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可口可乐的领导力秘方:让明星高管离岗6周

Rick Wartzman 2015年05月21日

很少有公司愿意让高层管理人员离岗一个半月。但在可口可乐的领导力学院,有潜力的管理新星会被派往世界各地学习,用整整6周时间来让领导力取得质的飞跃。

    本周,20多位可口可乐公司高管重新回到他们阔别6周的办公室。

    从4月初开始,这些很有前途的高级管理人员就一直在忙着跟总部的最高管理层打交道,乘坐可乐配送货车走遍佛罗里达,并考察该公司在美国、墨西哥和印度尼西亚等地的内部运营情况,还拜访了诸多客户。

    这种环球游历是可口可乐公司2013年启动的领导力发展项目的一部分。该项目名为唐纳德•R•基奥系统领导力学院,以纪念这位在2月份去世的可口可乐公司前总裁。其宗旨是帮助参与者从头到尾全面了解这家公司。

    可口可乐希望参与该项目的高管们能够获得CEO穆泰康所说的“头脑的知识和心灵的知识”,就是应对迅速变化的业务环境的具体原则与做法,以及对公司文化、价值和品牌的深厚情感。(披露:笔者曾在德鲁克研究院为今年的团队授课两天,讲述如何管理创新。)

    几乎人人都清楚可口可乐面临的挑战。虽然它是全世界最受尊敬的公司之一,但随着消费者健康意识的提高,人们开始减少饮用该公司的拳头产品:汽水。为了应对这种状况,穆泰康开始着手提高生产率,并削减成本。

    主管该项目的可口可乐全球能力总监迪莉娅•科克伦表示,摆在未来高管面前的问题是,“在令人难以置信的动态环境中”,如何茁壮成长,并帮助团队取得成功。

    可口可乐并不是唯一一家开展此类工作的公司。德勤博森和智睿咨询的人才顾问表示,他们发现大公司对于培养高级管理人才的兴趣日益浓厚——但据博森统计,这方面依旧有较大的发展空间,目前仅有7%的培训费用被用于该领域。

    博森副总裁达尼•约翰逊表示:“商界正在以一种新的速度发展变化。两年前有效的战略,在两年后可能失效。各大公司必须更迅速地做出决策,并确保其领导者具备有效决策的能力与信心。”

    可口可乐的项目在许多方面都非常引人注目。首先,很少有公司愿意让高级管理人员离岗一个半月时间。但可口可乐甚至不鼓励参加基奥学院的高管给办公室发邮件和打电话。

    金宝汤公司前任CEO道格•科南特表示:“我听说过许多领导力项目,但没有一个项目会要求高管如此沉浸其中。”道格•科南特现任西北大学凯洛格行政领导力学院主席,并兼任雅芳公司董事长。

    这种全身心投入的做法有三重好处。首先,项目参与者可以只关注一件事:学习。其次,这种状况将迫使留守的团队站出来,承担新的责任,进而使领导者深入了解其团队的优缺点。

    该公司研发实验室高级主任普拉珊提•杰拉参加了今年的基奥学院,她表示:“这不仅是对我们个人的拓展,对整个团队也是一次锻炼。”她有21名下属。

    第三,与同事一起旅行数周,将在彼此之间建立起持久的关系。在笔者负责的创新课程期间,参加基奥学院的可口可乐高管与灌装网络的同事,讨论了在未来几个月后的项目中如何合作。

    基奥学院与其他领导力项目的另外一个区别在于,参与者很大程度上是在摸索中学习。他们没有提前发放的日程安排,只有抵达一个地方之后,他们才会知道要去做什么。科南特解释说:“这是故意设计的做法,目的是让他们处在一种不舒服的状况之中。”这种方式还可以培养他们在日常工作中必须具备的应变思维。

    On Monday, two-dozen Coca-Cola executives will become reacquainted with something they haven’t seen for the past six weeks: their desks.

    Since early April, this coterie of up-and-coming senior managers has been busy mixing with members of the C-suite at corporate headquarters in Atlanta, riding along on a Coke delivery truck in Florida, and visiting a wide range of internal operations and customer sites across the United States, Mexico, and Indonesia.

    The globetrotting is integral to a leadership development program that Coca-Cola launched in 2013. Called the Donald R. Keough System Leadership Academy—in honor of the former president of Coca-Cola, who died in February—it aims to expose participants to the entire business, end to end.

    Along the way, the participating executives are expected to take in what Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent has described as a combination of “head knowledge and heart knowledge”—specific principles and practices to navigate a rapidly changing business landscape, as well as a deepened passion for the beverage maker’s culture, values, and brand. (Disclosure: I spent two days teaching this year’s group about managing innovation as part of my work at the Drucker Institute.)

    Coca-Cola’s challenges are well known. While the company is among the world’s most admired, consumers are drinking less of its biggest product—soda—as they become more health-conscious. In turn, Kent has embarked on a campaign to boost productivity and cut costs.

    For Coca-Cola’s emerging leaders, the question is how to thrive and help their teams succeed “in the incredibly dynamic environment in which they operate,” says Delia Cochran, the company’s global director of capability, who oversees the Keough program.

    Coca-Cola is hardly the only company working on this. Talent consultants at Bersin by Deloitte and Development Dimensions International say they see rising interest among major corporations in fostering executive development—though there’s still plenty of room for more, with just seven cents of every training dollar spent in this area, according to Bersin.

    “There’s a new speed in business,” says Dani Johnson, a Bersin vice president. “A strategy that worked two years ago isn’t going to work two years from now. Decisions have to be made more quickly—and companies want to make sure that their leaders have the ability and confidence to make those decisions effectively.”

    The Coca-Cola program stands out in several ways. To start, few companies are willing to take top managers offline for a month-and-a -half. For those in the Keough Academy, emails and phone calls to their offices are highly discouraged.

    “I’ve heard of a lot of leadership programs—but never an immersion like this at senior levels,” says Doug Conant, the former CEO of Campbell Soup, who now serves as chairman of the Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute at Northwestern University and chairman of Avon Products.

    The benefits of Coke’s all-in approach are threefold. First, it allows those in the program to focus on just one thing: learning. Second, it forces the troops at home to step up and assume new duties, giving the leaders valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their units.

    “It’s not just a stretch for us; it’s a stretch for our teams,” says Prashanthi Jella, a senior director in the company’s R&D lab, who is attending this year’s Keough Academy. She has 21 people reporting to her.

    And third, traveling with your peers for weeks on end creates lasting bonds. During the session that I led on innovation, several of the Coca-Cola executives and their bottling-network colleagues, who also take part in the Keough Academy, discussed how they could collaborate on projects in the months ahead.

    The Keough Academy is also distinct from other leadership programs in that its participants largely fly blind. They receive no advance agenda, and don’t know much about what they’re going to be doing in a particular location until they get on the ground. “That’s by design,” Cochran explains. “It takes them to a place of discomfort”—and, in that respect, nurtures the fast-on-your-feet thinking that’s required in their day jobs.

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