their profitability or cash flow. And the company was still dealing with multiple purported class action and derivative lawsuits that had been filed against it. It was during this time the board started looking for candidates both for the CEO and Chairman positions.

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What is Change Management Definition & Process? Why transformation efforts fail? What are the Change Management Issues in United Rentals (A), Spanish Version case study?


According to John P. Kotter – Change Management efforts are the major initiatives an organization undertakes to either boost productivity, increase product quality, improve the organizational culture, or reverse the present downward spiral that the company is going through.

Sooner or later every organization requires change management efforts because without reinventing itself organization tends to lose out in the competitive market environment. The competitors catch up with it in products and service delivery, disruptors take away the lucrative and niche market positioning, or management ends up sitting on its own laurels thus missing out on the new trends, opportunities and developments in the industry.

What are the John P. Kotter - 8 Steps of Change Management?

Eight Steps of Kotter's Change Management Execution are -

  • 1. Establish a Sense of Urgency
  • 2. Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition
  • 3. Create a Vision
  • 4. Communicate the Vision
  • 5. Empower Others to Act on the Vision
  • 6. Plan for and Create Short Term Wins
  • 7. Consolidate Improvements and Produce More Change
  • 8. Institutionalize New Approaches

Are Change Management efforts easy to implement? What are the challenges in implementing change management processes?

According to authorlist Change management efforts are absolutely essential for the surviving and thriving of the organization but they are also extremely difficult to implement. Some of the biggest obstacles in implementing change efforts are –

  • Change management efforts are made when the organization is in dire need and have fewer resources. This creates silos protection mentality within the organization.
  • Change efforts are often targeted at making fundamental aspects in the business – operations and culture. Change management disrupts are status quo thus face opposition from both within and outside the organization.
  • Change efforts create an environment of uncertainty in the organization that impacts not only the productivity in the organization but also the level of trust in the organization.
  • Change efforts are often made by new leaders because they are chosen by board to do so. These leaders often have less trust among the workforce compare to the people with whom they were already working with over the years.
  • Change management is often a lengthy, time consuming, and resource consuming process. Managements try to avoid them because they reflect negatively on the short term financial balance sheet of the organization.

United Rentals (A), Spanish Version SWOT Analysis, SWOT Matrix, Weighted SWOT Case Study Solution & Analysis




How you can apply Change Management Principles to United Rentals (A), Spanish Version case study?

Leaders can implement Change Management efforts in the organization by following the “Eight Steps Method of Change Management” by John P. Kotter.

Step 1 - Establish a sense of urgency

What are areas that require urgent change management efforts in the “ United Rentals (A), Spanish Version “ case study. Some of the areas that require urgent changes are – organizing sales force to meet competitive realities, building new organizational structure to enter new markets or explore new opportunities. The leader needs to convince the managers that the status quo is far more dangerous than the change efforts.

Step 2 - Form a powerful guiding coalition

As mentioned earlier in the paper, most change efforts are undertaken by new management which has far less trust in the bank compare to the people with whom the organization staff has worked for long period of time. New leaders need to tap in the talent of the existing managers and integrate them in the change management efforts. This will for a powerful guiding coalition that not only understands the urgency of the situation but also has the trust of the employees in the organization. If the team able to explain at the grass roots level what went wrong, why organization need change, and what will be the outcomes of the change efforts then there will be a far more positive sentiment about change efforts among the rank and file.

Step 3 - Create a vision

The most critical role of the leader who is leading the change efforts is – creating and communicating a vision that can have a broader buy-in among employees throughout the organization. The vision should not only talk about broader objectives but also about how every little change can add up to the improvement in the overall organization.

Step 4 - Communicating the vision

Leaders need to use every vehicle to communicate the desired outcomes of the change efforts and how each employee impacted by it can contribute to achieve the desired change. Secondly the communication efforts need to answer a simple question for employees – “What it is in for the them”. If the vision doesn’t provide answer to this question then the change efforts are bound to fail because it won’t have buy-in from the required stakeholders of the organization.

Step 5 -Empower other to act on the vision

Once the vision is set and communicated, change management leadership should empower people at every level to take decisions regarding the change efforts. The empowerment should follow two key principles – it shouldn’t be too structured that it takes away improvisation capabilities of the managers who are working on the fronts. Secondly it shouldn’t be too loosely defined that people at the execution level can take it away from the desired vision and objectives.


United Rentals (A), Spanish Version PESTEL / PEST / STEP & Porter Five Forces Analysis


Step 6 - Plan for and create short term wins

Initially the change efforts will bring more disruption then positive change because it is transforming the status quo. For example new training to increase productivity initially will lead to decrease in level of current productivity because workers are learning new skills and way of doing things. It can demotivate the employees regarding change efforts. To overcome such scenarios the change management leadership should focus on short term wins within the long term transformation. They should carefully craft short term goals, reward employees for achieving short term wins, and provide a comprehensive understanding of how these short term wins fit into the overall vision and objectives of the change management efforts.

Step 7 - Consolidate improvements and produce more change

Short term wins lead to renewed enthusiasm among the employees to implement change efforts. Management should go ahead to put a framework where the improvements made so far are consolidated and more change efforts can be built on the top of the present change efforts.

Step 8 - Institutionalize new approaches

Once the improvements are consolidated, leadership needs to take steps to institutionalize the processes and changes that are made. It needs to stress how the change efforts have delivered success in the desired manner. It should highlight the connection between corporate success and new behaviour. Finally organization management needs to create organizational structure, leadership, and performance plans consistent with the new approach.

Is change management a process or event?

What many leaders and managers at the Rentals Indebtedness fails to recognize is that – Change Management is a deliberate and detail oriented process rather than an event where the management declares that the changes it needs to make in the organization to thrive. Change management not only impact the operational processes of the organization but also the cultural and integral values of the organization.

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