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Changing the Way We Change: Zingerman's Approach to Organizational Change

Jul 17, 2015 by Ari Weinzweig 1 Comment


changing the way we change zinger mans approach to organizational change blog

gathering of the games speaker

Most organizations deal with change grudgingly.

Change is something we rarely looked forward to, and it’s generally not considered part of the

routine operational activity. Rather, it's an exception to it,  often about as welcomed as a root canal.

Most folks prefer to have as little change as possible, and when it comes up, they grind their teeth and do their best to work through it with minimal pain.

Here at Zingerman's, we've successfully turned that mentality around to make organizational change a regular part of our work. It’s a tool that people look forward to using, a process that everyone in the organization understands and to which they always have access.

In the same way that open-book management teaches business finance to everyone in the organization, we do the same thing with organizational change. Rather than leave the decisions in the back room with the bosses, our Bottom Line Change (BLC) is a process that teaches change to everyone. It mimics proper open-book management by applying the same concepts—knowing and teaching the rules, keeping score and sharing the success (and, implicitly, the stress)—to organizational change.

Teaching Change Makes Organizations More Positive

When we use Bottom Line Change regularly, we create a wealth of positive outcomes, from the more obvious like lower stress and higher productivity to the less obvious like minimal internal dissention and a loss of the “victim” mentality.

When other organizations adopt similar beliefs and practices, they experience a wide variety of positive changes throughout their organization.

For example, here are some of the ways our organization has benefited by making change such a part of our culture and organization:

  • Creativity and innovation have increased while stress has decreased.

  • We have minimized internal dissension.

  • There is a stronger sense of job security.

  • People are excited to be honored and recognized within the organization for their abilities.

  • People are comfortable with the reality that change will be with us every day of our organizational lives.

  • There has been an increase in the levels of trust in the organization and an improvement in trust levels between co-workers.

  • The typical “victim” mentality that pervades many organizations has been diffused. If someone doesn’t like the way something is, all they need to do is start the BLC.

  • Everyone honors the belief that effective insight and ideas can come from anywhere in the organization and is not tied to hierarchy, seniority or anything else.

  • We have saved and continue to save time, money and resources, which we then spend more wisely elsewhere with a much more effective implementation of change.

  • We support the positive parts of our culture by undercutting the power of the cynics and critics—if people complain and don’t do anything about it, their co-workers have an effective way to get on their case. “Start the BLC” is a common refrain.

  • Staff no longer worry about ‘what new program will fall on them today.’ What I mean by this is that our staff is far more focused on the work that we really need to be doing—customer service, product quality, collaboration, etc.—than about the looming changes ahead.

  • Everyone knows how to become a leader. I concur completely with this Peter Koestenbaum statement: “There is no room in modern organizations for people not prepared to make the decision to think and act as leaders do.” Everyone who works with us learns how to go about leading effective


Gathering of Games Breakout Session

Like open-book management, it's a very different way to work than how mainstream business does it.

But the wonderful part is, it’s equally as effective, if not life changing!

I am looking forward sharing the Zingerman’s Bottom Line Change recipe at this year’s Gathering of the Games breakout session to review the basics of its implementation. For more information about the conference, click below:.


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Topics: Company Culture, The Annual Gathering of Games

Ari Weinzweig
Written by Ari Weinzweig

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman's Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches. Today, Zingerman's Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman's Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 700 employees and over $60 million in annual revenue.

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