A novel approach

Morgan, vice-president of communications at global healthcare company Merial,
took part in a leadership programme tailored by Henley Management College. She
shares her insights into what it achieved  

is the world’s leading animal health company, with more than 6,500 employees in
30 countries. Best known for the discovery and sale of the world’s top-selling
animal health product, the anti-parasitic Ivomec, and the leading flea and tick
treatment for dogs and cats, Frontline, we also pioneered the first vaccine for
foot-and-mouth disease and still lead in that market. Other areas in which we
are market leaders include equine ulcers, rabies treatment and animal pain

company is planning for future growth in sectors such as BSE, which are
constantly presenting our industry with new challenges, and to consolidate its
global position. Our executive chairman, Alan Reade, has introduced a programme
to decentralise our structure so the benefits of our global organisation can be
felt locally. At the same time we are looking to develop a more comprehensive
career structure for our staff.

both of these developments together, the need arose for a forum to bring
executives together from across the global organisation to share best practice
and develop cross-functional, multidisciplinary and strategic ideas about the
future direction of the business.

vision starts with the statement that Merial is an innovation-driven leader in
the provision of products and solutions which enhance the health, wellbeing and
performance of animals. Implementing and making this fit together with our
values (which include focusing on the customer, respecting our people and
acting with integrity) was key to this process. Equally vital is the need to
involve people from across the organisation – our key operational areas, as
well as support functions such as research and development, manufacturing,
communications and HR. Merial worked with the UK’s Henley Management College,
well known for its ability to create practical solutions for business issues,
to put the foundations of a programme into practice to create such a forum. Our
key aims at this stage were to provide focus to senior managers, define their
ideas about leadership and find innovative ways of thinking.  

of Henley’s main suggestions in response was that for the programme to be truly
effective, the forum participants needed to communicate with each other to
determine the key issues to be discussed before any formal meeting of the forum
took place. The challenge was then to stimulate dialogue between 50 leaders
spread throughout the world, in different time zones and speaking different
languages. Exploiting the new technology it has introduced to its global MBA
programmes, Henley set up a dedicated Web site and invited us to share our
personal views about the issues the company is facing and how we might tackle

up to the first forum meeting at Henley in September last year, the
participants used a dedicated Internet chatroom to discuss issues including
cross-cultural strategic leadership, team planning, management techniques,
globalisation and customer service. I found the experience novel – we’d never
participated in this kind of closed environment before and it produced a great deal
of interesting discussion.

programme directors were closely monitoring the site and used our ideas to draw
up the programme for the three-day leadership forum. Carefully selected
external speakers tackled the key issues chosen for discussion – issues
including customers, leadership and market orientation. These were interspersed
with working groups in which we were able to focus on individual issues and our
specific concerns. We came away from three days in the English countryside
satisfied at having been able to discuss our new roles within the organisation,
what we are now doing differently, how do we view those roles and how can we
contribute to future development.

are now planning further meetings and the on-line chatroom has been moved on to
a dedicated part of our own intranet to act as a precursor and follow-up to
future meetings. The leadership forum is now to be used to look at different
topics across all our functions and has an important role to play as we move
towards the future.

Meunier, our head of HR, is a member of the management committee of the company
– our board. Of course, he also attends the forum and appreciates the benefits
it brings to the company. "I’m delighted with the concept, which fits well
with our strategic planning concept," he comments.


more details held on courses at Henley Management College, call + 44 (0) 1491
571 454, or check out www.henleymc.ac.uk

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