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Posted on 5/13/2020

How a brewery began changing culture and started getting things done

Eric Davis

Unity Vibration is a Ypsilanti, Michigan-based kombucha brewery that, since 2009, has gone from in-home brewing of beers and teas to gaining national brand recognition. However, as the company grew, it struggled to put its strategic ideas into action and align them to the company’s vision. And, like all businesses facing digital transformation, Unity Vibration needed to keep up with technological changes to maximize quality and throughput.

The company turned to icube for help—a system that focuses on company culture by guiding business leaders through their vulnerabilities in team communication, and provides tools to get an entire team moving in sync. The goal of icube is to improve focus on essential matters and filter out the noise. The thought being that when you take the time to create a corporate culture that is deeply connected to your company’s foundational purpose, you are also creating employees who are fueled by vision, freed by trust and focused on the same priorities.

Below are four highlights of the brewery’s icube experience and how they began changing culture and started getting things done, the fundamentals of which can be applied to all businesses.

  1. Enforce accountability towards the completion of goals to better inform future decisions: An update to Unity Vibration's brew management system, EKOS, had been on the backburner for quite a while, but the company needed to improve delivery and operations, and an update to EKOS would help them to improve their brewing process. They completed this goal via resolving issues and completing todos in their tactical icube meeting. As a result, they are now investigating whether EKOS can support their needs in the future. Another important goal for the company was the beer canning process. The team identified a consumer shift in can style trends and successfully canned their beer, which included a different brewing process, new labels and working with a third-party to can the beer. Over time, the team learned that bringing canning in-house could improve quality control and costs.
  2. Focus on process improvements instead of personalizing matters: Through the icube process, Unity Vibration learned how to better handle stressful issues with composure. icube has shown the group how to improve collaboration and team members are more candid about discussing issues because they can work towards real action. One highly stressful situation was when the team needed to fulfill a large order on short notice to a new customer, and Unity Vibration required to use new tanks for their brew process. This perfect storm was made worse by poor communication outside of the meetings. In their icube meeting, they spent time discussing the multiple issues of their situation, assigning action and discussing how to prevent miscommunication like this in the future. In a couple of weeks, Unity Vibration delivered the order to the new customer on time, secured a verbal commitment from the new customer to receive even larger orders in the future, and improved their brewing process.
  3. Develop a proper organizational hierarchy and communicate it to the entire team: Unity Vibration has the difficult task of delivering a quality product on time and acting on sales opportunities to expand the company. At the outset, the CEO was responsible for maintaining operations, a role typical for a COO. Through icube's Functional Framework, a proper organizational hierarchy was developed and communicated to the entire team. In the icube tactical meetings, the CEO was still abreast of operational issues but could delegate actions to those responsible for that department. He could now focus more of his attention on revenue-generating activities that created new customers. The team also hired a new person to address a talent gap and had to part ways with a long-time team member. However, the departure was amicable, a situation that icube improves by facilitating an atmosphere of open and honest communication and clarity.
  4. Implement team huddles for execution: After several leadership team meetings, the team realized that separate smaller huddles were needed to address department-specific issues. One such meeting focused on sales and marketing initiatives, which included the Tasting Room. The icube huddle empowered and held accountable the part-time person responsible for the Tasting Room to implement exciting changes. Soon, the revenue from the Tasting Room was the highest they had seen in the company's history.

Unity Vibration continues to write their journey through icube, and it is one of perseverance and coachability. Their recent success is a testament to the organization's pursuit of instituting a culture of learning. Although icube can be transformational for a company, it is a discipline that the company must foster in all parts of the organization. The company continues to improve their skills to resolve issues and enhance accountability—something this facilitator is glad to have a front-row seat for…with a kombucha in hand.

About the Author

Eric Davis | Automation Alley

Eric Davis is Automation Alley’s technology investment analyst. In this role, he is responsible for providing in-depth analysis and insight on participants in the organization’s Industry 4.0 assessment which helps small manufacturers understand how Industry 4.0 will impact them in the areas of culture, finance and technology. Eric also manages the investment process for Automation Alley’s pre-seed fund. Eric has an extensive background in performing due diligence on both public and privately-held companies.

 
 

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