39 Weeks… She’s Here!

So it looks like I missed a few weeks of blogging near the end of my pregnancy, and maybe in time I’ll come back to them in some form or another. In the meantime, I want to introduce the newest member of our family.

Violet Quinn Inlow
Born 7:26 p.m., Friday, July 5, 2019
8lbs, 1oz
20 inches

Birth story coming shortly. 🙂

35 Weeks, 5 Days

A few days ago, I talked my husband into an impromptu maternity photo shoot. When you’re 35 weeks pregnant and feeling cute, you take advantage bc it may never happen again ;). I’m the photographer in the family, but he held his own and got me a few good shots to remember my last pregnancy by.

Amelia is super pumped to be a big sister. I’m excited for her, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t pile onto my anxiety. God forbid, if something should go wrong, it’s not only my husband and I who will suffer. 😦 *BUT ENOUGH OF THAT FOR NOW* I don’t have enough energy to entertain negative thinking at the moment.

Saturday, baby girl passed her non-stress test quickly for the second week in a row – I, on the other hand, experienced some regular, mild contractions while on the monitor. The nurse mentioned that they could keep me and hook me up to IVs – as is pre-term labor protocol – but because I live only 5 minutes from the hospital, she told me to go home, take it easy and hydrate, with orders to come back in if the contractions became painful.

I spent the rest of the day relaxing with my girl, in bed, binging “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” It was nice, and eventually, they went away.

This week, I’ve had some stressful night meetings, and today the contractions were back with a vengeance. I feel like I still can’t tell the difference between real contractions and Braxton Hicks. What I felt came from the top and not the sides, and the pain, though slight, was accompanied by pressure and pushing down low. From what I have read and remember from my first labor, they definitely seem real.

I had to go into the OB’s office to redo my Group B Strep swab anyway, so I asked about them and told the NP that last time the contractions felt like this – no big deal – until they were 1.5 minutes apart and suddenly terribly painful. We decided it was best to do a quick exam, just to see where things stand. Everything for the moment is high and shut down tight, which is good. She can stay that way for another couple of weeks, but then it’s time to work on coming out to meet us!

Her movements are delightful bc they tell me she’s OK in between our weekly NSTs, but they’ve also become painful, and cramped. I wake up feeling sore, like someone has beaten me in the night. I wake every 1-2 hours to pee. I’m so ready to be done.

My glucose numbers have evened out a bit. Last week I thought they were getting crazy again, but I feel more confident now that perhaps I can finish this thing through on two 500mg Metformin tabs per day, sans insulin. I’ll come back in a few days and post all my numbers, just bc I think they will be neat to see all in one place.

I hope that I can continue limiting carbs after this baby is born. Definitely not as strict as I have been doing, but it might be a good idea to try and avoid getting Type 2 when all is said and done. After all, my mother’s five brothers have Type 2 diabetes, and my father is pre-diabetic, and I started this pregnancy quite a bit overweight. All of those odds are stacked against me.

I feel the nesting bug hardcore, and there’s so much to do, both at home and at work before this baby comes! Wish me luck 🙂

35 Weeks

Well, since it’s 1 a.m. and I can’t sleep, I guess it’s really 35w,1d at this point.

My legs are restless. I’m sitting in my third bath of the night hoping to remedy that, although it hasn’t worked thus far so I’m less than hopeful. My only shot is that I become so exhausted here shortly that my body passes out in bed before I have to pee again or before that creeping feeling comes back to my legs.

Had my OB appointment today, and my sugars are looking much better. Only three spikes last week, mostly at dinner. I think the lower numbers are due to increased Metformin. I’m now taking 2/day, 500mg each. My diet hasn’t been so great. I’m not eating horribly, but I’ve found a bunch of protein snacks that I’ve been filling my days with unintentionally instead of more balanced veggies and fruit. It’s just what’s easiest – but next week I’ve got to do better.

I miss regular food. During the day I’m not as desperate and I joke about eating a cake the moment I deliver, but at night when I can’t sleep and I’m hungry is when the cravings hit the worst. I’ve been indulging in 2 Chips Ahoy cookies when they come on. They’re small and hopefully don’t spike me too bad – they should be under my carb allowance. Plus, my fastings have been good so I’m not putting too much thought into it.

Measuring 36 weeks, so a week ahead. Doc estimates baby’s weight at 5.5-6lbs, and boy, am I feeling it. My stomach is tight and hurts. She’s balled up on my right side and there is no comfortable way to lie down, even with a body pillow.

A recent ultrasound for my low fluid came back improved, so he’s not worried about that anymore. Overall, he seemed pleased with the checkup. Baby’s heart rate was 134 today, which is holding pretty steady from previous appointments. Trace protein in urine, but beautiful blood pressure, so no sign of preeclampsia. (Tonight, I retook it at home and it’s even lower!)

I still don’t know a lot about induction, or how that will work. Like almost anyone, I’d prefer to go into labor naturally, preferably between 38-39 weeks like last time. But all I know is he likes to induce by 39 weeks for moms who are being treated with medicine for GD. I’ll be 37 weeks at my next appointment, at which point I start going in weekly – so if it’s not automatically covered, I’ll be mentioning it.

Weekly non-stress tests (NSTs) started last week. She passed with flying colors. I need to go in tomorrow to get one, but I’ve been advised that a lot of women went into labor today and that I might want to call and make sure they’re not totally swamped before I go and get stuck there forever. The tests give me decent peace of mind that she’s doing well, and that if she’s not, it can be caught and dealt with in a timely manner.

Someone posted in one of the GD Support groups on Facebook this week about her daughter, who was stillborn back in March – which she said was the result of under-treated GD. I read her story, which was heartbreaking. She was a woman of color, living in a new city with a new OB that didn’t take her history with GD seriously. They ignored her pleas and communications from her previous medical practice, and they did not respond appropriately when this poor momma asked for meds, based on her previous experience. Sadly, women of color experience higher rates of infant and maternal mortality, an unforgivable result of systematic racism, if you ask me. When I’m not on my phone, I’ll try to come back and cite that source, which escapes the top of my head.

Anyway, as godawful as I feel for this woman and her baby, my mind selfishly goes to a place of fear for myself and my baby. I’m pregnant and can’t help it, even though I’m not being ignored, and feel like I’m in good hands with my medical team. It’s only that stillbirth can happen to anyone, even when there’s no discernible reason, and it terrifies me to the core of my being. I think this fear has been underlying for awhile, especially with everything that has gone wrong, which is why it’s hard to let myself imagine what like with two kids will look like in about a month.

I love Baby Baby Violet already, but I always thought this anxiety would lessen with a second pregnancy. With my first, motherhood was at stake. If I lost her, I don’t know that I could have tried again, or survived a second pregnancy, so the threat of being a forever childless mother loomed large in my mind. This time, I tried to tell myself, at least I have my first, the love of my life. But as I’ve watched her get more and more excited about being a big sister, counting down the days, I realize the stakes are even higher this time. Should something happen, through fault of my own or otherwise, I would not only have to console myself and figure out how to go on, but my beautiful 4-year-old as well, who has only a basic grasp of death and mortality at this point. She can’t even watch the episodes of My Little Pony that feature “bad guys” – even if she knows the outcome is positive. She’s too sweet and delicate for that kind of tragedy.

We are so close to the end, yet not quite close enough. I greet the painful movements and jabs into my right side that remind me she’s OK in there, knowing that could change at any time – yet I also need sleep for my body to keep on going, so I also welcome her naps.

More than anything, I’m just ready to meet her face to face, and to move past this anxiety (on to the next one). I want to see my sweet Amelia in the role of proud big sister and to see my husband cradle a sweet baby in his arms again. I want to hold her tight and smell her newborn baby-ness.

And I want to sleep on my stomach again.

The countdown is on. 4 more weeks to go. Fingers crossed they are good ones.

33 Weeks, 2 Days

Had my 33-week ultrasound Friday, and got some good news! My placenta previa seems to have resolved itself and baby Violet is head down in go position. It looks like we’ve overcome one hurdle.

Unfortunately, we’ve found a new one.

My fluid levels are only at an 8, which is just below low normal range. I’ve been tentatively diagnosed with oligohydraminos. I shouldn’t have Googled it because there are some scary consequences, and some scary reasons it might be happening, which I won’t go into here.

For now, I’m concentrating on three things.

  1. My doctor didn’t seem too overly worried, so perhaps my anxiety is premature.
  2. I’m being closely monitored in case anything goes wrong – I have another ultrasound this Wednesday, plus I start weekly non-stress tests next Saturday.
  3. Plenty of women in my gestational diabetes support groups on FB have experienced this. Some resolved themselves, and some warranted early delivery, but most of them turned out OK.

These things give me hope.

Thank goodness for the long weekend. We are cleaning, relaxing, getting sleep and hydrating. (Sonic ice is sooooo good. I’m chomping on some right now.)

There’s some evidence that maternal dehydration could be at play, and I will be the first to admit I am often a bit dehydrated. Hopefully Wednesday it’s back up, or at least hasn’t gotten worse.

Little girl is moving and seems healthy, and I’d like to keep it that way.

I did learn that my OB will typically induce at 39 weeks, sometimes 38 with GD, so my countdown is officially 5-6 weeks to go instead of 7+. Of course, any major setbacks at any one of my scans, appointments or NSTs might warrant her coming even earlier – so I’m trying to prepare for anything.

I’m so ready to meet her, but first and foremost I want her to be happy and healthy.

32 weeks, 5 days

All I want to do is go to sleep – but I can’t.

Restless legs. Tiny body parts trying to push out of my right side. A bladder that can’t hold more than a tablespoon of liquid without having to be voided.

So instead, I’m sitting in a shallow tub of warm water to soothe my leg muscles as I type this, and thinking back over the day.

I have been feeling better these past few weeks, but today hit me like a truck. It wasn’t particularly busy, or stressful. If anything, it was slow.

My biggest craving this pregnancy has been mint. In particular – Eclipse spearmint gum. In a way, I’m lucky, since I can still have sugar free gum, but because it’s the only craving I can really give into, I’ve been chewing so many pieces a day – 3 at a single time, often back to back to back – that it’s been causing tension headaches. Also today, I’m pretty sure I tasted blood while I was chewing, so there’s the damage I’m doing to my gums I’m sure.

Around lunch, I just didn’t feel right. It could have been the gum. In hindsight, I should have checked my blood pressure to be sure, but it occurred to me I might also just be exhausted.

I headed to my parents’ to visit my 4-year-old and eat lunch. I packed Cheerios and berries – my grand experiment of the day – sure it was going to spike me. Either I underestimated my body, or it was all the almonds I ate to offset the carbs, cuz I inexplicably tested well at 107 an hour after.

But the after lunch crash was brutal. Around 2:30/3 p.m., I just couldn’t anymore. This happens to me rarely, but my usual remedy – a walk to the bookstore to grab something chocolate to jolt me to life for the remainder of the day – is now a no-no with gestational diabetes.

Left with few other options, I took a walk – a very painful walk, as they often are these days – to the campus library and perused the books.

The quiet, soothing atmosphere of the library and thumbing through the titles was a calming distraction for awhile, until it was time to head back to the office. I worried I wouldn’t make it. I felt awful. Kind of dizzy, out of it, unable to concentrate. And the walking hurt even more.

By the time I got to my parents’ to pick up my daughter and have dinner, I didn’t feel like eating, but I forced down chili with a small handful of crackers anyway. An hour later I felt a little bit better (and tested well again), though I never figured out what ailed me.

I know getting some sleep tonight would help me avoid the same tomorrow, but here I am.

I love the child growing inside me, and I know that after 7 or fewer weeks, I’ll never know what it is to be pregnant ever again. But I can’t wait for her to be on the outside. Healthy, but on the outside. My body has just not handled pregnancy well this time around.

The same way people tell you not to complain in the summer that it’s hot because it’ll soon be winter and you’ll be complaining about the cold – they also say you’ll miss being pregnant when you are no longer. But I’m telling you right now – I’m the person in 0-degree weather proclaiming that at least I’d rather be cold than hot, and I’m also the person who remembers the sleepless nights as a new mom and will always prefer them to the discomforts of being pregnant.

At least after the baby is born, you CAN physically sleep. And the reason you can’t is infinitely cuter than a protruding belly and stabbing pains in your hips and pelvis.

Friday is our 33-week ultrasound to check on the movement of my placenta, and to try and capture Baby Violet’s cardiac outflow tracts, which haven’t been captured at either of our other two scans. The doc said he doesn’t HAVE to see them, but that it would be nice. Of course, I made the mistake of Googling, and instantly freaked myself out with worry that our girl could have an undiagnosed congenital heart defect, even though the four chambers of her heart appear perfectly normal. I can’t think about that anymore.

I have enough anxiety in general.

Hopefully we will have some time to ask the questions about GD that we haven’t had the chance to ask since our diagnosis. The husband is coming along to ensure that some get asked. Sometimes I blank on my own.

Like –

  • How is my glucose management going so far?
  • When/how high/how often should blood sugar spikes concern me?
  • When will we have to start getting the non-stress tests the nurse mentioned via email?
  • Will this mean I will need to be induced?
  • How likely is a C-section at this point?

See, I’m already blanking.

I should probably get to bed and come back to my list of questions when I’m less exhausted.

Check in again in a few days!

31 Weeks

Friday, we hit 31 weeks into this pregnancy, and a little more than 2 weeks into my gestational diabetes diagnosis. It seems like it’s been an eternity, with 9 or so weeks to go.

I finally heard back from my OB, who was reviewing my food log and numbers, and he has decided to put me on Metformin once a day (at breakfast) in an attempt to lower my numbers. They just hadn’t improved as much as he would have liked, but he assured me it’s likely nothing I’m doing wrong. *Sigh of relief*

Sometimes, your body just needs help.

I did some reading, and learned that Metformin tablets work to lower the amount of sugar in the blood by lowering the amount of sugar produced in the liver. They also increase the sensitivity of muscle cells to a patient’s natural insulin. There’s other good news too –

There seems to be adequate evidence of efficacy and short-term safety of metformin in relation to maternal and neonatal outcomes in GDM, with possible benefits related to lower maternal weight gain and lower risk of neonatal hypoglycemia and macrosomia (large infant size at birth). Additionally, metformin offers the advantages of oral administration, convenience, less cost and greater acceptability.

-National Institutes of Health 

Today, I’m two – almost three – days into that treatment, and it seems like it might be working. Still haven’t had a perfect day yet – that’s the goal. I hope this is the week, even though there’s an awful lot going on at work to be stressed about.

My diabetes counselor reached out today and suggested more protein in the mornings, which is something I know I struggle with, since I don’t enjoy meat (or eggs all that much). She offered to get me in with a dietician, but I’m going to see how the Metformin treats me this week and see what insurance will cover before I take on what could be another added expense. She also reminded me that sometimes there will be unexplainable glucose spikes – after all, a pregnancy hormones are hard at work.

OB also called me today about an ultrasound I had back at 28 weeks, on Good Friday. Somehow they lost track of it (I’m wondering if it was because of the holiday), but I followed up like a good little patient and asked about it. The scan was to see if my partial placenta previa from 20 weeks had moved – and it had – but not far enough. He said it’s difficult to tell, but the placenta was either 2cm or 1.5 away from the cervix at 28 weeks. By now, it could be in the clear, but he wants to do a transvaginal ultrasound between 33-35 weeks to see where we stand on that. She was also breech at the time, although she has plenty of time to move, and weighing in a week ahead, at about 3 pounds.

I have to get bloodwork this week to see how my crappy thyroid is hanging in there. And the nurse told me I’ll start NSTs near the end of my pregnancy to monitor the baby’s wellbeing, though she didn’t estimate what week. When asked about the risk for early delivery or a need for induction, she indicated that will depend on a number of factors, which the doctor will speak to me about at my 33 week appointment at the end of this month. So I guess we’ll see.

The diet is getting monotonous, and a lot of the new foods I have been trying tend to cause spikes. My mood has been better overall, and my body has been more comfortable, until today at least. Today I feel huge. And tired.

Check in at 32 weeks 🙂

I Have Gestational Diabetes

In the midst of what was already a difficult pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GD) on April 25, 2019, around 29 weeks. The news wasn’t exactly surprising, but the lifestyle change has been very difficult.

Although I’m new to this journey, I’ve found some solidarity and support on multiple Gestational Diabetes Support groups on Facebook, and I thought blogging about my experience here might be cathartic as well. Plus, so much education is needed on this subject. Bear with me as I continue to learn more.

The important thing to know is we’re not alone, even though it can often feel like we are.

“Every year, 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States are affected by gestational diabetes.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Last pregnancy, I flunked my one-hour glucose test, but just barely, and went on to pass the three-hour like a champ. This time, my score of 214 was bad enough to serve as a diagnostic without the three hour.

By April 27, I was testing my blood sugar and watching my carbs. Until I could see a diabetic counselor, my OB nurse advised me to follow the American Diabetes Association 2,000-calorie diet, pending further education.

In the days that followed, my mood suffered drastically as I adjusted my lifestyle and felt increasingly alone. I wrote in my digital journal on Journey:

I am absolutely miserable. I know I should just be thankful for this pregnancy, and I am – but it’s hard to see at this point how I am going to make it another 11 weeks. 😦

And I wasn’t being overdramatic. My precious, growing baby had set up camp low in my pelvis, in breech position next to a still low-lying placenta, making the pressure on my lower belly and hips intense. Belly button pain and pressure made my clothes – even underwear – painful to wear. Restless legs and an increased need to pee all night long did their part to make sure I wasn’t getting any sleep. It hurt to walk. And depression was hitting me hard.

My closest family has been so supportive, and their actions – like making diet changes with me, or being patient with me when I’m in a terrible mood – have been what has really mattered. Actions speak louder than words.

It’s words, in particular, that hurt me. Perfectly well-meaning comments about how 11 weeks isn’t a very long time, and how GD is common, how it commonly results in a positive outcome when controlled (like I have a choice if I end up needing insulin), and/or that I somehow caused this to happen to myself land on me as dismissive and callous.

There are scary complications connected to GD, for both mother and baby! I have plenty of reasons to be stressed.

Complications that may affect your baby

If you have gestational diabetes, your baby may be at increased risk of:

  • Excessive birth weight.
  • Early (preterm) birth and respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
  • Type 2 diabetes later in life.
  • **Untreated gestational diabetes can result in a baby’s death either before or shortly after birth.

Complications that may affect you

Gestational diabetes may also increase the mother’s risk of:

  • High blood pressure and preeclampsia.
  • Future Type 2 diabetes.

Mayo Clinic

Sure, good control and careful monitoring by my doctor can mitigate a lot of that, but that doesn’t make it easy.

Not only that, but making drastic lifestyle changes is tough! Especially a few days after Easter, with Easter candy spread all over my house!

Although some women can control GD with their diet, that’s not true for all. Some just don’t have enough insulin to work with, as insulin needs in pregnancy continue to rise between 24-36 weeks.

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Source

I finally saw the diabetic counselor on May 1, who explained this to me and said my food logs looked great. Then she proceeded to adjust my diet slightly based on higher morning glucose readings. She recommended:

Blood Sugar Targets

  • Fasting (first thing in the morning) – 65-95
  • 1 hour after Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner – <130

Food Recommendations
*Balanced meals with plenty of fruits and veggies, protein at every meal/snack, emphasis on carb targets
**Try to add 30 minutes of exercise a day (not all at once, it adds up)

  • Breakfast – 30g carbs with protein, no fruit
  • Morning Snack – 30g carbs
  • Lunch – 30-60g carbs
  • Afternoon Snack – 0-30g carbs
  • Dinner – 30-60g carbs
  • Evening/Nighttime Snack – 0-30g carbs

That’s what I’m going on now.

The food choices are monotonous when you’re picky like me. You have to eat a lot of things you might not like (I’ve convinced myself when this is the case that the food is just medicine.) And you have to eat A LOT (which is hard, especially when you’d really rather not eat). It really cuts into one’s schedule. Every moment of every day is about food when you’ve got GD.

At my OB appointment Friday, they made copies of my log, and said my numbers look to be improving, but that my morning number needs to get better or I’m looking at insulin injections at night. I’m supposed to send my numbers in after today for a re-evaluation. As time goes by, I’ll need to be re-evaluated again and again to make sure my body is handing things well and that baby Violet is doing well also.

I swapped my regular nighttime snack of crackers and cheese with a glass of Fairlife chocolate milk (13g carbs, 13g protein – one of the few joys I’ve found during this process) and gave up both fruit and milk for breakfast (pre-10:30 a.m.), which seems to be helping. But my numbers are still on the high end, so one slip and I’m over.

(UPDATE: Now my evening numbers are spiking, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. 😦 Skipping a snack (which I try to avoid) appears to affect me negatively, and more protein probably can’t hurt, but otherwise, I’m at a loss.)

I’m still figuring it out. My mood is improving as I’ve found women in similar situations online to commiserate with, but the struggle continues, with 9-10 weeks to go.

Celestial Narratives is Out of This World

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Amelia and I stopped into the “Celestial Narratives” exhibit while on campus taking her 3-year portraits in the Monticello Sculpture Gardens.

There’s an art exhibit at Lewis and Clark Community College that you don’t want to miss.

“Celestial Narratives” by Artist Michiko Itatani is open now through Sept. 22, 2017 at the Hatheway Cultural Center Gallery on L&C’s Godfrey Campus, 5800 Godfrey Rd., Godfrey, Illinois. The exhibit is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday.

www.lc.edu/michikoitatani

 

Artifact: OL 654

Artifact OL 654: The Disney Method

Laura Inlow

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota


Artifact OL 654: The Disney Method

An integrated learning forums presentation on “The Disney Method” creative strategy demonstrates the fifth program learning outcome, integrating creative strategies that promote innovation (“Saint Mary’s University”, 2016); specifically strategizing the change process through tactical approaches (“Saint Mary’s University”, 2016). Course outcomes represented include evaluating the creative process, analyzing blocks and aids for creativity, and integrating creative thinking strategies (“Saint Mary’s University”, 2016).

The presentation walks the viewer through “The Disney Method,” a creative brainstorming process that centers on three stages of thought embodied by facets of Walt Disney’s famous, innovative personality – the dreamer, the realist, and the critic (Dilts, 1996). Each stage allows members of a team to view an issue from three different points of view, similar to de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” (de Bono, 1999). The process is not only used to generate ideas to tackle problems with innovative solutions, but also it is useful for developing solutions more fully, allowing for adjustments to address any foreseeable drawbacks. Key benefits include the no cost and minimal time commitment needed to work through the method.

The presenter uses a real world example from her own professional field to teach the method, walking through each step in detail so the viewer can walk away ready to work through the process. The strategic action proposal near the end of the presentation outlines the steps necessary to apply the method for organizational use, along with goals, and a timeline for implementation.

 


References

de Bono, E. (1999). Introduction. In Six thinking hats (pp. 1-15). Newport Beach, CA: Back Bay Books.

Dilts, R. (1996). Walt Disney: Strategies of Genius. Retrieved from http://www.nlpu.com/Articles/article7.htm

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. (2016, September). 2016-2017 catalog & student handbook, Organizational Leadership, M.A. Retrieved from http://catalog.smumn.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=21&poid=2237&returnto=1185

Artifact: OL 645

Artifact OL 645: Critical Analysis for Managed Change Within Starbucks Corporation

Laura Inlow

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota


Artifact OL 645: Critical Analysis for Managed Change Within Starbucks Corporation

A critical change plan analysis entitled “Critical Analysis for Managed Change Within Starbucks Corporation” demonstrates the second program learning outcome, integrating and applying analytical skills to make strategic decisions (“Saint Mary’s University”, 2016); specifically, the ability to utilize systems thinking for the ongoing improvement of an organization (“Saint Mary’s University”, 2016). Course outcomes represented include the abilities to analyze and understand organizational behavior as systems, and compare and manage emergent change approaches (“Saint Mary’s University”, 2016).

The final paper for a course on organizational change and development includes an analysis of the company’s background, as well as its strengths and weaknesses. It describes the company’s hybrid organizational structure, which comprises functional, geographic, and product-based divisions (Meyer, 2015). The organization studied is lauded for its supportive and innovative leadership, as well as its inclusive culture of belonging and diversity (Ferguson, 2015).

The paper details a turning point in the company’s history, in the mid-2000s, during which major change was necessary to put the organization’s success back on track. The strategy employed entailed putting the focus back on the product, and prioritizing customer experience over profit (Kaplan, 2014). Comparisons are made using another company with a similar customer demographic and innovative organizational culture. Systems thinking is demonstrated by a description of a specific change process regarding the use of non-recyclable paper coffee cups. Obstacles to change and ways to measure that change are also discussed, as well as the company’s next steps moving forward.


References

Ferguson, E. (2015, September 13). Starbucks Coffee Company’s organizational culture. Panmore Institute. Retrieved from http://panmore.com/starbucks-coffee-company-organizational-culture

Kaplan, D. (2014, June). Starbucks: The art of endless transformation. Inc. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.smumn.edu.xxproxy.smumn.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgea&AN=edsgcl.370323015&site=eds-live

Meyer, P. (2015, September 13). Starbucks Coffee Company’s organizational structure. Panmore Institute. Retrieved from http://panmore.com/starbucks-coffee-company-organizational-structure

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. (2016, September). 2016-2017 catalog & student handbook, Organizational Leadership, M.A. Retrieved from http://catalog.smumn.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=21&poid=2237&returnto=1185



Critical Analysis for Managed Change Within Starbucks Corporation

Laura Inlow

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Schools of Graduate & Professional Programs

OL 645 Organizational Change and Development

Al Watts

December 11, 2016


Critical Analysis for Managed Change Within Starbucks Corporation

Starbucks Corporation has long been known as a leader and trendsetter in the coffee industry, but nearly a decade ago began a troubling downward trend that threatened its relevance. As a result, former CEO Howard Schultz jumped back into the driver’s seat and put in motion a number of organizational changes to restructure the company and get back to its roots. Today, Starbucks and its affiliates are enjoying the fruits of the company’s revitalization, but have the past decade to look to as a reminder to keep moving forward, or risk falling behind.

About Starbucks Corporation

Starbucks’ business goes well beyond selling coffee to providing the entire coffeehouse experience for its customers (MarketLine, 2016). Built upon unique coffee blends, that experience has expanded over time into tea, food items, merchandise, free Wi-Fi and exclusive digital content from publishers like iTunes, New York Times, Spotify and more. A robust app, mobile payment options and a digital My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program add an important mobile component to the company’s already unique offerings (MarketLine, 2016).

Starbucks currently comprises 7,000 company stores, licensed stores, consumer packaged goods and foodservice operations (MarketLine, 2016), and employs upwards of 191,000 people (Lebowitz, 2016). Subsidiaries include Seattle’s Best Coffee, Tazo Tea (Starbucks, 2011) and Teavana (Kaplan, 2014).

Major competitors making headway in the coffee industry include Dunkin Brands, which operates under locally-owned franchises (MarketLine, 2016), and McDonald’s, which competes globally with its more affordably priced McCafe specialty coffees (MarketLine, 2016).

Strengths and Weaknesses

Starbucks’ particular strengths lie in the company’s firm grasp of technology, efforts for innovation, employee-friendly policies and practices, and environmental stewardship. The company has demonstrated its dedication to technology and innovation through the launch of a mobile-based loyalty program and investment and engagement with customers on social media (Hanna, 2014). Employee friendly practices include benefits like health insurance and college reimbursement. All Starbucks employees are referred to as “partners,” which demonstrates their importance to the company. In Augusta, Georgia, the company operates a manufacturing facility that is certified LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council, allowing Starbucks a cost effective operation solution that is also environmentally friendly (Labs, 2015).

Because the company employs a differentiated business-level strategy (Jones, 2012), Starbucks maintains a lead over its competitors due to the quality of its product, despite not having the lowest prices, especially when compared to McDonald’s McCafe offerings. However, paying higher prices might not be feasible for some customers, especially during uncertain or difficult financial times, causing many to cut back on their purchases. The company’s other, more recent, struggles and weak areas include a recent increase in product recalls, various litigations, people’s growing concerns over living healthy lifestyles, and competition in global markets (MarketLine, 2016).

Inside Starbucks

As a frontrunner in its market, Starbucks strives to stay on top through adaptations in its structure and business model as needed, with a focus on technology and human resources.

Hybrid Organizational Structure

Starbucks’ unique organizational structure has developed in response to the company’s changing business needs over time (Meyer, 2015). As the company grows, so does its structure, so that it can continue optimizing processes for the product quality it has become known for (Meyer, 2015). The hybrid organizational structure incorporates functional structure, geographic divisions and product-based divisions teams (Meyer, 2015).

Human resources, finance, and marketing functions are utilized company-wide and based at corporate headquarters (Meyer, 2015). Starbucks’ global market comprises divisions for China and Asia-Pacific; Americas (divided further into western, northwest, southeast and northeast divisions); and Europe, Middle East, Russia and Africa, (Meyer, 2015), each with its own vice president. Each store manager has two bosses – a geographic VP and HR manager (Meyer, 2015).

Product-wise, Starbucks also has separate divisions for coffee, baked goods and other merchandise (Meyer, 2015). At the store level, teams are organized around serving the customer (Meyer, 2015), with a focus on positive customer experiences (Meyer, 2015).

Leadership and Human Focus

From a leadership standpoint, Schultz avoids micromanaging by recruiting top performers who challenge his ideas and push for excellence (Lebowitz, 2016). By doing so, he reinforces the strength and diverse opinions of his individual team members, who are skilled and motivated to succeed, and at the same time help the company move forward (Lebowitz, 2016).

Starbucks’ organizational culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity is a distinguishing characteristic (Ferguson, 2015). Its main features are servant leadership, relationships, collaboration and inclusion (Ferguson, 2015).

Former President Howard Behar, 1995-2003, said that early on, the company was focused on the product and not so much the people (Greenleaf, 2015), but leadership knew that people were the key to having a successful business and long lasting organization (Greenleaf, 2015). “Ultimately, I knew that how you treat your people is how they’ll treat your customers,” Behar said in a 2015 interview (Greenleaf, 2015). That culture was built by encouraging employee input through Open Forums where they were invited to speak their minds and contribute (Greenleaf, 2015).

Leaders throughout the company support their employees and encourage growth, both personally and professionally (Ferguson, 2015). Starbucks’ College Achievement Plan program even offers four years of college coursework to help employees graduate college debt free, with no obligation to stay at the company upon graduation (Foroohar, 2016). The company’s goal is to help 25,000 employees earn college degrees by 2025 (Foroohar, 2016). Tuition is only one of the perks employees enjoy, which also include a Spotify Premium subscription, comprehensive healthcare coverage and stock options for even part-time workers (Foroohar, 2016).

Starbucks’ focus on relationships creates warm interactions between employees and their peers, as well as employees and customers (Ferguson, 2015). Collaboration and communication are key, and openness to ask questions and voice concerns if need be are very much encouraged (Ferguson, 2015). This kind of treatment empowers employees to succeed and strive for the innovation that keeps Starbucks on top (Ferguson, 2015).

Last, but not least, the company’s anti-discrimination policies strongly prohibit discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. (Ferguson, 2015). This is especially important because more than 40 percent of the company’s baristas are minorities (Foroohar, 2016). After the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, for example, the company held open meetings in five different cities to give employees a chance to voice their individual concerns and share their personal experiences (Foroohar, 2016). Uniquely, these efforts focused on the employees as people, rather than simply as parts of a greater whole.

Changing Back to Basics

Even the best companies can become complacent if change and innovation are not at the heart of what they do. Likewise, growth can sometimes be harmful, if not controlled – and that’s what happened at Starbucks sometime after Schultz stepped down as CEO in 2000. By 2007, it had become obvious the company had taken a wrong turn toward prioritizing profit over the product quality and customer experience Starbucks was built upon (Kaplan, 2014). Over-saturation of the market essentially meant that Starbucks was competing against itself (Geereddy, 2013) and a dip in the economy meant that fewer people were spending their money on high end coffee products (Hanna, 2013). As a result, stock prices plummeted (Kaplan, 2014), and action had to be taken. In 2008, Schultz returned and the company began an important transformation (Kaplan, 2014) to get back on the right path. The change, although looking forward, took Starbucks back to its roots with a focus on serving its customers as well as expanding its markets into China and India (Kaplan, 2014). Some of the company’s focus was also invested in the introduction of new products and services (Kaplan, 2014).

Ultimately, the company shut down 800 stores and laid off 4,000 employees, most of whom were top executives (Kaplan, 2014). Schultz then reinvested in his middle managers, by bringing them together for a morale building retreat in New Orleans, Louisiana. The retreat is now considered having been a turning point for Starbucks’ transformation (Hanna, 2013). Schultz also reinvested in the company’s baristas, shutting down stores for half a day to retrain them in making espresso (Kaplan, 2014). Rather than cutting benefits to employees, including temporary ones, Schultz stayed true to Starbucks’ core principles by continuing to offer health insurance (Kaplan, 2014) and other employee benefits. Together, these efforts went a long way toward reinvigorating the Starbucks workforce – the very people who had an opportunity to turn things back around for the company.

Starbucks’ organizational culture grew over time to embody this human focus (Ferguson, 2015). Today, it is a big part of what makes Starbucks distinct and what gives it a competitive advantage over the company’s competitors (Ferguson, 2015).

Keeping Up with Customers

Starbucks’ darkest times came at a point when stores were virtually on every street corner and its struggles weren’t obvious to the general public. To them, the company was losing its “cool,” while in truth, it was losing its competitive edge. Staying competitive ongoing requires Starbucks to earn and keep customers’ loyalty while finding innovative ways to continue thriving financially. That means the company has to manage bureaucratic and operational costs while maintaining the product quality and customer experience that sets the company ahead of its competition, all the while staying true to its organizational culture, and remaining flexible to the pressures of the market and outside world.

Similarities in Other Markets: Facebook Case Study

One of Starbucks’ issues pre-2008 was not managing its extreme growth properly. Although growth, on the surface, appeared to be a good thing, Schultz noted in a 2007 memo that it had cost the “soul” of the company that made it so successful in the first place (Quelch, 2008). Another company which has experienced rapid growth, has similar concerns, and caters to a similar demographic is Facebook. Although the two companies work in different markets, they can learn from one another when it comes to managing growth and change.

Like Starbucks, Facebook reached a turning point within the last decade and was forced to adjust its business strategies to turn a profit (Fiegerman, 2013) when it announced its IPO in 2012. The company restructured a bit to put more focus on its main source of revenue – advertising (MarketLine, 2016) – without compromising its free services, which allow users to connect with one another and publish their thoughts, ideas and other content on the social networking platform (MarketLine, 2016). In 2008, Facebook took a step in the right direction toward improving its business structure by hiring COO Sheryl Sandberg (Biography.com, 2016), whose claim to fame would later be instituting stronger corporate processes to add stability to the organization, which was previously dominated and run by hackers (Keating, 2012).

After the announcement of its IPO, CEO and Co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg pulled a team together to talk strategy moving into its new public status. Not everyone was on board. Just three months after filing the IPO, the company lost its CTO, platforms director, and head of its partnership marketing division (Fiegerman, 2013). Zuckerberg himself even emerged from the transition more polished than he was going in (Fiegerman, 2013).

Although initially, the IPO was widely considered a flop by investors (Safdar, 2013), Facebook’s revenue has steadily increased since. By 2015, mobile ads accounted for 76 percent of the company’s advertising revenue, or $2.9 billion (Fiegerman, 2015). That’s a huge jump from 2012, a year when Facebook brought in almost no revenue from mobile devices (Fiegerman, 2015). As mobile continues to thrive, with expected continued growth in the future, the company continues to follow an upward trajectory.

Facebook’s story is an example of how companies like Starbucks can benefit from monitoring public perception, and remaining flexible enough to offer the right products and customer experiences at the right times. Starbucks already showed its ability to adapt in 2012, when it broke into the health food market with its first Evolution Fresh store in Washington. The move was in response to customers’ increasing interest in pursuing healthier lifestyles (MarketLine, 2016).

Change Strategies

Change strategies to help manage these processes include planning for and managing resistance, education and communication, building trust, and even coercion, if need be (Kotter and Schlesinger, 2008). None of these strategies are one-size fits all solutions, so managers need to consider the change or changes at hand, as well as the likely outcomes of each strategy (Kotter and Schlesinger, 2008).

When Starbucks partners lost their jobs during the company’s 2008 restructuring, Schultz communicated to not only those affected, but also those who remained, through a company-wide email that explained the restructuring process and why it was necessary. Likely, there was some initial resistance from Starbucks partners, both those who lost their jobs and those who were unsure of how the change would affect them.

Other changes, while not necessarily as serious or traumatic as layoffs and store closures, also require unique strategies, customized to the particular situation at hand.

Recyclable Cups & Systems Thinking

Starbucks is currently pursuing a change in one of its products that aligns with the company’s sustainability doctrine and would ultimately reduce the company’s environmental footprint. Paper coffee cups are not easily recycled as some people think, because they are made of cardboard with a thin layer of plastic that helps keep the coffee warm and the cup from getting soggy (Kittasova, 2016). Because of this, “an estimated 60 billion paper cups in the U.S. end up in landfills each year” (Kittasova, 2016). In response, in addition to offering reusable cups for sale in its stores, Starbucks is attempting to change the paper coffee cup game.

In 2009, the company hosted a summit to continue movement toward a recyclable cup solution (Starbucks, 2009). Peter Senge, a Ph.D., senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founding chair of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL), moderated a discussion including representatives from various facets of the paper cup chain, or companies with symbiotic interdependencies (Jones, 2012), with the intention of addressing the issues and forming a plan for moving forward together (Starbucks, 2009). The effort allowed the various companies to feel involved in the process, making it more likely that they will buy into the change rather than resist it (Jick, 1991).

The project’s original deadline was 2012 (Starbucks, 2009). Although Starbucks didn’t meet that deadline, it has since adjusted and readjusted (again in 2015). In 2016, the company signed a “Paper Cup Manifesto,” along with industry peers like McDonald’s and KFC, to continue working toward a better solution (Kittasova, 2016).

Currently, Starbucks is testing a new, fully recyclable kind of coffee cup in the U.K. with British packaging company Frugalpac (Kittasova, 2016). The recyclable cup is built in a way that is similar to the traditional product, except the plastic layer on the cardboard can be more easily removed at the recycling plant so the rest of the cup can move through the recycling process (Kittasova, 2016).

Still, until a mass disposable solution is found, Starbucks is reducing its footprint by encouraging customers to consider reusable options. Customers can currently receive a small discount for using personal tumblers at Starbucks stores (Starbucks, 2009).

“Starbucks’ holistic approach to solving this global issue has the potential to make a significant impact on not only its company operations, but on the entire foodservice industry,” Senge said in a 2009 press release (Starbucks, 2009). In systems thinking, as a market leader and major player, Starbucks’ efforts have greater consequences on the larger system. In other words, the company’s efforts have the ability to cause a ripple of change not only in the company, but also among its peers and competitors (Starbucks, 2009).

Obstacles to Change

Obstacles to change can range depending on the change at hand, and can include structural or technological issues, communication issues, social issues and managerial issues.

Structural issues, such as organizational silos, can get in the way of change. While horizontal differentiation allows for specialization, it can cause a subunit orientation (Jones, 2012), which can detract from employees’ abilities to see the bigger picture. After all, “change succeeds when an entire organization participates in the effort” (Jick, 1991).

Technological barriers can include a company’s infrastructure and abilities, or inabilities, to keep up, as well as the abilities of a company’s workforce. Starbucks’ dedication to keeping on the forefront of technology and to educating its workforce puts the company in a good position to avoid this barrier.

Ineffective communication, or lack of communication, is also a major change barrier. Effective communication is absolutely critical when it comes to uniting an organization behind a shared vision and direction (Jick, 1991). Communication can also help set the tone for employees’ initial reactions to a change, and help them feel involved and take ownership in its outcome (Jick, 1991), an aspect that Starbucks handles well.

Social and managerial issues can arise when an organization is too hierarchical, which Starbucks addressed early on during its rebirth, when many of the laid off employees were executive-level employees rather than front line workers.

Measuring Change

It’s important that change is monitored and measured for success, although that is often a lofty goal (Prosci, n.d.). Many change measurement processes use employees and project effectiveness to gauge change progress (Prosci, n.d.). Leaders can also consider participation and documented communication efforts in the review process (Prosci, n.d.). In both examples of change at Starbucks, and the one at Facebook, progress toward the desired goal marked successes in the companies’ change strategies. Also in both cases, employee feedback at all levels would have been an effective tool.

Recommendations for Moving Forward

Starbucks appears to be on the right track currently and is once again enjoying success in its market, as well as in new ones. However, it is imperative that the company continue monitoring the employee and customer climate regarding satisfaction, tastes, trends and financial status, so that it can be poised and ready to respond when needed. It also needs to be careful to avoid complacency, by planning ahead rather than always reacting to outside stimuli.

To continue avoiding oversaturation, opening boutiques under different brands (Choi, 2013) is a good strategy, but Starbucks should be careful not to stray too far from its core competencies (Jones, 2012) and know when to pull back if certain efforts aren’t producing results.

Lastly, Starbucks would do well to remember the human focus that continues to keep the company ahead of the game. Moving forward, really relying on the customer-employee relations that have brought the company success in the past will continue to give Starbucks a unique competitive edge that others have yet to replicate.

Final Analysis

Starbucks has found great success in utilizing its greatest resource, humans, for both change efforts and general operations. When the company needed to pay more attention to its customer service efforts and overall customer experiences, it’s not surprising Schultz refocused his efforts on middle managers and frontline workers. These employees are often more in tune with each other’s needs and emotions, as well as those of the customer, than top executives (Huy, 2001). In particular, by making an effort to raise morale among middle managers after major layoffs, Schultz got 10,000 store managers (Kaplan, 2014) on his side, ready and willing to use their social networks to communicate and implement the change at a functional level (Huy, 2001). Their impact cannot be understated and should be considered ongoing.


References

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