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First session took place in July on the topic of ‘New ways of working – what has actually changed?’

On 13 July the GPCA Leaders Dialogue, a members-only initiative, hosted its first session as part of the series ‘Making sense of the change that is upon us’ in partnership with management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company.

The session addressed the topic ‘New ways of working – what has actually changed?’ attracting 14 senior industry leaders at GPCA member companies in an intimate, closed-door setting.

Participants enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the intricacies of organizational performance and the “Operating Model” from leading industry experts Richard Verity, Partner at McKinsey’s Riyadh Office, and Mathew Jacob, Head of Organization Development at Novartis.

One of the learnings at the session revolved around the fact that the “Operating Model” is far more than lines and boxes. McKinsey’s research has identified nine imperatives that help answer the questions “who we are?”, “how we operate?” and “how we grow?”. The nine imperatives can be addressed individually.

However, leaders should remain aware that they are interlinked and contribute to a dynamic whole. This was one of the takeaways shared by Richard Verity during the session which was aimed at stimulating a discussion among the CEOs and senior executives at the virtual session.

One of the participants, Usman A. Ghani, Chairman, ConfluCore, suggested including “identity” as the source of purpose. “Identity generates the dynamics of energy and purpose and stays constant; purpose adapts with times and supplements all else,” he commented.

“For modelling growth and performance, CEOs would consider business dynamics as it gets closer to reality and is more practicable,” he added.

Bold actions are required to achieve Organizational Health, according to Verity. Companies that have acted boldly across a set of these imperatives have – surely not coincidentally – seen Organizational Health and better financial results.

A subset of excellent companies assessed in 2020 were paying particular attention to “Purpose” (in “who we are?”), “Talent” (in “how we operate”) and “Ecosystem” (in “how we grow?”). For many, these were thought-provoking findings.

Mathew Jacob, from Novartis, argued for the primacy of strategy in driving the other elements of the operating model and described what happened when a commodity strategy is misaligned with a specialty operating model.

Commending Jacob’s insight, knowledge and experience, Ghani invited industry leaders to consider evaluating changes – typical ones that organizations pursue – into the ROI impact to decide which ones create value and which ones do not lead to undue benchmarking.”

“With history, we can easily identify value destroying changes and what led to these, why, and how to avoid the fad traps,” he added.

Another participant, Luciano Poli, President of Dow Middle East, Africa and Turkey also emphasized flexibility as an important way to move forward.

Dr. Abdulrahman Jawahery, President, GPIC, suggested that firstly, leadership (development) is an important endeavor. If we as CEOs are ensuring that we are also developing leadership skills, we will have the capability of developing resilient companies. Resilience cannot emerge without sound leadership.

Secondly, benchmarking helps in determining the standing of a process or company. Dr. Jawahery mentioned how his company is relentlessly benchmarking to ensure its performance along various indicators.

The group also discussed the importance of linking a company’s “Purpose” statement to an origin story, to social impact and to individual aspirations. At least two people defended the classic “lines and boxes” hierarchical organization. These structures are helpful in creating control, standardization and learning.

It should be remembered that agile teams can only be successful if they too have rigid structures (mandates, roles, measures, scrum rituals, etc.). Perhaps, there is a way to combine the advantages of both approaches, Verity concluded.

Ghani commented: “All structures have their own specific purposes. Boxes and lines make their impact on clarifying individual roles, setting functional standards, fostering experiential learning, assessing results, deciding promotions, agreeing on specializations, capturing knowledge, and more. Some of these can also be achieved (to a lesser degree though) by other postulates, but hierarchy is good at it. Our issue is that when B&L is taken to the extreme and creates walls; just as the other five structural postulates also lack in other ways when taken to their (fashionable) extremes.”

He continued: “As CEOs, we should know the strengths and challenges of all six structural postulates to apply the right one at the right time and place. Eschewing one or more postulates by shifting far into another would not make us vigilant or better positioned to pursue structuring, singularly or hybridizing. Our challenges of complexity and dynamics are not addressed by one only.”

There was also support for the idea of “Talent” management being a critical part of the operating model – and not just at the top level but at all levels.

Benchmarking was cited as a simple but effective way of ensuring organizations look outwards and generate learning for themselves.

The GPCA Leaders Dialogue is a series of sessions designed to build insight and understanding on ‘How to make sense of the change that is upon us’ with a focus on tangible recommendations and next steps that leaders and CEOs can bring to their business.

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