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Turning decline into success

through a Challenger culture

What would you do if your business was in decline?

Would you continue to do as youve always done? Or

The CEO of the parent company thought
would you look to challenge the status quo? Doing that there might be some benefit in
something previously unheard of in your market place exploring a joint venture in order to get
in an effort to turnaround your failing business?
the most out of the declining businesses.
Any astute leader would of course opt for the latter; By pulling resources and collaborating
though sadly this common-sense decision is often on some of the projects that were in
not the reality. Instead, and particularly so in large the pipeline, it was agreed that the new
corporations, the business chooses to remaining
firmly rooted in its industrial ways. Sticking to business could be successful if it was
process, systems and transactions; repackaging old given the opportunity. It would have
interventions as new which, again, fail to make any real focus, rather than competition said the
difference to business performance.
Vice President of the new brand.
For the vast majority, change is an uncomfortable
experience. And so rather than stand up and do things To drive this success, the new business recognised
differently, its often easier to avoid the situation, it needed to become a completely different type
sticking within our comfort zones and carrying on of organisation. Fundamentally, it had to become
as we have always done. Though how long is this connected; with high levels of staff engagement who
sustainable? were resolutely committed to the purpose of the
The answer, of course, is not as long as we believe.
Despite coming from larger pharmaceutical
To survive long-term, businesses must do something organisations, we were a new brand in a highly
different. They must challenge the market as they competitive marketplace. And so, to compete, we
know it. Which is exactly what one international needed to take on the larger, established brands and
pharmaceutical company did when they faced disrupt the market they operated within. At the time,
continued decline within a competitive market. our commercial team were looking at how we could
become a challenger brand and recognised that to
achieve this we needed to change the culture of the
/ Collaborate or compete organisation which meant developing a new culture
to support our growth agenda. We needed a challenger
Rather than bury their heads in the sand, this global spirit.
organisation chose to collaborate with its nearest
competitors, who were also experiencing a downturn,
and create a new organisation that would open up
additional sources of revenue.

/ The Challenger Spirit / Challenger interventions
A Challenger brand, however, is one that keeps a foot When businesses and its leaders are challenged, often
inside the current way of working and a foot outside. It it creates a wake up within the organisation which
uses innovation and creativity to make enhancements ripples out and gathers energy, as people start to relate
to the status quo. Typically, they are neither completely differently to each other around work issues.
disconnected from the status quo but also not
swallowed up entirely by established ways of working. This increased awareness spurs a personal learning
journey, where habitual patterns of avoidance of
conflict, avoidance of challenge or avoidance of taking
The Challenger Spirit was very much the empowered action are explored and challenged.
sort of culture that I wanted to inject into All of these things were introduced through workshops
the business. I wanted us to be ambitious held right across the organisation. We decided that
even when we were successful. I wanted we didnt want everything to be done up front and
then have to do a marketing job on the rest of the
our people to challenge the status quo organisation. We wanted to carry this work out on a
without fear of repercussions. And I deeper level working with in-tact teams, starting with
wanted to make sure that as a team we the Executive level.

could cope with being in the success Following this exploration, the pace of change typically
limelight and not become lazy with intensifies as the Challenger Spirit gathers momentum
success. and conversation is turned into action and action
becomes success for the business. Though this can
bring its own challenges:
One of the most powerful elements in a Challenger
Spirit is purposeful instability; deliberately cultivating
a degree of challenge and change which puts the We went from a declining business
organisation and its individuals into a growth zone, to growing very rapidly and becoming
somewhere between chaos and the status quo. It is very successful within a short space
the reaction, and relationship, to this instability which
defines a successful challenger from one who is of time. With this, we gained a huge
unlikely to progress. responsibility for delivery of that success
and so received far greater attention from
The whole concept of a Challenger has been a big
thing for the team here. They are high achievers who our stakeholders as a result. Our people
beat themselves up if it goes wrong. Therefore, weve were working every hour to maintain this
had to really push them; push them to fail and then
learn from it. Its been uncomfortable and did get very
speed. And so we needed to talk to them
intense because they are so passionate about what we about wellbeing and resilience, making
do and really care about doing things properly. sure they could be fully engaged and not
Yet it worked because Relume were there with burn out. It was important that we pushed
kindness, compassion and heart. So even when our people to look at and deal with things a
people were being really challenged and having to hold
very difficult conversations, they were supported. And
little differently otherwise it could all come
that support was really appreciated. crashing down.

One of the major elements for success, especially
when moving people into a completely alien space, is
safety. People need to feel safe to experiment, play
and try things out. While this environment is created
at the point of time the facilitation is taking place, its
important that once the coaches have left the business
this security, openness and new culture remains.

We want to hold onto this new culture and way

of working and so we have appointed Challenger
Champions all around the world. They are in different
functions, at different levels and are there to keep our
culture alive, to keep challenging us and to define how
we want to evolve.

For this business, while financially the results

have been significant moving from a single digit
profit contribution to the parent company to a 35%
contribution, with a forecast of 50% within the next five
years it is the impact upon their people which has
been the greatest success:

This wasnt and couldnt just be about

bettering business performance. We
also wanted to better ourselves and
make sure our people got a tremendous
amount out of it personally. And they
did some of them had real profound
moments of change in terms of how they
saw things, how they responded both
at work and in the real world too. This has
universally caught everyone, capturing
their imagination. Our people really value
the things that Relume has helped them
with weve gained far more than we


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