Cultural Change That Sticks
by Jon R. Katzenbach, Ilona Steffen, and Caroline Kronley
IN THE EARLY 2000s Aetna was struggling mightily on all fronts. While on the surface revenues remained strong, its rapport with customers and physicians was rapidly eroding, and its reputation was being bludgeoned by lawsuits and a national backlash against health maintenance organizations and managed care (which Aetna had championed). To boot, the company was losing roughly $1 million a day, thanks to cumbersome processes and enormous overhead, as well as unwise acquisitions.
Many of the problems Aetna faced were attributed to its culture—especially its reverence for the company’s 150-year history. Once openly known among workers as “Mother Aetna,” the culture ...