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Concurrent Session III: Executing the Strategy as a Team

Posted By Robert Wray, Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2011
Moderator Catherine Farley (Managing Director, Talent & Organization Performance, Accenture Management Consulting)
Vincent Campana (Vice President, National Client Group, American Express)
Kathie Day (Vice President, Market Development Organization, Nestle Purina PetCare)
Sabine Ritter (Executive Vice President, Consumer Goods Forum)
Kim Warmbier (Senior Vice President, Human Resourcaes, JC Penney)

What a great diversity on this panel, moderated by Catherine Farley, who fielded insightful questions to the members with a keen panache garnered from years of parallel industry experience. 

What was Kim Warmbier's strategy to migrate traditional (older) customers for JC Penney and appeal to a younger demographic? After completing a focus group study, they realized they weren't hitting "gift givers," people who give more than 10 gifts a year. Even wedding registry was down. 

So they went with a completely new concept and developed an online business, called Gifting Grace, where customers could find all the same high-end brands they'd find in other department stores. They developed men's merchandise, called Plaid, which will sell upscale clothing as well. The cincher? Because of JC Penney's sourcing power, customers will be able to buy them cheaper. 

"To execute our strategy, it had to be with strong leadership and naysayers needed to be nipped in the bud when discovered. And of course, wins needed to be celebrated along the way," Warmbier says.

Sabine Ritter was dealing with a huge merger, three boards with different ideas, multiple CEOs, and it took a couple years to reposition it all. Now they have a board of 50 people who set the strategy. "We had naysayers but it's about knowing where you want to go and having conflict agendas and working together on the shared persepective," she says. It's all about constant realignment while sharing progress, and being open. 

Vincent Campana told us how American Express just came through years of restructuring, so a lot of uncertainty and distractions were slung over the backs of the team. "It wasn't just a matter of a business challenge but internally, how do you get them to trust new leaders?" 

Firstly, he really listened to the team, which might seem trivial but the end-result is unbelievably valuable. The people on the frontline want to talk about the business. "So once we accomplished trust as far as job security, you had to start talking to them, asking them what they saw in the company and it's future," he says. "Once we established trust, we executed strategy but had to convince upper management to use it." In less than 24 months, the company has seen immeasurable turnaround. 

Kathie Day spoke about the strong branding and marketing at Purina. "Every five years we look at the next five years from a retail standpoint and study the trends," she says. "We identify what opportunities will help us meet those needs. Then we put the work group together." 

What's the new work that the new group is going to do? And what kind of skills and competency are needed in the staffing? "Then we pulled together the different talents we needed to make the operation successful."

In all, the audience had a bevy of questions for the successful panel, all responded to with war stories--both past and present--that resonated with the crowd.

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