May 19, 2020

Could Work Culture Choke Business Strategy?

business strategy
company culture
Albert A. Vermeulen
Corporate success
Bizclik Editor
2 min
Could Work Culture Choke Business Strategy?

By Albert A. Vermeulen, Author of Corporate Success

Will your company’s culture align with your new business strategy? Do companies understand how to navigate the complexity of culture in such a way that it becomes a change-enabling milieu?

 

Let’s look at navigating strategy by means of a sailboat. Imagine being on a lake, wanting to sail from the western to the eastern shore. With luck, a westerly wind is blowing, presenting the ideal environment to make it seamlessly to the other side.  Upon reaching the eastern shore, you realize that the wind is still coming strongly out of the west, but now you wish to return. This poses a challenging environment where significantly more time and effort is needed to reach the other side.

Culture has similar characteristics. If a new strategy is built upon the same basic beliefs, a smooth transition is in order. If it isn’t, however, you’re going to fight that westerly wind.

 

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A problem that often occurs is that an organization sets out from one shoreline to the other with a fixed agenda, not anticipating the headwinds they might run into. How do companies prevent this? Early adoption by your employees is key to preventing the derailment of your business strategy. Here’s how:

Be proactive: Conduct an assessment in order to discover the beliefs of your employees that might be in the way of executing a new business strategy. This will help navigate cultural issues to identify risk in advance and will result in proactive mitigation.

Identify the disconnect: If resistance-related behavior by employees can be identified early on, leadership can connect the dots to learn which problems need to be mitigated.

Reconnect the broken link: If a broken link is discovered through resistance-related behavior, it needs to be mitigated by addressing the resistance issues rather than an attack on personal beliefs. Employees often hide their lack of ability or understanding behind unwillingness.

Beliefs drive behavior: Culture is visible through behaviors. Strategy calls for a change in behaviors, subsequently a change in beliefs. It is important to ensure that beliefs are aligned with the behaviors the new strategy calls for to create a change-enabling milieu.

About the author: Albert A. Vermeulen is the president of Arrow-head Management & Associates LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in driving the adoption of corporate strategies in collaboration with organizational leaders. He graduated from Purdue University and Stellenbosch University (South Africa). 

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Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

CMO
Kyndryl
IBM
Leadership
Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

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