Managing Complexity : Danone Tries to Spread its Values through a Business Game

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“Managing Complexity” or “Managing in complexity” is a very common word at this time. This only means people have to take into account more and more changing factors before making a decision. It may seem obvious but it’s still useful to remind some people of that as we can see too many managers acting as if everything was still binary, predictable.

Complexity also depends on the company, its values. There is what is strictly necessary (figures, reporting) what is often considered as accessory (context, non structured information) and the icing on the cake : values which respect is adding and added complexity. Let’s also add the necessity of taking into account elements from outside the company. I’ll soon make a post about that but I’m often appaled when I see that so many people don’t pay any attention to what’s happening outside the organization’s walls : no intelligence, no weak signals detection, no benchmark. They live looking at each other and become victiom of the NIH and MCID syndroms (Not Invented Here and My Company Is Different), which is an organizational form of consanguinity.

In short, some companies are culturally more likely to take “others” into account when it comes to make decisions. By “the others” I mean employees but also all the ecosystem, the social reality the enterprise lives in.

This introduces two projects from Danone I’d like to talk you about : Danone Way Ahead and Trust by Danone

Ce qui m’amène à vous parler de deux initiatives mises en œuvre chez Danone : le programme Danone Way Ahead et Trust by Danone.

Danone’s initiatives

To make it short, Danone Way Ahead is a program aiming at developping social innovation. It allows employees to identify and developp main lines of progress. 800 projects have been initiated in the last 5 years.

In order to that that it’s essential to sensibilize newcomers to the importance of notions like Social and Environmental Responsability, so they’ll be more likely to take them into account in their daily job. More, in order to avoid profiles that are not concerned, it’s better making it a recruitment criteria and make people know it : it the objectve Trust by Danone aims at. It’s a business game for students team which will play the role of a managing team and will be assessed on their ability to tke into account social and environmental questions in their decisions. At the end of the game, teams will get not only their business results but also their “Trust” Index. This index allow them to know the relevance of their decisions according to social responsability.

A global context : companies are not a walled ecosystem

I really find this interesting but, according to me, it’s only a part of a global question : companies have to capture external information and reuse it internally. Of course, social responsability is concerned, but it’s only a part of of global culture of listing, monitoring, benchmarking, which relies on two pillars :

– Capture external informations in order to understand expectations (in terms of products but also in terms of corporate behavior) and look at what the others do.

– organize the reuse of these informations in the decision making process. This implies that information is available for everybody (process, tools) but also that culture makes it possible (Not Invented Here).

You said “Digital Natives”

Will Digital Natives impact all that ? We can think so, because they’re naturally open and connected, they know hot to live in informational symbiosis with their ecosystem. But companies will have to build the cultural and technical framework that will help them realize their full potential. But they’ll also have to learn from their predecessors who know how to use information to support business.

In brief, an interesting topic for two reasons : organization’s membrane are becoming more and more porous and they also need to look outside in order to improve the way they work.

No contradiction here, for once : both are complementary.

Perharps I’ll be able to tell you more in a few day as I’ll be a part of a panel with Danone HR people and some experts before the “Trust” finals, next thursday.