Unilever Brazil has an incredible legacy, built over eighty years. However, in 2004-05, after decades of strong growth, revenues slowed and the business was in need of renewal.
Kees Kruythoff, the newly appointed Chairman, along with the Unilever Brazil Board, launched a transformational effort to reignite growth. They recognised a need to not only address strategic challenges and manage operations, but to address the organisational culture as well. They started to dream about what “greater than great” would look like. They asked themselves, “What would the legacy be for leading the business forward?” Accelerating growth was important, of course, but they also wanted to know how to bring “the heart” into the dream. They had five big thoughts:
Rob Mallick, CTT Consultant, was brought in to guide Unilever Brazil in their cultural transformation. The initial Cultural Values Assessment indicated that the culture was in very poor shape and would not support or enable emergent ambitions.
The way to tap into the potential of the organisation was through personal sharing, listening, and open dialogue. Rob Mallick shares more:
“Margaret Wheatley [writer and management consultant, specialising in organisational behaviour] talks about fields. I can’t touch it but I know what it is. What we’re doing is creating a field through making things truly personal. At the heart, we’re encouraging personal meaning. We’re reframing safety from something that people need to the idea that being vulnerable is something that people need. This is where growth happens. One of my favourite quotes, I’m not sure who it’s attributed to, is ‘To make meaning is human. To choose the meaning we make is to be leaders.”
“Merging Rivers” – managing culture and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Facilitate cultural transformation
Leaders consciously create culture
As the transformation advanced, the benefits were becoming evident:
Unilever Brazil is in the middle of a profound transformation. Reducing entropy for one’s self is tough enough. Facilitating the reduction of entropy for thousands of people is a big task! And like all transformations, it is a day-by-day proposition. As the junior managers in one department like to say, their job is to “catch entropy by the tail” — Well said!
3 Billion Euro