“I cannot emphasize enough the power of Purpose when you start off in this direction. Having now articulated it and communicated it and the way in which we’ve done it, all of a sudden people are going, ‘yeah, I get it and I want to be part of that journey’.
And it’s funny, because this is what you’re told if you read a textbook on Purpose. And this is what they say purpose-led organisations are. But until you do it, wow! What a difference, what energy it creates in the business. And it’s now up to this leadership team to take that energy and ensure it’s used in the right way.”Anton Zawada, Group HR Director.
Devro is the market leader in edible films and coatings manufacturing and selling predominantly collagen casings to customers for a wide variety of applications for sausages and other meat products. In short, they provide affordable nutritious protein to the world. They have an upstanding reputation in the industry and employ over 2,100 people across five continents with in depth skills and knowledge in food technology and manufacture, meat science and environmental health.
Born of the innovation labs in Johnson and Johnson, Devro have grown in a number of ways including acquisition; with people incredibly committed but at times silo’d. The Executive Management Team wanted to move from five regional companies to one global organisation in order to drive efficiencies and growth and felt Purpose would unite them.
Devro’s belief that Purpose would be the powerful unifier that they required came from the CEO, Rutger Helbing, who had experienced purposeful organisations before, he then appointed Group HR Director Anton Zawada who had spent the previous five years at Tate & Lyle plc, experiencing and enabling the unearthing and embedding Purpose there. They had both witnessed its potential to bring people together, bring clarity, streamline strategies, and improve overall company performance; while positively impacting the communities the organisation served – and wider society. But with many internal processes still to be aligned and optimised, disconnects in integrated planning and a perceived company-wide uncertainty in the future, there was a lot of work to do.
From the beginning, there was one question Devro aimed on getting answers to “What’s Devro’s core reason for being, and where can we have a unique and positive impact on society”?
As with most things in life, if you’re going to do it you’ve got to make sure you do it right, and this was their sentiment exactly when it came to defining their Purpose.
Devro reached out to Farleigh Performance (Fp) and work soon started with three workshops involving the Exec to co-design a programme, it was important to them that an external party lead the work to ensure each colleague would play a part in the process. The Exec also felt it was hugely important that they had good counsel from an external partner – a partner who would bring objectivity and best practice, and would always be open and honest about what they saw was really going on in Devro.
One challenge to overcome initially in the Exec sessions was that the team were naturally intellectualising the opportunity and weren’t connecting the emotional element to it. Creating an emotional connection with the company’s future was a shift for most, but it made a huge difference to each leader and enabled them to explore their own connectedness to Purpose.
A company-wide, participative design was agreed which, in order to deliver it, required Fp to facilitate working sessions and then train a number of colleagues to deliver them with their own people – this gave them first-hand insight to the team’s stories, feedback, ideas and connection with Purpose. It also enabled the Exec to build trust in the in-house facilitators, and allowed them to efficiently resolve some of the smaller issues causing pain-points, which indirectly and authentically enhanced their connection with their own teams.
“[Following the workshops] people said to me, it was the best workshop I’ve ever been to. So I’ve heard some really great stories – because it’s the first time people were truly being engaged.
They’re engaged, because they’re being told, ‘we’re not making the decision, you are’. And so there’s a real empowerment that happens across the organisation.”Anton Zawada, Group HR Director
As the programme was delivered the Exec’s confidence and belief in their own people grew and grew. The Exec visibly let go of certain conversations and empowered others to drive them forward.
The insights collected by Fp, plus data from the workshops, leadership interviews and an internal survey were reviewed by a curated group of people from across the organisation – The Integration Team.
Facilitated and guided by Fp this group unearthed Devro’s authentic story of the past and present as well as future possibilities. Main themes were identified from the thousands of pieces of captured data, and pulled into one narrative.
This was then shared by The Integration Team with the Exec to go through a cycle of iteration, sharing and adapting until there was an agreed narrative and Purpose statement.
This process in itself was deemed powerful, The Integration Team was made up of colleagues from the US, Scotland, Australia, China and Czechia, all of whom it would be fair to say were surprised by how similar the data was across all their areas. They discussed cultural differences and understanding, the importance and weight of words and together crafted a Purpose narrative that would resonate in all languages.
“I think Fp’s expertise in the wordsmithing was invaluable – we needed that. When you’re really close to the organisation and the people you need that independence sometimes, to just look at the words for what they are and give you a better insight into those words and their meaning to others.”The Integration Team
There was now a developing appreciation across the company that ‘we aren’t all so different after all’.
What impact will this have on Devro?
“In short, a big one!
Organisation wide, it couldn’t have landed better, and we couldn’t have done it on our own.
I think you need people just gently guiding you, questioning each word that is put to colleagues or into a question that you’re asking. You need somebody who has done it before and says ‘you’ve just got to trust that this will get there’ and keep that sense of belief going, because it holds the organisation through those tough moments. And that really was the value that we were getting.”Anton Zawada, Group HR Director
This work has since prompted a review of the Devro values, their vision, strategy and mission to ensure they align with their newly unearthed Purpose, and to ensure these are communicated clearly with the whole organisation.
It’s highlighted individuals who are committed and driven within the business, who want to step-up and play their part in a purpose-led organisation.
The benefit of the company-wide workshops has been significant too. It enabled open and honest conversations between groups which resulted in some issues being resolved quickly, which has built trust in leaders – they are listening and acting on what employees have told them.
Unearthing the data through the mass participation sessions was the start of becoming a purpose-led business. The real work for Devro now is authentically living their Purpose throughout the organisation, at all of their locations, across all team levels, all of the time!
“Our unearthed Purpose has reignited belief in our ambition and future for the organisation. That belief was disappearing. This has been a significant part of our journey toward becoming one global company, and it will also be a catalyst to drive us forward faster.
The feedback that I mentioned earlier was people saying that [sharing of the Purpose narrative was the] best presentation they’ve seen in 10 years. The Exec and I believe that’s because it was true, it resonated, and it came from them.Anton Zawada, Group HR Director
Although there is still a lot of work to do, it feels like one company now with strong foundations, a renewed energy and a common direction.”