When Mars Inc. acquired Doane Pet Care Enterprises Inc. in June from Teachers' Private Capital, the executives at Mars were very impressed with Doane's culture, according to Doug Cahill, now president of the new Mars Petcare US. So impressed, in fact, that Mars has decided to use a leadership program employed by Doane called Getting Results Through People (GRTP) as a tool for further integrating the cultures of the former Doane Pet Care organization with the former Masterfoods Pet Division organization.
Mars will roll out the GRTP culture integration this month to ensure its latest acquisition has the foundation for building a new culture based on the five principles of Mars: quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom.
Core values established early
Before the Mars acquisition, Cahill was Doane's president. Brentwood, Tennessee, USA-based Doane was known as the world's largest private label petfood supplier. It manufactured a full range of petfood products for dogs and cats, including dry/soft-dry, treats and dog biscuits. One of its biggest customers, Wal-Mart, sold the company's products under the Ol' Roy label. (The acquisition did not include Doane's European business, which was sold to a third party.)
In years prior to the acquisition, Doane went through many mergers of various petfood organizations. These mergers emphasized the need for Doane to create a new culture of its own. It undertook an exercise whose purpose was to:
Consolidate different cultures into a culture for organizational growth;
Develop technical managers into strong leaders;
Develop a communication language that all associates could embrace;
Create a model for handling potential conflicts as cultures emerged.
This culture was to be based on the four core values of integrity, accountability, commitment to team success over individual success and trust and respect for the individual ("I ACT"). Doane's management team believed that just designating the core values was not enough. They needed a tool that could help them unite the strengths of their associates and help them learn how to live the core values. The act of living the core values was essential to organizational success, according to Cahill.
To aid the process, Doane consulted with a company that specializes in this type of project, Xcelogic Inc. Senior management from Doane was invited to attend an open program (along with executives from various other companies) to determine if Xcelogic's GRTP program was a match for their leadership development needs and merging cultures. Doane's VP of people and VP of manufacturing participated in the two-day GRTP program and discovered that Xcelogic had the right system for helping them meet their organization's objectives.
In spring 2000, Doane launched a series of training sessions over six to nine months for members of upper management, middle management, sales, customer service and key influencers throughout the business. To this day, the company continues the program that now includes front-line supervisors and associates.
All of the company's associates, from the corporate location in Brentwood to its network of 20 manufacturing plants, are involved in the GRTP program. In addition to the initial program, follow-up and refresher sessions are provided for all leaders and key people throughout the company.
Cahill notes that GRTP has become a part of the company culture. "We are a company that knows the value of living our core values. It is a competitive strength. We are continuously improving in the areas of customer service, quality, safety, leadership, team building, communication and productivity. Our people are our greatest asset," he said.
It's about balance
GRTP is about balance: it promotes balance between the people and the operation of the business. It teaches leaders how to "build their leadership skills by balancing the multitude of processes within the petfood industry, as well as instilling higher levels of productivity with the people they lead," said Cahill.
This results in all associates increasing their leadership abilities by utilizing the organization's core values while achieving their daily priorities. GRTP merges cultures, managers and employees, shifts and departments to create a learning organization where people flourish, contends Cahill.
Cahill notes that GRTP has everything to do with making quality petfood. He said that at Mars Petcare US employees feel valued, the work environment is safe and communication between associates (the experts) flows freely. When people feel as though they are a part of the business, the company can:
Develop a united team of experts;
Nurture people who are more efficient at producing more product;
Grow people internally to handle increasing levels of responsibility;
Solve problems at the lowest level possible;
Allow uncommitted people to transition out of the organization;
Turn unprofitable plants into profitable plants.
What's the payoff?
The payoff from this people investment continues to produce bottom-line results for Mars today. From the GRTP learning experience, Cahill has seen people who were very new to management develop into great leaders. He has also seen senior managers who were stuck with "old school" management skills become leaders focused on their people.
Cahill noted that the outcome from this leadership training experience has resulted in:
A reduction in labor and production costs;
Implementation of safety and quality initiatives;
Greater employee retention (key members) throughout the organization;
Enhanced communication and morale within the organization's culture;
Measurable increases in individual and team productivity.
From the long list of GRTP benefits, it is clear the program has had and will continue to have an excellent return on investment.
Cahill notes that GRTP has everything to do with making quality petfood.