Navistar, the work that solidified our mission | Gagen MacDonald

Navistar, the work that solidified our mission

Imagine trying to fix a leaky boat, but nothing you try stops the leak. That’s where a storied company found itself in the 1990s.

From the mechanical reaper to the tandem axle truck, Navistar has been an engine of American progress for more than 150 years. However, by the 1990s, the company had fallen from grace. Labor disputes, customer service issues, competition, regulation… the potent mixture of these challenges resulted in quality problems, low morale and poor performance. Every few years, the company unveiled a new strategy, but the results stayed the same.

When trouble runs deep, a long history and celebrated brand isn’t enough. The organization needed a jolt from top to bottom to reawaken brand pride, create a culture of performance and shift its trajectory.

That’s where our partnership began.


Strategy is only one piece of the puzzle. The right strategy, without the structure and culture to implement it, is a fundamental reason Navistar was struggling in the first place.

To change results, we took a human-centric approach to drive transformation that linked together strategy, structure and company culture, including:

• Defining company values and developing behaviors necessary for success.

• Guiding employee understanding by painting a clear line from behaviors to results.

• Coaching leaders to lead change.

• Articulating a vision of the company’s future and the steps needed to achieve it.


The change at Navistar wasn’t only positive; it was a massive change in heart. In just six months, the company saw a 20% reduction in product defect rates. When Navistar started its transformation journey, a Respect for People metric was at an all-time low. In just two years, a dramatic improvement in this metric had a ripple effect across the business: quality, customer focus, accountability and feeling that the company was moving in the right direction all increased by leaps and bounds.

It turns out that caring for people and culture can be good for business, too. Three years after initiating the transformation, Navistar shed its label as one of the Wall Street Journal’s “10 Worst Companies” and became one of the publication’s “Top 10 Performers.”

In the end, helping people find pride and purpose at work isn’t just a feel-good strategy; it can be the secret to transforming companies and achieving real business results.

And it was this effort that solidified a firm dedicated to helping transform the companies that transform the world: Gagen MacDonald.