When Kraft Foods embarked on an important program to re-define its corporate purpose, vision and values, they decided not do it in a closed meeting room in Chicago but instead open up the process and co-create their future with both consumers and employees. Promise was chosen as a key partner in this process as work on ‘Project Pathway’ began. The result? A co-created and signed off purpose, vision and values in under six months across a global and diverse organization.
Co-creation has become something of a buzz-word recently. But the Promise team has been working in this space for more than a decade, developing approaches and techniques that deliver tangible results. Working with teams face-to-face and online, we create an environment where people feel safe to express what they really think and where they can work creatively to develop and filter new ideas. Both these are essential to success: without openness, we cannot expect people to engage and get ready for change. Without their active support and creativity, we can’t get the best results. This applies equally to customers and to staff.
• Early in 2008, Kraft Foods had undergone significant change in the prior two years: a new CEO, a new strategy and spin off after 20 years under Altria control – plus a major acquisition with the LU biscuits business. It was all part of a wholesale transformation which the Kraft Foods team referred to as ‘creating the new Kraft Foods.’ • But what was the new Kraft Foods all about? What did it stand for? What did it value? How would it behave? These were the questions employees – and investors – wanted answers to. • So a team of senior executives, led by Irene Rosenfeld, embarked on a program to define the new Kraft Foods: its higher purpose, its vision and its values. The question was how to do this in a way that was both highly effective, and at the same time in a way that would be a symbol of the new company. The team had seen too many similar initiatives fail because of a disconnect between the aspirations of senior managers and the reality of life for employees at the coalface.
Rather than decide the new vision in a Chicago meeting room, Kraft Foods chose to open up the process and co-create their future with both consumers and employees. Promise was chosen as a key partner in this process as work on ‘Project Pathway’ began. There were two key elements to the Pathway program, BigTalk live and BigTalk online. These were linked and extended by a whole series of other initiatives, activities and processes. BigTalk Live Although the insights teams in big companies spend lots of time thinking about consumers and talking to them, all too often this activity is product focused – or the information gets stuck in marketing. So we started with a program to bring together a cross-section of Kraft’s managers, staff and customers to explore the ‘biggest idea that Kraft could own’. To do this we held 3 major events called BigTalk – in Chicago, Paris and Shanghai. In BigTalk live, we built relationships and a positive, honest and creative forum to help answer big questions collaboratively. The sessions were focused on people’s relationship with food, with Kraft products and with the Kraft corporate brand. The results confirmed that customers felt out of touch with the company and where it was going. But more importantly, they demonstrated that consumers have high hopes for big food companies in general, and for Kraft in particular. They helped show exactly what consumers are looking for and how this needs to be delivered. As well as developing specific territories for the purpose, vision and values, this work gave Kraft permission to be ambitious, and take on a big idea. BigTalk was made into a film so we could share the results more widely to build confidence and engagement. Big Talk Online BigTalk online is based on social networking principles. Using proprietary technology developed by us, it is accessed via the internet to enable thousands of employees to get together over an extended period to debate, develop and decide ideas. It’s open to invited users only, and they can join in debates, online focus groups and polls, and they view and share ideas, images, film and much more. In BigTalk online, we brought together thousands of employees from all over the world, across all pay and seniority levels. Not only did it lead to a rich pool of ideas, it created a very large number of advocates for the results of the work, leading to faster take up of ideas later. Participants were invited to join and spent four months working together on six key stages in the journey to new purpose, vision and values. These were: set up, warm up, ideation, filtration, refinement and implementation. This group got to know each other (many for the first time) and worked together to share their experiences and ideas, and explore what would work in their markets. They generated and discussed hundreds of ideas in a series of conversations moderated by the Promise with input from the Kraft team at the centre. Active moderation, coupled with lots of encouragement and feedback to users, ensured high participation levels: almost 50% of those invited actively contributed, which compares very favorably with more traditional approaches such as staff surveys – or indeed social networking sites such as Wikipedia or You Tube where participation levels rarely exceed 1%. Through BigTalk online, we narrowed down possible territories to a specific solution, and developed an implementation plan to bring it to life internally. Kraft’s Purpose and Vision BigTalk live revealed that customers want ‘more of Kraft’. From Chicago to China, they want to get to know the brand better, and increase the contribution it can make in their busy and changing lives. They see the brand as a source of quality, convenience and pleasure. BigTalk online exposed a high level of energy and ambition across the company, together with the commitment and confidence to respond to consumer demands. ‘Make today delicious’ is the customer facing expression of Kraft Food’s purpose and vision. Kraft’s Values The ideas are powerful, they resonate across all markets and cultures, the language is clear and straightforward, and – most importantly – there’s not too much to remember. In short, Kraft’s values are a powerful product of the co-creative process. They are: • We inspire trust. • We act like owners. • We keep it simple. • We are open and inclusive • We tell it like it is. • We lead from the head and the heart. • We discuss. We decide. We deliver.
Challenge: Truly engaging 10,000 globally distributed staff across several territories. Solution: We brought staff together on a universal online platform that facilitated asynchronous but connected conversations while allowing meaningful and deep engagement across staff. We also supplemented this with live workshops across several territories. Challenge: Aligning a diverse set of people to a single mission and ensuring a powerful vision was delivered that resonated with everyone. Solution: We engaged staff across all grades as early as possible in a collaborative and transparent way to create ownership of the cause and outcomes from within. Our approach resulted in thousands of ambassadors with a vested interest in seeing it succeed.
The benefits of our approach were: Speed: we delivered a powerful solution in under six months. Buy-in: our process was highly transparent and people were invited to participate. This elicited a very different response to when ‘experts’ at the centre develop a solution and try to ‘sell’ it into the company. Relevant metric: “I understand what is expected of me to make Kraft successful” Staff agreeing = 80% (Pulse Survey, July 2008) Global relevance: because the possibilities were discussed around the world before the final selection was made, we knew we had something that would resonate strongly. Relevant metric: Project Pathway directly involved 10,000 employees across Kraft as well as customers in the USA, Europe and Asia. Perry Yeatman, SVP Corporate Affairs, Kraft Foods: “This project is a landmark, involving the collaboration of thousands of employees to co-create the future of an organization. Using co-creation was one of the single most important decisions we made. It was key to developing a higher purpose that was resonant and compelling to employees around the world.” Faster uptake: before we even launched the new corporate purpose, we had thousands of ambassadors with a vested interest in promoting and realizing it. Relevant metric: Eight months after launch, an independent staff survey showed that 94% staff believed the work was worthwhile, 83% believed in what the company is setting out to accomplish, and 86% knew what they are expected to do to make Kraft successful. Diane Tielbur, Senior Director, Consumer Insight & Strategy, Kraft Foods: “We got 1,000 emails of support on the day we launched. We’ve never seen that level of spontaneous support before”. Greater impact at launch/roll out: once we had the ‘solution’ we were able to use our community of employees to determine how best to use it. This proved invaluable in helping people prioritize what to do and how best to do it. Relevant metric: “We’ll make the correct business calls based on long term needs and goals” (Employee, Pulse Survey, July 2008). In terms of the actionable outcomes, these can be divided into internal facing actions, consumer facing actions, and CSR / Corporate facing actions. Internal facing actions: The project gave clarity to the global team in terms of what the corporate brand stands for, and it set ambitions and boundaries for future development across all functions. For example, Kraft is about food enjoyment, not health (although this isn't to say health isn't important! It's just not the primary driver). Consumer facing actions: The project provided the impetus to develop the corporate brand further in the consumer space - with clearer and more consistent endorsement of products, communications, etc. This is to make Kraft better known and understood, appreciated and valued more. CSP / Corporate facing actions: The project set the framework for a whole range of activities and communications, including CSR. It helped to set priorities and provide guidance to resolve conflicts and dilemmas.
Every program is different. But there are some principles that we used to help to ensure success: • Ensure the process is transparent so that everyone joins in on an equal footing • Encourage senior managers to participate. This will show the rest of the organization that it is important • Create a safe environment where people can say what they really feel without fear of criticism or reprisal • Show your people that you are really listening. This is the best way of motivating them to join in • Your people don’t expect you to agree with everything they say or suggest – but they do want to know that you are listening • Speak to everyone: many people observe the process without joining in. They may still go on to make an active contribution later • Involve customers: they will often be more ambitious for a brand than the people inside the company Remember there are more brains outside the boardroom than inside it!
Perry Yeatman (SVP Corporate Affairs, Kraft Foods) Clare Fuller (Founding Director, Promise)
Pulse Survey, July 2008 (across all geographies, salary grades and internal functions)
This sounds like a massive undertaking, given the numbers you've cited. I'm curious about a couple of things: what percentage of the pool of people you reached out to (10,000 employees + customers) became active participants? Also, I'm curious about the types of interactions that came up between customers and employees. It's rare that employees get to speak with staff without an intermediary (usually marketing). Wonder if there are any interesting examples about what came from that.
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Ms. Peters' description of this project is very good. It provides excellent insights.
The description would have been even more insightful had there been more detail provided about the "six key stages:" set up, warm up, ideation, filtration, refinement and implementation. As an example, if the "warm up" stage's objective was to build relationships between the participants that would then be the foundation for the "ideation" stage, alot of projects might benefit from such a 'warm up" stage.
All too often, projects that involve collaboration and/or ideation go straight from "set up" to the actual collaboration without providing an opportunity for relationships to be built via a "warm up" stage. Unfortunately, the lack of a relationship foundation can then impact collaboration in terms of communication and trust issues which in turn can impact the goals of the project.
Therefore, more detail about how Promise guided Kraft and its stakeholders through the "six key stages" would have helped make this read more impactful.
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