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Embracing Change for Future Success

Saint-Gobain and emlyon program to support strategic future growth



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Many companies have change forced on them because of market disruption, technological advances, or corporate takeovers. Others need to embrace change even though business is booming. (The consequence of ‘resting on their laurels’ is exemplified by a sorry trail of recent corporate failures, from Kodak, Nokia, and Compaq to HMV and Blockbuster.)

For flourishing businesses, motivating change to ensure future corporate success can be very difficult. These companies may see the disruptive forces affecting their industry, they may even devote resources to participate in emerging technologies. Their failure is often an inability to bring their people to truly embrace strategic changes as a disrupted business future opens up.

How do you bring about strategic change when business is booming? - This question was at the heart of an innovative executive program initiated by Saint-Gobain and designed and delivered by emlyon business school. 

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Saint-Gobain S.A., founded as a mirror manufacturer, in Paris in 1665, clearly did not become the €39.1 billion turnover, multinational corporation, employing 172,063 people, it is today without undergoing several rounds of major strategic change.

The issue facing the senior management this time was that the company was doing so well they decided the old ways of operating simply would not be able to cope with growing demand.

As a planned shift to their corporate structure in 2014, the company’s finance function was taken out of the various local subsidiaries it had been operating out of and placed in 40 new Finance SSCs (Shared Services Centers) serving all Saint-Gobain subsidiaries.

The SSC Management Training Program, delivered in 6 languages to 250+ participants, was conceived, with emlyon business school, both to build ‘morale’ at this time of dramatic change and to develop change and team management skills. The program anticipated both continued expansion and later requirements, whether these are expected or unexpected.

According to emlyon Project Manager, Thomas Misslin, while the technological and business model aspects of change may be acknowledged the human aspect is most often overlooked, and yet this is where the greatest resistance, incomprehension and fatigue will generally occur. This program which deals directly with the human aspect of change provides a valuable model.

“At Saint-Gobain how adults learn really is close to our heart: in the soft skills area, which this program has been designed to develop, our managers change when they are motivated to, when they have the opportunity to practice safely and then in context; and especially when they see that it makes an impact on their teams’ engagement in a context of great and sometimes stressful change. Also, their commitment to the program has flown from us involving their managerial line (our SSC Head at HQ, the SSC Directors, and all the other managers). The whole system is involved: a key success factor in our view”  Eric Portut, Senior Manager, International L&D, Saint-Gobain.

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