Monsanto Grows Understanding of Strategy

Jennifer L. McMahon
Director, Communication Strategy
U.S. Commercial Organization
Monsanto Company

As one of the world’s leading agricultural companies, Monsanto faces an ever-changing world with strong competition. In April 2007, the top 120 leaders of the U.S. commercial organization created a strategy to earn the #1 position with our customers (the Earn It! strategy). We examined our core competencies and determined what we could enhance to assist us in building stronger relationships while increasing business. We had completely counted on a cascaded communication from management to launch the strategy. The result? People didn’t connect the dots and some never knew there were dots to connect: there was little traction, alignment, or ownership. Monsanto is a fast-moving company, and we knew we had just one more shot to get people on board for the strategy to be successfully executed.

Living the Strategy

In December 2007, we began work with Root Learning on a two-pronged approach to organizational alignment of our strategy: short-term and long-term. Our leadership team was gathering in April 2008, and we recognized this as a great opportunity to re-launch the strategy using Learning Map® modules. Our top priority was to create a line of sight within the leadership group, not just about the “what” of the strategy, but the “why.” We created two maps – one to explain the marketplace and another to present our strategic response.

Because we also needed to confront what was holding us back, we worked with Root to construct an additional workshop using a “Dialogue Café” method that helped us have the tough conversation about the obstacles and behaviors we needed to start (and stop) doing.

The response from leadership was incredible. By the end of the two-day summit, our U.S. Commercial Business Lead made it clear that every employee in the organization would be engaged through the Learning Map® modules within a three-month window. One leader said, “I knew what the strategy was, but now I know what it means.” Another said that it was hard to believe that a picture could align people on a strategy in a way that would really move the needle! We added a third map to drive home our value proposition in a very concrete way.

Assessing Engagement

The second prong in our approach was using Root’s Strategy Execution Insights (SEI) tool to help us identify our levels of strategic engagement and alignment in the company. We had been successful in introducing the strategy, but now we wanted to better understand where we were strong in executing and where we had opportunities to improve.

We found the SEI to be an excellent diagnostic. It confirmed many of our “gut instincts” in a quantitative way. As a leadership group, we looked at where we were as a team, what could we reward, and where we needed to continue working. We have now built these areas of focus into our agendas for our semi-annual leadership conferences. As always, our goal is to build great relationships while increasing business, so it’s critical to continue to create ownership and engage our people to help us earn the #1 position with our customers!