CASE STUDY: Changing Culture at Standard Chartered Bank
How to capitalise on an
institution’s heritage while evolving into an agile modern organisation? Today’s volatile and complex global environment demands
new leadership capabilities – the ability to manage conflicting demands under conditions of extreme ambiguity, to weld together a coherent and focused international organisation whilst respecting regional diversity, and to motivate staff unmoved by older hierarchical approaches. Facing these challenges was Standard Chartered Bank, a large and long-established international bank specialising in developing markets with a strong multicultural tradition, that employs over 30,000 people in 615 offices across 57 countries.
In 2000 Mervyn Davies, then the executive director with responsibility for technology, and who subsequently became the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank, turned to Saïd Business School and to Ron Emerson (a former senior executive of the bank who is now an Associate Fellow of Saïd Business School) to develop a series of complementary programmes.
Key to the approach adopted by Oxford was placing the participants in the position of ‘reflective practitioners’: to give them the opportunity, tools, and often the new language, to see their business challenges in a new light – to reframe the challenges and opportunities so that new approaches could be developed. There was a need to see management as a continuing journey of renewal and leadership:
as the ability to navigate that journey while still providing directionality and control.
The first programme, The New Business Partnership, addressed an immediate problem facing the bank: integration had become a key issue, especially of IT with overall strategy. It was becoming evident that the Bank’s technology and business departments were frequently failing to communicate effectively with each other.
“The SCB managers who came on this course were very much in two silos – IT and business,” says Emerson. “We had to get them to break down these barriers. It was not so much swapping each others” skill sets but learning that boundaries were really matters of attitude and behaviour.”
The programme, attended by one hundred of the Bank’s top IT and country directors in its first year, proved a great success. This was followed by a series of Leadership Workshops, attended by 300 of the Bank’s top management, including Board members, exploring broader issues of leadership, communication and personal development. These workshops continued to accentuate specific strategic business challenges but placed
greater emphasis on the personal challenges involved in delivering them. So there were two themes running throughout the week – the collective challenges and the individual challenges.
Building on the success of the
Leadership Workshops, in 2004
Oxford launched a series of week- long General Manager programmes for the bank, co-directed by Ron Emerson and Kunal Basu, Fellow in Strategic Marketing, which have now been running for over five years. More functional and topic-based than the leadership workshops and aiming to link theory to practice, they target SCB’s middle managers.
Oxford also facilitated a complementary development:
the Strategic Thinking Workshop, directed by Keith Ruddle, Fellow in Leadership, Organisation & Change at Saïd Business School. This workshop was unique in bringing together a consortium of senior managers from Tesco, BP, KPMG, Prudential and Standard Chartered for three days’ frank exchange of experience, facilitated by academic experts and specialists. “We believe this broke new ground,” comments Ron Emerson, “given the degree of intimacy of the information exchange at this level of seniority that was achieved.”
THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
The programmes drew on a variety of disciplines. They introduced academic ideas from complexity theory and scenario-building....
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