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 / Autumn 2013 / Issue 72(originally published by Booz & Company)


Life in the Matrix

By late 2011, with the structural and formal parts of the merger largely complete and the matrix design in place, Padierna knew he had to find a better way to integrate the best of both cultures. The organization would have to identify behaviors and customs that needed to change, and find ways to support these changes. In 2012, he went to the global corporate leadership group at PepsiCo headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., and made a presentation to more than 20 senior leaders. In it, he described how his leadership team was implementing a capabilities-driven strategy based on superior customer and consumer service across priority food categories. He explained that to become the kind of culturally aligned company that this strategy required, PMF would emphasize four fundamental behaviors that he described as follows:

  1. Focus externally by always putting the customer, shopper, and consumer first.
  2. Foster open and honest dialogue by soliciting input, listening respectfully, and sharing opinions proactively.
  3. Expedite and empower decision making based on facts, processes, and PMF’s priorities as a multi-category business.
  4. Mobilize and support effective matrix teams that unlock the value of a PMF-wide perspective.

Although these behaviors are both clear and achievable, they manifest differently at different levels and in different parts of the four businesses. For example, the executive team made a simple but significant behavior change in all meetings. Team members, to make their first critical behavior of “focusing on the customer” concrete and tangible, began opening every meeting with a report on customer feedback and reviews. Meetings used to begin with performance reports, and Padierna described the shift as initially “awkward, because we were not used to that.” But it has not only had the effect of reminding everyone that the customer must be central, but also demonstrated a meeting behavior that is new to both Sabritas and Gamesa people, thereby reinforcing a better, unifying hybrid.

Another change, aimed at the second behavior, was to create a new shared vocabulary for PMF, paying attention to the differences between the way Sabritas and Gamesa people referred to things, and fostering open dialogue about it. For example, Sabritas called the HR department recursos humanos (human resources), whereas Gamesa used the term capital humano (human capital). Neither side wanted to use the other’s name, so Padierna decided they needed an entirely new name, talento y cultura (talent and culture). Padierna said this attention to semantics was essential: “One of the hardest things that we did was to write the new vocabulary. Now, everybody speaks the same language.”

Padierna also expected that the sales force, PMF’s front line, would once again be the hardest part of the company to engage with about the new behavior. For this reason, PMF delayed working on the sales-force culture until after cultural work was under way in the rest of the company. Sabritas’s sales force was very metrics oriented, and each individual salesperson collected specific, detailed numerical indicators. Gamesa was much more focused on teamwork, and used peers to motivate salespeople to do their best, without tracking their specific results closely. To “empower decision making based on facts,” the third critical behavior, the new sales force would have to adopt many of Sabritas’s practices and collect more individual indicators. So sales-force training for Gamesa became much more oriented around metrics.

At the same time, Gamesa’s teaming skills could bring valuable motivation and energy to the Sabritas sales force, and help salespeople focus on the fourth critical behavior: “mobilize and support effective matrix teams.” Within Sabritas, salespeople were encouraged to give one another more feedback, and gather in teams to come up with suggestions for improvements. Although the merger of the sales forces is still in its early stages, PMF’s critical few behaviors have already become a guidepost for how to reinvent behaviors on the front lines.

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