Culture & Competency

Improving the Performance of Distributed Teams at Molson Coors: Shared Motto, Yammer, and Getting Together

A recent edition of BusinessWeek looked at the year-one challenges of four CEOs during the recent economic turbulence. One of those CEOs was Peter Swinburn, who became President and CEO of the Molson Coors Brewing Company in June 2008. His challenge?
– 10 acquisitions and joint ventures in the decade prior to him taking the top job
– little or no attention paid to bringing the different fiefdoms together (the company was “a mishmash of workforces”)
– 15,000 employees spread across 3 continents, with different languages added to the mix.

His decision: focus on developing a cohesive corporate culture.

Key steps:
– Spent 6 months thinking, talking to executives and staff (eg, via town hall meetings), and developed a new motto (“challenge the expected”)
– gave employees better tools to interact with one another. “On the suggestion of one worker, he signed the company up for Yammer, a site for short messages similar to Twitter that would be visible only to colleagues. Some 2,000 employees now utilize the site to provide updates and collaborate on projects. Denver-based IT staffer Miguel Zlot recently used the site to communicate with colleagues from afar while working on a Web project. “We needed to grasp ahold of something common,” he says.
– actively encourages staff to spend time together in person. “Benoit Maillette, the brewery manager in Toronto, says he meets with counterparts from around the world once or twice a year to socialize and share business ideas. One January gathering was in the company suite at a Montreal Canadiens hockey game, with a lot of time “around the bar,” says Maillette.

A couple of observations:
– 2,000 people using Yammer out of 15,000 is a good start. In light of my work around user adoption strategies, I’d be interested to know if there is an intentioned plan for the other 13,000 … or if they’re taking an organic / come-if-you-want approach.
– It would be very interesting to compare the performance and cohesiveness of different sub-groups within Molson Coors, with variance paid to whether the group members met in person first, met via Yammer first and then met in person, or met via Yammer only, etc. What’s the spark? My guess from reading the article is that the groups that have spent some time together in person (“around the bar”) and then keep the interaction alive via Yammer, will be better performers and show higher group cohesiveness.

Read the article online: How Four Rookie CEOs Handled the Great Recession (the Molson Coors story starts on page 4).