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Remaking JC Penney's Organizational Culture

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Case Details:


Case Code : HROB093 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 400;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 400 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Human Resource Management/ Organizational Behavior, Attraction/retention of talent, culture change initiative
Case Length : 19 Pages
Period : 2004-2007
Pub Date : 2007
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : J.C. Penney, Inc.
Industry : Retailing
Countries : USA


This case is about the initiatives taken by the top management of department store chain JC Penney (JCP), under the leadership of Mike Ullman (Ullman), to remake its century-old organizational culture. The initiatives were taken just after JCP had achieved a remarkable turnaround in the mid 2000s. After taking charge as the CEO and chairman of JCP in December 2004, Ullman realized that the existing culture at JCP was too formal and was contributing to employee turnover and inability of the company to attract enough talent. He also felt that the culture and mood prevalent at JCP was not conducive to the achievement of the aggressive growth objectives set by the company. To inspire the employees and project JCP as a great place to work in, Ullman and his team initiated various symbolic changes. They followed up these symbolic changes with various training and development initiatives.

Human Resource and Organization Behavior | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Human Resource and Organization Behavior, Case Studies

Within two years of starting the culture change initiatives, results pertaining to job satisfaction, attracting talent, and the bottom line were visible. Analysts were of the view that the focus of culture change initiatives have changed as companies were focusing on culture change that would result in a competitive advantage rather than wait for the situation to worsen and then bring about such changes.


Appreciate the importance of HR/organizational culture in attracting, retaining, and motivating employees

Understand the importance of organizational culture in creating a competitive advantage

Understand the issues and challenges faced by JCP in changing a more-than-100 years-old culture

Understand the role of top managers in setting the culture of an organization


  Page No.
Fixing What Might have Broken 1
Background Note 3
Enter Ullman, Exit Castagna 4
The Need for a Change in Culture 5
Changing A Century-Old Culture a Big Challenge 6
Initiatives taken by JCP 7
Training and Development at JCP 9
JCP Fires New COO 10
The Results 12
Reactions to the Culture Change Initiatives 12
Outlook 13
Exhibits 15

Key Words:

JC Penney, Mike Ullman, Organizational behavior, Organizational culture, Employee turnover, Attracting/retaining, Training and development, The Penney Idea, Winning Together Principles, Leadership training, Strategy, Team development, Competitive advantage, Grapevine , Retail, Retail Academy, Every Day Matters, HCSC motto, Associate Engagement Survey, Job satisfaction

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