I spent some quality time at Campbell Soup Company's headquarters in Camden yesterday. I was there for a Network of Executive Women networking event (yes, the organization has male members as well) focusing on the very timely subject of "Leading in an Ever Changing Environment". The speaker panel included Dan Sanders, President of ACME Markets, Irene Chang Britt, SVP/Chief Strategy Officer of Campbell's, and Ed Herr, President of Herr Foods.
A few key concepts came out throughout the discussion. The first is that the people, and their relationships, are the most important ingredient for success. The other one, and the inspiration for this post, is that even with the right people, the only way to achieve true, long-term success, especially in the face of constant change, is to clearly, consistently and constantly communicate the mission and vision of the company all the way down to the ground floor.
Organizations can only grow if the ability to act and make decisions is distributed. There simply is no way that every business decision can be made by a member of upper management. On the flip side, without a clear compass to guide those decisions, an organization will tear itself apart. But if every person in the company knows the clear purpose of the company by heart, they will be prepared to make good decisions in a timely, efficient way.
I didn't have to look very far to see this philosophy in action. I happened to be sitting next to a Customer Marketing Manager from Campbell's. She had a legal pad with her (you know, the kind we all go through like... well, like Ed Herr's potato chips!). There, printed right at the top of every page alongside the Campbell's logo, was Campbell's mission statement. It's brilliant. It's genius in both its simplicity and its effectiveness. After seeing this statement at the top of every notepad, during every meeting or working session, how could someone NOT know it by heart?
Best of all, this is something that is completely replicable. I have absolutely no idea whether Campbell's was the first to do this, and it doesn't matter at all. You can bring this to your company. You can extend this to other elements that your team members see on a daily basis. Screensavers? Yup. Desktop backgrounds? Yup. Intranet login screens? Yup a third time. The point is that there are incredibly efficient ways to reinforce this key message within the organization, and the ROI will be huge.
(I'd like to give a special thanks to Dan, Ed, Irene and moderator Neeti Dewan for sharing this great leadership advice with tonight's audience.)