Case Study – The Hormel Institute

case study - The Hormel Institute

Building the Culture of the Future at The Hormel Institute

The Challenge

The Hormel Institute has remained true to its mission for over 75 years: To further scientific knowledge and share that knowledge with the world. As a leading research organization of the University of Minnesota it has advanced science through research focused initially on food safety and preservation in 1942, later moving to world recognized lipid research, and today to its  innovative contributions to cancer research.

Dr. Robert Clarke was appointed Executive Director of the Institute in the Fall of 2020. With a strong research background and commitment to furthering the work of the Institute he engaged us to guide him and the organization in strengthening the leadership and culture of the organization. With the potential for significant growth in the coming years, Clarke knew he had to strengthen the “human side” of the organization to support the growth and leverage its many years of success as a leading medical research institute.

The Solution

We partnered with Dr. Clarke and his colleagues  in three phases of work over one year around “Evolving Our Culture for World-Class Success”:

  • Assessing the current state of the culture of the Institute through a series of 10 one-on-one interviews, conducting focus groups that engaged fifty research and administrative associates from across the Institute, and conducting The Healthy Leader Culture Survey from a broad cross-section of people at all levels
  • Presenting key results and recommendations to the Insititute’s senior leaders
  • Facilitating the work of four cross-functional teams with specific goals for each:
    • The Hormel Institute Story – Interview Hormel Institute stakeholders, craft a future Vision and develop a comprehensive history of its distinguished history to share with all existing and future associates
    • Working Together – Development of a set of core Values that emerged from interviews with associates and leaders across the organization and a cascading process for everyone to own and model the new Values
    • Hormel Institute Leader – Development of a new Hormel Institute Leadership Competency Model and a set of development opportunities for all associates to understand and strengthen their leadership
    • University Relationships – Develop and execute a plan for deepening the relationships and collaborative research opportunities across both organizations
  • A capstone Institute-wide event where all of the work was presented to the full organization with guidance from Dr. Clarke and the involvement of over 50 associates in a half-day, celebratory event at the conclusion of all of the work


The combination of Dr. Clarke’s leadership and the leadership and culture work he led have resulted in the following:

  • Compelling new Vision and inspiring story to guide the future direction of the organization
  • New set of Values that defines how people work together in positive, open relationships
  • Clear and inspiring Leadership Competency Model to guide the development and performance of leaders at all levels
  • Ever expanding relationships between the Institute and contemporaries at the University
  • Excitement across all parts of the Institute as it accelerates achieving its Vision: “To Inspire Discoveries That Improve and Extend Human Life”