Power and purpose in the produce industry

07/27/2012 08:59:00 AM
Julie Krivanek

Julie Krivanek, Krivanek ConsultingJulie Krivanek, Krivanek ConsultingThe produce industry is one of the few points of light in the global economy.

Our products are antidotes to disease, improve the quality of life and restore people’s health.

Despite lofty ideals, there have been times this year when the industry news has read more like a page from the tabloids: abrupt Chapter 11 filings, messy merger discussions, ill-fated executives and business partners at war.

While we do succeed more often than not, current events present an opportunity to look beneath the surface at something rarely discussed in business: how the forces of ego, power and control can often act to the detriment of individual leaders, organizations and the industry.

The most effective businesses minimize “me-driven” behaviors with “we-driven” practices and systems.

These structures help people find true North when balancing the tensions created by speed, complexity, personal desire and divergent views:

 

  • Build a board of directors.

 

According to Korn/Ferry research, several forces are redefining roles at the top:

1. Increased merger-and-acquisition activity, including complicated due diligence.

2. Greater involvement from outside investors who grow impatient with under-performing companies.

3. Accelerated pace, reach and uncertainty of competition.

4. Higher turnover of chief executive officers and the need to be more proactive in succession planning.

Very few produce businesses will be unaffected by these trends.

Even the most determined and skilled CEO can no longer handle all the moving parts alone, even when supported by a crackerjack senior team.

A board of directors is essential, even for small private companies. A good one holds the CEO accountable, balances the tremendous power inherent in the job, broadens business perspectives, acts as truth serum and helps to shape the future.

 

  • Be transparent and inclusive.

 

Unless someone is expected to yell “We have a Pope!” from a balcony in Rome, a conclave has no place in a contemporary produce industry.

Extreme secrecy damages trust and sets up underground networks to ferret out the truth.

Why does it continue? Because to do otherwise is risky, messy and may mean the possibility of not getting what we want.

 

  • Look outside the industry for inspiration.

 

You’ll find smart companies that are using unconventional methods to tap into people’s minds, hearts and imaginations to co-create products, experiences and solutions to problems.


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