Transformation – let's do it

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As an industry, you’ll never agree on 10 to 20 per cent of the opportunities and challenges. Focus your time, energy and creativity on the 80 to 90 percent you can agree on.

Dr Scott Champion, former Chief Executive, Beef + Lamb

February 2018

Be opportunity focused

The need to have an opportunity mindset, not a problem one, was one of the challenges Dr Scott Champion, former Chief Executive of Beef + Lamb New Zealand, issued to 40 building and construction industry leaders. Scott was speaking at the first ITA Leadership Conversation event in Auckland in February.

He shared lessons from his experience of leading a cross-sector multi-party collaborative work in the sheep and beef sector.

“Collaboration is needed when the boundaries of the problem an organisation faces are outside its organisational boundaries and its span of control. But that doesn’t mean you need to collaborate on everything you do.”
 
He recalled many times in his experience where conversations throughout the industry had debated the 10 to 20% of things the sector disagreed on, instead of focusing on the 80 to 90% on which they agreed, and considering how to leverage these better.
 
The sheep and beef sector collaborated on issues including calf welfare, water quality, and education and training. Projects needed to satisfy three criteria: increase farmer profitability, improve the sector’s reputation, and support export growth.

Leaders must serve others
 
He said the success of industry transformation rests on the shoulders of all sector leaders. “Leaders must adopt a servant leadership philosophy, where they serve others’ interests, not just their own. Chief Executives and board members have the potential to change the conversation across the sector and within their own organisations by role modelling how to collaborate with competitors.”
 
Scott endorsed the ITA’s approach to consult with industry to choose the industry priorities to focus on. “Identifying projects where there is shared interest is essential. Industry leaders who typically compete day-to-day must come together in the same room regularly to identify both the issues that need to be addressed, and also develop the actions and projects that can address them. Over time through this process, they build trust and it changes the quality of conversations about how to realise change. New areas can be explored as this trust builds.”
 
Clarity is also essential. “You’ve got to be clear on the problem you’re trying to address. Identify your desired future state - where do you want to get to, then consider where you are today (your current state) for some key parameters. Then identify the critical shifts to move you from the current to the future.

The fog will lift
 
“But avoid the temptation of needing to know everything or answer every question at the beginning. Manage your risks sensibly, but get started. By building momentum, the fog will lift and clarity on where to focus will come.”
 
Scott also warned against waiting for all sector participants to get on board before starting. “I came to this realisation late. I spent a lot of effort early on trying to get the last few parties involved. There will always be people who want to sit outside for very valid reasons. I learnt I had to focus on those who wanted to be involved and others would join later, when they saw value.”
 
There was a rich discussion afterwards among industry leaders about how to kick-start transformation. In response to one question posed about when to start transformation, an industry leader simply said “The time is now. Let’s do it.”

Dr Scott Champion portrait

Dr Scott
Champion

Dr Scott Champion has worked for over 20 years in strategy and governance. He is highly respected for his work leading effective structural and cultural organisational change. From September 2008 to April 2016, Scott held the dual roles of Chief Executive Officer of Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Meat Board. During this time, he drove the transformation of Beef + Lamb New Zealand to a customer-focused organisation, deeply engaged with farmers and industry stakeholders, including agribusiness and government.

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