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We are seeing grassroots cultural change. I see GMAP alumni challenging the status quo with confidence, fortitude and an energy we didn’t have before Linda Garrett, key talent leadership learning

attending the programme – and currently a second year GMAP participant. She is an example of how the programme is meeting its aims. “My first assignment was in manufacturing. Before that, when I was in marketing, I used to give my manufacturing colleagues a hard time on delays. Now I understand how complex manufacturing is and see how everyone gives more than 100% to try to get it right. I felt bad about my past complaints and went back to my former manufacturing colleagues and apologized. I have learned to ask, rather than assume. I may not be able to break down silos, but I can connect them.”

Neil Stevens

Unexpected outcomes

The metrics and personal testimonies alike show that GMAP is having a positive business impact, with several alumni, including Nasseri, having accelerated into executive roles. Litchfield relishes the opportunity to develop talent and sees the rotation through GMAP as a way of giving colleagues deeper insight into the finance function and also for importing fresh perspectives into finance, joining up Merck. She acknowledges that the programme’s success has brought both challenges and unexpected outcomes. “We didn’t foresee how hard it would be to place GMAP candidates into the business. Potential assignment managers saw them as ambitious and acting beyond their capability – what they wanted were ‘plug and play’ candidates. Putting alumni back into the business in year three is equally challenging. Our middle management culture needs to shift.” Indeed, the biggest unexpected outcome is how participants’ broader, enterprise-wide outlook is starting to shift Merck’s traditional, hierarchical and rather conservative culture. When a company seeks culture change, one lever is deliberate development of the most senior leaders, from the chief executive down. In contrast, GMAP started out as an acceleration programme for a tiny handful of middle management talent. After seven years, there are still only around 100 alumni compared with a total Merck workforce of 70,000, yet GMAP’s strong, globally-connected alumni community is challenging the executive to change. Litchfield never expected this to be a culture

change programme. “I saw this as a talent development strategy for enterprise leadership. We didn’t connect the dots across the business as we should have, and our aim was to give talented middle managers that breadth. Today, I see the GMAP community challenging our senior leaders in a way that you didn’t see in hierarchical Merck. Our CEO has heard from them the message that it will take more than GMAP alone to change our culture, and we are focused on that.” Others agree. Linda Garrett views culture change as a wonderful by-product of GMAP, while Tracey Franklin says: “By multiplying these talented employees with a different mindset across the world, we are seeing grassroots cultural change. Merck is like so many other large companies, steeped in tradition and with a tendency to look back to a successful past to dictate the future. As the world changes, we need different behaviours and I see the GMAP alumni challenging the status quo with confidence, fortitude and an energy we didn’t have before. We need to place the greater good for Merck in the forefront and I see them doing this. “Twice now I have run off-sites for our top 200 to work through strategic issues and then repeated the exercise with GMAP alumni, who have really innovative ideas. I feed these ideas back to our senior executives, so that we can incorporate them and use the collective thought power of this group to help shape the future of our company.” GMAP alumni continue to ‘pay it forward’. They have been involved in multiple strategic initiatives and are likely to continue to be so, reinforcing new ways of working. Current participant Katharina Ruprecht concludes: “We are change agents – we follow the current mission while creating the future at the same time. We are not afraid of the challenge.” — Megan Yuan is associate director, global oncology policy, at Merck. Liz Mellon is the former chair of Dialogue’s editorial board Q4 2019 Dialogue

Profile for LID Business Media

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...