Pacific Bell Calls Halt to Disputed Training Plan
Pacific Bell said Thursday that it will abandon controversial and costly “leadership-development” sessions, which some critics dubbed “mind-changing,” in favor of more traditional employee training.
“We tried to do too much too fast,” President Philip Quigley conceded in announcing an end to the program, which also is known as “Krone” or “Kroning” after its founder Charles Krone, a management consultant in Carmel, Calif. (Krone himself did not work with PacBell, but consultants trained in his techniques did.)
The sessions were suspended last June after a state Public Utilities Commission staff report recommended that shareholders, not phone customers, pay $25 million of the program’s anticipated $39.3-million cost this year.
The PUC has not acted on that recommendation, but the commission is considering a number of rate-cutting actions that will likely result in lower phone bills early next year.
The Krone approach employs imaginative and sometimes exotic use of language to create a shorthand for analyzing the thought process involved in corporate decision making. For example: Task cycle referred to a systematic way of dealing with something; functioning capabilities meant preparations needed to ensure success. The aim was to enhance problem solving and efficiency, said Terry Mulready, vice president of corporate communications.
Sylvia Siegel, executive director of a consumer coalition called TURN (for Toward Utility Rate Normalization), said she has no quarrel with Pacific Bell’s right to try to improve employee performance. But, she added, customers should not be expected to foot the bill for attempts to change “the corporate culture and all that mumbo jumbo.
Quigley acknowledged that “leadership development,” as Pacific Bell refers to the defunct program, sought to attune the traditional utility “culture” to the fast-changing world of telecommunications in the years since the the 1984 breakup of the Bell System.
“With all the challenges posed by the changing nature of our business, we found we were moving too quickly,” Quigley said.