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Strategic Planning | CNG

In early 2019, Warren Pullen, EVP of Central National Gottesman (CNG) recognized that in order for his already successful company to mature and grow he would need to invest in certain capabilities and he engaged Perpetual to explore some ideas. After a 2-day off-site meeting with his Leadership Team and having completed a survey called the t3 Diagnostic, Warren quickly identified some key areas that would make a difference in the outcomes he was hoping for. The t3 Diagnostic is a tool calibrated to the Perpetual team-to-tribe model that identifies organizational strengths and opportunities based on the six attributes of high performance.

The results of the survey identified ‘Strategic Planning and Alignment’ as areas of opportunity that would sit at the heart of an overall initiative aimed at promoting organizational health and better business outcomes and Perpetual was asked to support Warren and his leadership team in these areas. With an upcoming Partner conference scheduled for a couple of months in the future – the clock was ticking on establishing a strategic plan that was robust and detailed enough to be delivered to an internal and external stakeholder audience. 

Thankfully, the Perpetual Strategic Planning program is designed to achieve just that. Based on concepts used by the military to put together fast and effective plans, and shaped by many experiences in helping executive leadership and brand leadership teams to construct impactful plans, this program leverages the knowledge and experience ‘in the room’ to deliver an effective plan, in a format that can be communicated to a broader audience.

Seizing the momentum, Warren quickly organized a strategic planning meeting for his leadership team – to be facilitated by Perpetual. In just 2 days the team left the meeting with a solid plan, that would be refined over the coming weeks as the implications of the decisions made at the offsite were identified and likely friction points considered. This is totally normal – both the speed of the initial meeting and the need for a period of reflection for everyone involved. But how is it possible to shape such an important plan in such a short timeframe?

Well, Perpetual uses a case study based on the NASA moon landing in 1969 to open up the team’s minds to the possibility of setting an audacious goal for the future of the company and putting in place the plans to achieve it. Important elements of the Strategic Plan include a clear Vision Statement and a set of Strategic KPIs for the business that will measure progress toward achieving the desired outcome. The next task is to decide on a set of Strategic Pillars that will describe the main areas of focus for the strategy and associated tasks that will need to be achieved. Within 48 hours, the Perpetual team had guided Warren and his leaders from a blank sheet of paper to having a good first draft of the strategy that they were comfortable with and engaged behind – After all they had just put it together!

Over and above facilitating the process, Perpetual’s role in this program was to bring a depth of knowledge from similar work with a multitude of other clients, to guide the conversation and the ensure that there was a challenging debate with all stakeholders involved – without this important team interaction, experience shows that even the best strategies will fail due to lack of belief and engagement when it comes to execution.

So where are we now? Well, the strategy was refined in the lead up to the Partner Conference and Warren and his team were able to confidently share their vision and promote a broader discussion with both internal and external stakeholders on the implications of the plan. After the conference, workstreams were identified that brought together employees from across the globe to participate in projects that continue to drive the strategic outcomes. Perhaps most importantly, the whole initiative enabled a cultural transformation, encapsulated in the mantra of ‘team-to-tribe’ that enabled the company to thrive in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a belief that anything is possible through collaboration and innovation.

CNG, founded in 1886, is the leading global commodity trading company in the space of pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and other cellulose products. Warren has since been promoted to Co-President of Central National.