Ahead of next February's Chief Strategy Officer summit in Melbourne, we spoke to Nicolas Georges, R&D Director, Mondelez International. He's responsible for the company's portfolio across Australia and New Zealand, as well as helping drive product development.
How do you design strategies which have the capacity to adapt in the face of a changing market?
Firstly, they need to enable a clear, differentiated vision that can be understood and played back by consumers & employees.
Secondly, they need to provide you with a set of tools you can dial up or down depending on the environment and your success, and you need to be crystal on the assumptions you are making.
Thirdly, they need to have clear deliverables with plans underneath that add up to them, so not deliverables as “aspirations”, deliverables as in sum of the plans and their contingencies, including milestones along the way.
Fourth, they need to be resourced and tracked so you can course correct if you start missing milestones.
Fifth, they need to be flexible enough to let people in the business adapt whilst staying the course.
Finally, you do need a regular reality check not on the numbers but on whether they are truly working for their intent, whether the results are good or not so you can work out on what assumptions are proving wrong and need adjustment, or whether it is a resource or prioritisation problem. Lastly and above all, you need to stick with your vision and strategies for more than a few months to give a chance to your organisation to make it happen!
What impact has technology had on company strategies?
Technology has accelerated and form my point of view has introduced many two new dimensions.
The first is speed at which things get obsolete, including points of difference. In my opinion, it means you need to become more than ever a clever fast adopter and be prepared to waste some of it because the traditional cautious approach means you will always be a step behind someone and you may also miss the next evolution boat. Investing solely behind the technologies you can see an immediate return is a very dangerous path to take these days. Look at small item manufacturing in the world of 3D printing.
The second is that competition can now come from anywhere as technology change the channels to consumers and bring new competition models every day including from other industries you may not have considered as such. Just look at Tesla compared to any car manufacturer. A software and battery supplier? So you need to continuously invest in your brands to maintain their health as they may well be the only line of defense left to you whilst you have to adapt.
What is the link between culture and strategy?
The vision of a company captures the hearts and souls of employees, this is why they work for a company. The strategy captures their heads and once truly understood give them the everyday compass that make them effective and efficient. The combination of the two interlaced into exhibited values by the leadership equals the culture of a company.
Should all companies act like startups? Is it even possible?
No it is not, and it is dangerous. A company should focus a lot of its resources on its core business and know what it is good at and build its strength. However, a company should spend a portion of its resources as a startup and be prepared to loose it all. It should get inspired from it and either reinforce its culture through it or evolve as it comes.
What skills does the ideal leader possess?
Every one has an opinion on this that probably is more a reflection of themselves. A leader that can identify and get the best possible potential out of his people is probably what I would identity the most with.