Interview – A Finance Transformation Expert at DSM

So I’ve decided to continue the series of transformation leaders’ interviews and I’m starting this year with Thierry Zedda, a French engineer, currently working as a Performance and Portfolio Manager at DSM [one of the largest Dutch companies with 10 bill € in revenue, and employing over 20,000 people].  Going from engineering to finance to more transversal roles, leading or involved in complex large scale transformations and with the creation of a knowledge platform [aqboost.com], Thierry has an interesting experience and perspective on finance transformation.

His engineering background grants him a pragmatic approach to transformation and a penchant for technology. But don’t be fooled, Thierry is curious but not crazy for the techno hype we have seen recently entering finance (automation, AI, block chain etc.). And for a finance guy, he has learned to look way beyond the figures and work with the cultural change required to really implement beautifully crafted solutions.

The two key subjects that struck me in our conversation were :

  • His passion for helping the finance profession to question itself and do a real introspection about its roles, about the meaning of new technologies and about its valuable new position in the organisation. 
  • Measuring the effectiveness of mindset transformation with maturity assessment, non-financial KPIs and storytelling.
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Cultural Transformation – Communities Over Tools

During the past few years, whether discussing mentoring programmes or cultural transformation with large corporations, I am faced with a disproportionate belief in “tools”. I think I need to clarify that it is not because as consultants we use tools that we sell tools. A keynote from Frédérique PAIN I organized recently for one of our key customer, confirmed what I’ve been seeing for years: too many French and European companies have a disproportionate belief and trust in « tools » and methodologies. Our common Western culture and history of engineering development and thinking put a strong bias toward reproductible, documented approaches to problems.

But when dealing with people and cultural transformation, tools are far from enough. Continue reading “Cultural Transformation – Communities Over Tools”

M&A: Overcoming the Culture Shift Challenge

Using mentoring to overcome the culture shift challenges of mergers and acquisitions.

When I wrote the “Mentoring by FabMob” white paper, I was already hinting at an example of use of mentoring to facilitate the cultural integration in the case of acquisition of a new entity. I do not wish to go into the well documented difficulties that large companies face when they are merging or acquiring, how people issues come into play, and how the integration of different ways of working, thinking, communicating can put a real spanner in the works. Even though we all know it is a challenge, still very little M&A really work on the cultural aspect, and very little use mentoring as a tool for creating real human connections for a faster blend of cultures. 

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The most common misconception about innovation

As many professionals in my field, I get this question a lot: « What is the most common misconception about innovation? » The short answer is that most of the time, innovation is discussed and operated as a single thing. It’s not. It’s a complex blend of diverse forms of « innovations » that obey different rules, different mindsets and requires different tools.

The long(er) answer is:

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You Can’t Just Decide To Be Customer Driven

I am very much surprised to see many analysts thinking seriously that Facebook facing a colossal data-gate, could turn around and suddenly become customer-driven. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Facebook will be Facebook. But to understand that you have to go past obvious solutionism (they should do this or that) and understand that any successful business was born with a powerful DNA.And you can’t change your DNA.
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Corporate Culture and HR Strategic Role

Too often HR activities are viewed as gentle and somehow lame endeavors that one should tolerate. They are part of the package when you work for a big corporation. That’s very understandable: how often does the HR strategic role comes into play into your company?

A recent podcast about “How to fix your company’s culture” grabbed my attention because it illustrates how rarely big corporations actually work on their culture. Although, I would say the “fixing” entails something is broken and I wouldn’t say that corporate culture could be broken. It might be mismatched with its environment or within itself (vision and values are not aligned with behaviors), or worse, your culture might just have faded away…

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You might need a Company Culture VP

Having an Innovation or Digital VP in is always a good sign that the company doesn’t care enough to invest deeply the subject. Someone eventually ends up in charge because the board passed the hot potatoe to her. But for corporate culture, that might actually be a good idea…

In the past year or so, with so many media scandals about various company culture dysfunctions, many other corporate cultures being dissected, scrutinised and analysed, and the many advice published online, it seems about time to hire Company Culture VPs to ensure the culture is supporting and not hindering your strategy and image. In this short article, I’m presenting the three key missions of the company culture VP.

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Three scenarios of corporate culture change

From birth to old age, the company culture is not embedded in the same way. Hence it is essential to take a differentiated approach to corporate culture change.

The main reason why a corporate culture change fails is the lack of awareness of what the specific culture of the company is. Although it can be observed via the behaviours of employees, leaders are often blind to it until something unexpected and critical for the organisation happens. As it was the case for Uber and United Airlines. But waiting for such a wake-up call might be lethal as the company may not be able to readjust the culture in time and recover from the public blow.

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