6th dnaunion Budget Formulation Meeting Kicks Off
The kickoff meeting or strategy formulation meeting for the Iranian calendar year 1398 (March 2019 – March 2020) of the dnaunion Group was held in mid-December. In the kickoff meeting in which the strategic teams of the companies attended, the participants exchanged views and forged partnership and convergence of strategy with the objectives of the group for the next year.
In the two-day meeting, each company independently outlined its own strategies and at the end all the programs were connected together with a linking chain called the dnaunion. On the sidelines of the meetings, senior managers and strategy formulation leaders held a roundtable discussion.
Those attending the round table were: Nasser Pashapour Nikoo, Managing Director of the dnaunion Group and Chairman of the Board of Directors; Mohammad Mousavi, Member of the Board of Directors and Managing Director of Eshareh Advertising Agency; Gerhard Barcus; Member of the Board of Directors and Managing Director of Certius Company; and Russell McKee, Consultant and Director of kickoff meeting. The participants in the roundtable answered different questions.
Q: Would you please elaborate on the role sound strategy formulation plays in promotion of businesses in the Iranian market?
Pashapour Nikoo: In the current economic situation, it is very difficult to predict the future. Under these circumstances, strategy formulation and planning enjoys of a much higher importance. In such a situation and to move in on the right path, a deliberate, purposeful, and logical planning must be developed; a planning which would prevent loss of business resources.
Accordingly, the dnaunion Group holds the strategy formulation meetings every year and specifies its course of action. Like previous years, this year and in the course of the two-day meeting, planning was made for strategy formulation of the group with the participation of all the strategy formulation teams from various companies. This meeting was a prelude to exhaustive gatherings in the coming months.
Mousavi: All the businesses at different times should recheck the route they have already taken and reassure of the correctness of the route and, if necessary, take steps to review which plays an important role in the progress of the business.
Due to the importance of the strategy formulation, the dnaunion group holds the annual kickoff meeting wherein teams from different companies gather together for a more accurate routing.
At the meeting, the teams after different surveys, think of the distinctions and explore new ideas. The distinctions that have highlighted them in the market and is not simply summarized in different prices of different products. Such a distinction results in the success of the teams.
Barcus: Routine, repetitive and invariant works are one of the biggest enemies of an organization. When businesses do things repetitively and identically, the services, products and values they offer will always be the same. Customers choose with regard to the best price, and this is not what we think of at the dnaunion. What we are looking for is the relevance of the brand and the distinction which creates different values for our customers. The strategic plan is the essence of a brand. If we fail to express our difference in a relevant way, our path will not reach success. In the 1980s and 90s, the coffee business was heavily repetitive until someone introduced a completely different and new strategy, and today Nespresso is a multi-billion dollar business and Starbucks is developing with another program. All are looking for the margin of profit to excel and we do not want it; we want to be creative in a strategic way so that we can create this superiority with distinction.
McKee: I think the importance of codification of strategy lies in having a plan; even under circumstances when you are uncertain about the future. Having a program which has been formed on the basis of some of the strengths of the team or the organization, as well as the perspective of the position they are supposed to achieve. In the current situation in Iran, with regard to the speed of the changes that are taking place in the world towards digitization and elimination of the competitive advantage between products, we need to be flexible and have strategic thinking for having a good plan and at the same time be able to change the plan with the market conditions and do not rely on it under any circumstances. We should be able to move on the path of prosperity, be bold and try new things and situations. Try and fail, and then try again until we become successful.
Would you please outline the process of formation of kickoff meetings and the changes that are made each year in those meetings?
Pashapour Nikoo: This year the 6th meeting of the dnaunion group kick off meeting was held. Eleven teams attended the gathering. Those who participated in the codification of the strategy of their companies or would be part of the strategy team in the near future, were present at the meeting.
Trend of this year’s sessions was similar to the previous years. But in the sixth kickoff meeting, the teams reached their maturity and showed brilliant results. The director of the kickoff meetings changes each year or every other two years and this year Russel McKee led the teams. The leadership was very purposeful and flexible.
During the sixth session, journalists also visited the trend of the activities of the teams, what was the motive behind this function?
Pashapour Nikoo: Our goal is to show the group’s in-house culture to everyone. Our approach has changed and we are trying to bring new startups and marketing companies into the group. The companies that need to become familiar with the function and culture of the group before joining it, and this notification was the best solution. This operation is due to the prevailing economic conditions and with the aim of helping the advertising industry and those involved in it.
Also, with such an operational method, we showed everyone the teams and members of the group play a key role in making important decisions: The teams that are aligned with the senior managers and express their views as there is no top-down view in the group.
Would you please tell us about the solutions proposed at the 6th kickoff meeting?
McKee: The approach we came up with the teams was that we first set a theme for them to think of for two days. The theme we chose was the creation of magic in relation to the program for the customers. The next step we took was that we asked them to think about the thing they were good at while considering their nature as a company; in this way they could realize their power of demand and obtain a perspective of what they wanted to be.
All these perspectives and conclusions came out of the team work; it was nothing to be said from the high echelons; in fact, it was their own interpretation of what they were. Then I would give them structure for the development of their plans in order to connect it to their perspective with regard to the points of strength and opportunities ahead. I also provided them with frameworks for thinking about business and its development in order to see their opportunities. Throughout this time, I kept them energetic and showed them different video clips of successful teams or challenges they could have.
What are the difference between the dnaunion group kickoff meetings and the meetings of other companies?
Barcus: The quality of the sessions is in the codification of superb strategy. Each year, we have good processes and moderators; we have a clear idea of how output should be. The entire process encourages the teams to really think about their business and come up with solutions. I must say this process, in comparison with the countries where I had work experience, is very engaging, challenging, interesting and effective; a process with significant outcomes.
To what extent will the results of the kickoff meetings in the dnaunion group become operational?
Mousavi: The process of strategy codification is very precise. This is the reason why the team members recognize the developed strategy as their own and its implementation becomes important to them. A strategy the process of which is constantly reviewed. The trend of implementing of the formulated programs is carefully controlled and followed up. The dnaunion group also provides the required support for the realization of the strategy of the teams.
The initial thoughts and ideas that were collected during the two-day session will be turned into programs within six weeks that will be monitored by the teams on monthly basis. A quarterly review is carried out once more, and the teams will receive help from the group to put their activities into operation. Through such process, the teams become well aware of the fact that the codified programs are not dramatic, and are not supposed to stay in the company’s library and should be referred to regularly for routing. Such programs need to be in line with the market changes and continuously improve. Such a process has led the teams to participate in the kickoff meeting with great scrutiny and care and consider the outcome of the sessions as their own.
Pashapour Nikoo: The teams present at the kickoff meetings are part of the group’s family. A family which has caused the teams feel that the programs which have been implemented are part of their lives and belong to them. On the other hand, the programs are not abandoned after the two-day session, and will be controlled each month within the company and the required feedback is given to the teams to put into operation. The programs are also reviewed by the group every three months and in every season, and the necessary feedback will be given to the teams.
Some attended the 6th kickoff meeting for the first time; in your opinion what are the achievements of such sessions for these people?
Mousavi: When all members of a team reach consensus for the achievement of a goal and an approach they are supposed to choose, they will take their role more seriously and exert utmost efforts to reach that goal. Team members help new people to better understand the three-year, monthly, and annual plans of the dnaunion family and take steps for designing and implementing them. The older members show the new people that they are part of a large family and play very important role in the realization of the codified plans.
McKee: What affects me about the teams is the level of their involvement in the program, even in the case of the newcomers. Newcomers were in the teams who rendered significant contributions both to the team and played a significant role in the process of strategic planning. People in the dnaunion feel themselves as part of the program. Also, what we see about the newcomers is that they are ready to get started. They consider themselves as the owner of the program and member of the team, and this is a very important issue.
Barcus: I think a common advantage for the newcomers is that they first get to know the dnaunion strategy prior to anything else. Of course, at the sessions a very clear and distinct strategic framework - from the group and the company – is given to the teams, and all like this part and it is not just favored by the newcomers.
Also, the newcomers become informed of the function of strategic program and realize that the operational process of the strategic process is very simple but effective.
Why the dnaunion invites a leader from outside the group for kickoff meetings?
Pashapour Nikoo: The leader from outside the group has no pre-judgment about the sessions. The group always thinks of better choices for directing the sessions and this year it was shouldered by Russell.
What achievements senior directors of the group have obtained from the sessions?
Mousavi: A repeated review helps the managers to gain a more accurate outlook on the performance of the company and the events. Participation in the teams and hearing the discussion of their members helps the directors to look at those angles to which they had not paid enough attention. In addition, new ideas will also emerge in the minds of the executives. The ideas that the executives will have the possibility to use in other parts of the company. Also, attending the meetings will provide the opportunity to create synergies among the services of different companies. For example, in meetings, after reviews you will find out that out of the combination of services of different companies you can offer a new product. A new product that suits the market and current conditions.
Barcus: First of all, I should say that those days when senior management would perform them, is over, and preparation of a strategy is a common process for the realization of which all cooperate.
Diversity and pluralism means the awareness of all. The more complete the image of the companies, the better definition of the results will be obtained. Therefore, if everyone contributes to this issue according to one’s perspective, there will emerge a variety of ideas. The only important issue is that what we do after this stage, which is in fact part of the process under Russell’s management. The most important point is to think of a route other than our route and get prepared to listen and come close to the points and plans that people share with us. I think the value of these meetings for senior directors is to have the ideas of all and then turn it into a program that is accepted and put into operation by all.
Russell Mckie: What is gained by the senior directors from this diversity of thinking is the plans that are developed by their employees and the teams share in developing this strategy, just like when the senior executives create their own plans and ask their staff to support them. The ability to think of the team rests in the team itself and no longer relies on the thinking of their senior executives. Team thinking is stronger than individual thinking. At the end of the day, the chief executive is responsive to the business; he has plans for which he is responsible and this time knows that the program is the result of the activities of his team.
Pashapour Nikoo: Senior directors at these meetings will become acquainted with the views of the members of their company and the spirit of the team work will be reinforced in the company.
Absence of a top-down look in the group is among topics many team members mentioned. What is your opinion in this regard?
Mousavi: No director will succeed without having a synchronized and sympathetic team. Members of the teams present in the kickoff meetings are mostly young, but each with their previous experience and knowledge of their presence in the teams have created different ideas. The ideas that have resulted in the success of their performance under the current economic conditions.
Therefore, there is no single star in the dnaunion, and all the stars together have created the galaxies of the group. The galaxies that guide the group to its destination. Each year, efforts are made to inject new blood into the teams and invite newcomers to attend the meetings. New people who consider themselves part of the teams and to put forward new plans. The key to our success is the participation of all members of the companies and having a targeted program to achieve the ideas.
Is there anything you would like to mention before wrapping up the discussion?
Pashapour Nikoo: Under the critical conditions, planning should be flexible and purposeful. In these circumstances, plans should be set up to make better use of the resources. Better use that leads to economization of the resources. The main target of the dnaunion is to achieve a magical solution. In conclusion, I wish every success for all the teams and call on them to make bold and great efforts for the fulfillment of their formulated plans.
Mousavi: The teams emerge stronger and more focused year by year, with better ideas. The ideas that are functional and presented in the best form by the teams. This strengthens our heart. Each year we are witness to an enhanced team spirit, and enlargement of the group gives everyone more confidence to work with higher energy.
Barcus: The key point in my opinion is that in an easy environment the businesses should take advantage of the numerous opportunities that exist. We have a difficult period now in which we have to create magical opportunities and fields ourselves; we should look for new things, and in this case we will reach prosperity under tough conditions. We have to rely on principles and exercise perseverance, but along with them, we should not miss the creativity magic.
McKee: The most important point is to know that success of the customers means success of the business. In this way, it is hard for both the companies and the customers to create magic programs in the hard environments and at hard times. But the role of the companies is by helping the customers assist them reach success. This role is possible with simple, flexible and transparent goals.
It should be noted that:
At the closing hour of the kickoff meeting, each company presented the results of their performance to the audience and the staff members of the group, and at the same time, the dnaunion team announced their points of view. Later, the second kickoff meeting entitled “survey and analysis of the objectives and key indicators of the companies in the dnaunion” will be organized jointly among the companies and members of the group. In the meetings, the financial goals, sales, market analysis, strategy of issues related to the sales were studied. The meetings will be initially held within the company and their final file will be put at the disposal of the dnaunion group headquarters. After the approval of the budget and key indicators for the coming year, the sessions will enter a third phase entitled “study and analysis of key measures or strategic projects.” In the third session, the study of methods and how to achieve the goals and key indicators will be processed.
These meetings are also held jointly with the presence of the strategic teams of the companies and members of the dnaunion headquarters. Eventually, after the approval of the programs, the companies will enter the stage of implementation. Of course, the review of these programs is not confined to these sessions and in the quarterly meetings at the dnaunion Company in the next year, they will be studied more accurately.
In the quarterly sessions, the advancement of the companies will be surveyed step-by-step in accordance with the established plans. The companies are present in these meetings and defend their performance during this period. In these meetings, programs will be reviewed and if a company is distracted from the key indicators and measures, mechanisms will be formulated by the headquarters. In general, the periodic sessions will examine financial projects, sales, and strategies of the companies. This tricky but planned route will eventually lead the dnaunion group of companies to their eventual target.