Fireside Chat with Marc Engel, CSCO Unilever

2021-01-21
By
Marc Engel
45m
Fireside Chat with Marc Engel, CSCO Unilever

Engel and Laluyaux talk adopting cognitive automation on a global scale.

Unilever Chat with Marc Engel, CSCO

The following is a transcript of the video: "Fireside Chat with Marc Engel, CSCO Unilever."

Fred Laluyaux:

Good morning, Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the first podcast for our new community cognitive automation. It's my distinct pleasure to welcome Marc Engel as our first guest today. Marc, how are you?


Marc Engel:

I'm good, thank you. Thank you very much for having me, it's an honor.


Fred Laluyaux:

Welcome. Welcome. I'm so glad that we can have you with us for that first fireside chat. So, Marc, quick intro about yourself. You're the chief the supply chain officer of Unilever, you're a member of the Unilever's executive leadership team. You spent more than 20 years or... I won't say how many years but more than 20 years with the company, going literally around the world from the Netherlands, to Singapore, to Brazil, Switzerland, Kenya, and the UK, where you currently reside. You obviously have an incredible experience in supply chain operations, procurement, logistics, finance, strategy. I think that prior being the chief supply officer, you were the managing director in East Africa, based out of Kenya setting up the foundation for accelerated growth. Prior to that you were the chief procurement officer in charge of the worldwide procurement of third party goods and services. You joined Unilever, I think in 1990, working on building a plant, right?

Marc Engel:

Yup, correct. Yup. Long time ago.


Fred Laluyaux:

So, you've seen it all, right? You've seen it all from building a plant to running a procurement and now of course, supply chain. And Unilever in numbers or... I think everybody knows this company very well but I was just checking last night some of the numbers and it's just amazing.
2.5 billion consumers reached daily, 150 billion units sold per annum in 190 countries, close to 50,000 suppliers, 30 million outlets, more than 5 million shipments a year, took more than 3,300 production lines. A massive organization.


So, again Marc, welcome. So glad to have you with us today. So, I'll dive in, right? But I went through your bio quickly, I probably missed a lot of steps. I hope you won't... You'll forgive me for that. But your career took you across the world and so many different functions, so I'll start with a bit of a personal questions.
But what drove you? What was your engine throughout all these years and how did your career around the world and all these functions help shape your vision for Unilever's supply chain today?


Marc Engel:

I've been very fortunate, I think with Unilever it's taken me through many places around the world. For a company like ours, we have a 60% footprint in developing and emerging markets, so having spent time in Asia and in Latin America and in Africa has been very, very shaping and important for me. And to understand our business there because it's very different than our businesses in the U.S. or in Europe.


I've been fortunate to do supply chain but also corporate strategy and general management. And particularly in Kenya, just after having run global procurement, it's good to see what that looks like from the other end, so that when you're at the receiving end of a procurement services organization in a African business, it's been a very, very good for me in terms of my development and understanding the company, understanding the processes, and understanding the changes as well.
So, I would say when I came to this role, I had a very good view on the good, the bad, and the ugly of Unilever's supply chain and we tried to shape it in that direction, so that we could become better.


And quick response to change because I think that is the big topic for today. It's a changing world and how do you respond to it and how do you keep ahead of the change and not always catch your tail on it?

Want more about how cognitive automation improves the supply chain? See this Q&A with Helen Davis of Unilever.


Fred Laluyaux:

So, exactly. So, throughout this years you've been in a very privileged situation to witness all those changes, right? In your industry, personalization, [primitization], changing consumer taste, digitization, and everything that really fundamentally change your industry, so let's talk about these, right? So, how do you define the evolution of Unilever's challenges and by extension really most of the consumer packaged good companies and how that... What are the challenges that you guys have faced in last few years?


Marc Engel:

Yeah. I mean, they've been absolutely huge. And if you look at... The first thing is you have to just realize that the change is never going to be as slow as it is today. Tomorrow there will be more change and at a higher pace than the day after there'll be more change and that's not just been in business but in your life as well.


If you look back, what you were doing 10 years ago and 20 years ago and let's say what you had to deal with the amount of change that you had to deal with, it is a universal truth that change is never as slow as it is today.


And for the CEPG business particularly, there have been a lot of businesses that have been disrupted. We all know the codex of this world and the encyclopedias, et cetera, et cetera, but it also in CEPG business is changing and being disrupted everywhere. There is a hyper fragmented consumer. The consumer, millennial, Gen Z consumer with different needs, shopping in different channels, looking at different products, caring more around sustainability and where the product comes from and how does it made, not just looking is it good for me but is it good for society and the planet as well.


We have a CPG business that used to be a founded on three pillars, mass communication, mass distribution, and mass production. And all of these pillars are at the moment being disrupted, so we are dealing with a lot of change. Whether that is about going [inaudible] and using more third parties for faster innovation and agility.
Distribution is changing. Mass distribution has always been a strength for Unilever but today you can piggyback on to other people's distribution system. You can use the U.S. Post if you want, or FedEx or UPS or whatever. You can piggyback on the distribution of e-com companies, if you're a garage operator you can dock into Amazon's distribution centers and you're basically in business worldwide.


And if you look at the mass communication, people just don't want television anymore and particularly not live television, so the whole concept of watching 30 second advertising on television is alien to the young generation. So, all the pillars of the CPG business are being disrupted. The winners that will win in today and in the future are the companies that can adapt to that very fast.


Individual marketing on mobile devices in finding different ways of getting to the consumers and winning in these... recognizing these different shopping channels, recognizing the different needs, and have supply chains that are agile to that.

For more about how Unilever makes agile decisions with cognitive automation see our recap of The Art and Science of Decisions at Cognitive Automation Summit 2021.


Fred Laluyaux:

And what makes Unilever's ability change unique, right? What's in your DNA at Unilever that allowed you to actually serve... sorry, surf all those different waves? You talked about the change in the way you promote your product, you sell your product, you make your product. Talk about the DNA, I mean, I've got to be exposed to it and it's quite fascinating but what makes you guys so good at embracing that change?


Marc Engel:

We do operate in 190 markets and these 190 markets are always leading when it comes to understanding the local consumer and the local customer and the local circumstance. What then happens is that when you pull all of that together, the global teams are very, very strong at the backend of that localization is how do you really get the scale and how do you roll these systems out in a global way, so it really is about global and local.


And I think we have a particularly fine balance there that I think works very well for us, is that we understand, we get the signals early in terms of that is happening in each local marketplace and then we basically are able to combine that and to package that up and to roll that out throughout the world. Keeping the bits that can be rolled out and keeping the bits local that need to be kept local, so I think we have a very great balance between global and local that is a good recipe to win.


Fred Laluyaux:

And you said something very interesting there, which I'll pick up on which is change is mostly... it's faster tomorrow than today or something to that extent, which change is only going to accelerate. But was there a moment if you look in the last... I don't know, 10 years, 15 years, where you felt like you had really catch that turn and force that change or has it been a linear process that it's part of the DNA to constantly adjust that in the company?


Marc Engel:

Well, I mean COVID for once has been a real accelerator of a number of changes, so this year has been phenomenal. If you look at the growth in anything e-commerce for instance, has been really, really... it's exploded this year due to COVID.


But I would say, probably the last 10 years. I think this is also an exponential process and you basically suddenly understand it when it really gets to the exponential vertical stage. And I would say, probably in the last 10 years this has happened and maybe even in the last five years. I think the acceleration now is just very, very big.
Particularly, in the retailing landscape and where you shop and how get your products and do you drive to the store or do you just get them delivered at home? And if you get them delivered at home, how do you get them delivered at home? Are you subscribing to a model? If you run out of shampoo in the bathroom, do you get your phone and you scan the code, you press buy? And there is not even a shopping moment anymore, so there is no choosing moment. You just basically replenish.


So, there are many very models now that are coming up, enable by digital, enabled by technology. That I think have really sort of started to happen in the last 10 years. And with COVID, I think some of these changes have really accelerated and are lasting.


Fred Laluyaux:

It used to be that you build that deep, deep knowledge on how to position a product on a shelf and how to spin it and what the shape and the colors and what will appeal to consumer walking down the isle.


And all of that now is gone in a flat 2D digital world, that was absolutely fascinating. So, everything down to the core of the business including the products of course, has been modified, it's a profound change.


So, you talked about COVID, right? And I was going to bring that question up, right? So, how did COVID impact your strategy, right? What are the learnings to date? I mean, we're still in the middle of it. I'm sitting down here in San Francisco and you're in London, I wish we could be in person but it's been nine months now and I can see now a profound change in society in the way we live, in the way we think, and the way we think about work. But what have you learned to date? You talked about COVID being one of the accelerators. We understand why but what are you doing about it? What did you learn? What are the lessons learned so far?


Marc Engel:

Like everybody when the crisis hit we understood very quickly because we have a large business in China, so when it hit China we got a good sort of general repetition on what needed to be done globally. And in a crisis like that, that is destabilizing the world we settled there are really five things. A, is the safety of our people in our... how do we keep them safe, that must be the first and foremost. Then the second one is can we supply? Because if you can make the product and ship the product and sell the product then you're in business. If you're not then you're in trouble.


We looked at cash as a work stream it's because when you sell a product, can you collect the cash? Because if you can't collect the cash then you can sell it but obviously you have another issue. We looked at what are the changes in demand that we're seeing.


We have restaurant businesses that have... let's say food business, the restaurants that has really taken a big dive. And we've had search formats like hand sanitizers and soap as you can imagine or let's say stuff to clean your house, disinfectants and chlorides and all these kinds of stuff that basically has exploded.
So, how do you change these demands? And then last but not least, we also have a very strong community programs, so we protected everyone's job for the first three months and say "Don't worry about pay and whether you can work or not." That's next to let's say shutting all your offices and working from home but I would say, for the supply chain it was really about making sure that we can keep running in a safe way and that we had products to sell.


And having to deal with an enormous amount of change in demand to... in terms of... Huge upsides or huge downsides. I would say that's probably it and then linking to a little more of the topic of today, we have already started our digital transformation a couple of years before, so real time feasibility and analytics.


Also, big topic, the connected factories and self-running factories, the whole planning transformation processes with cognitive automation in terms of, let's say agility over demand forecasting accuracy, the whole thing about robotics and remote. These were sort of big topics for us that we had and what we found is that in COVID, this was absolutely vital to keep things running. So, the effect that you had your realtime information available and you know at a one click what's happening and what's running.


And then together with you guys, understanding how to respond to stuff has been absolutely vital. It has allowed us to cut our complexity by 30-40%. We've changed our planning processes to much more short term and much more regular. We went from weekly planning to twice a week, sometimes daily.


So, it has enabled and accelerated a lot of stuff that we had already started to prepare in our transformation program and where we are in the crisis today. The big job for us is to make sure that, that change is lasting and not going back to normal. But we've really defined this as a new normal of running a supply chain and that's exciting stuff.


Fred Laluyaux:

I have to tell you, from our perspective when COVID hit, right? We're same situation, protect our people. Now, we don't have factories, we don't have digital goods being driven in trucks, so it's a little easier because stay at home you're protected. But for us, the ability to support you and some of other customers in life sciences and that provides the goods that people actually needed was a way to keep the people inside our organization motivated and working twice as hard.


So, I would say thank you for that opportunity because the ability for us to give the tools and some of the models that would help you rethink your transportation or your forecasts in short amount of time, became a motivation, a driver. And people really rallied, so it was interesting for us to be able to contribute a little bit to your agility in this kind of black swan event for sure.


Marc Engel:

Yeah, now I think you're being modest for it because I think the work that we'd started before and accelerated through COVID has been absolutely magnificent and it also got a of traction. So, it changes from the way you have to convince people to want to do it to "Okay, this region has that. That region wants it now, can we have it faster? Can we have it now?" So, I think it's been hugely exciting in the acceleration of that whole digital transformation to be honest.

Investing in agility has a 10X return over investing in forecasting. Because forecasting at the best of times will never be accurate because you can't forecast when the sun is shining or when your competitor runs a promotion et cetera, et cetera. But we really saw that investing in agility has very, very good returns and I think that... absolutely the key learning out of this crisis.


Fred Laluyaux:

We build that framework around the cognitive automation in times of peace, where actually you can actually leverage all and harvest a lot of the data that actually makes sense. And in times of war, which is a big word but we could felt a little bit like this, where real time visibility, real time modeling, right? But also the ability to automate rigorously the decisions that... the execution of the decisions that you make was absolutely paramount because you talk about an organization with a 190 countries, if you say let's do it that way and then the message get diluted over time. Here you have the ability to act quickly.


So, talking about the... and thanks for that comment but talking about your ecosystem, right? That probably also got a little shaken up during COVID. You're leveraging and you talked about it as core to your agility when it comes to manufacturing, ability to address all the different market needs, right? I mentioned earlier the number of partner, I think it's close 50,000, it's a huge number. But what's your vision? And I think you touched on that already. For the evolution of that connected ecosystem, right? And talk about agility and responsiveness.

How are the present circumstances impacting the way you engage with that ecosystem?


Marc Engel:

I think that the answer is in the two words, connected ecosystem. So, first it has to be connected because we have been working with an ecosystem we didn't call it that. But it can just be a buzzword but the fact that it's connected now and that you can have access to each other's instant information is very important. That is absolutely key. The synchronization between partners if you want to work with an ecosystem, you have to have real time connections and real time synchronization, so it needs to be connected.


And the second thing is we have very much a linear supply chain which was raw material suppliers, our own factories, warehouses, and then on to the different sets of customers. But really what your seeing more and more is that the supply chain is actually a circle, where you want to be in the middle connected with all the data systems. And there's a ring of partners around you and that with the different segmented customers that you're serving, you just basically plug and play different partners of that ecosystem.


So, when you're doing an e-commerce only channel it looks in a certain way and if you do a marketplace or a D2C model it looks in a completely different way. And I think so, you really need to see the ecosystem not as "Oh, is that a raw material supplier? Or is that a distribution partner or whatever." But you need to see it as a ring of capabilities that you build around you and that you then connect through your digital systems.


And that will then allow you to build up a set of segmented supply chains because I think what we're seeing with so many segmentation in shopper journeys and customers. You need to build a segmented and agile supply chain. I think is one thing but the segmentation, you really need to do by building up that connected set of ecosystem partners.


Fred Laluyaux:

Is it still a chain then or is it more like a moving flock of birds? [crosstalk] You see those elements moving together like a... or do you still think it's a chain and do you think it will be called a supply chain in 10 years?


Marc Engel:

No, I think it is a chain. And so, when you look at the chain as the physical product flow it still ends up with the consumer and it starts somewhere on the field or in a mine or whatever. But I think in terms of information processes when the product flow was that way, the information flow that way, when the customer would buy we'll then get a demand signal and you go for the supply signal, then you order the materials, and then you do the production planning and then the distribution planning, so it was one way information and one way product flow.


I think with an ecosystem the information is much more two way and that is more around agility. I think that agility is really about the information being concurrent and not... let's say one after the other that you do more things in parallel. And the other thing is when you have such segmented supply chain it becomes impossible to do that, let's say by human power, it needs to be aided by digital technologies because that is the other big thing.


Fred Laluyaux:

One of our colleagues and friends, Ray Wang, talks about ambient orchestration, right? Of course, your chain of physical chain is still a chain but the orchestration becomes ambient sensing, being able to actually coordinate multiple pieces in trying to anticipate what's coming next. Because you're accelerating the pace.

You're accelerating the pace to a point where basically human cannot comprehend and you need the systems, that compute power to actually support that ambient orchestration which I think is a very interesting concept. So, yeah. Talking about agility, I just mentioned the summit that we had a couple of weeks ago and the topic was really finding agility with cognitive automation and I know it's been a big topic of yours. So, talk a little bit about, Marc, how you define agility today at Unilever? And I think you've touched a little bit about this already but how do you... bring it back to us here.


Marc Engel:

Yeah. Look I think there are two things around agility, so for instance if take COVID example, our hand sanitizers. We had a hand sanitizer business but I think in the first couple of months that had grown by 600 times and I think even now even today it's still over 200 times than what we had. So, their agility is we launched a product in 53 markets, we had 57 third party manufacturers set up within the month. We repurposed a number of our factories our own factory lines from deodorants to making hand sanitizer.


Agility for me has two components because it is basically responds fast to changes and most people are very focused on the responding fast and that's the physical stuff, okay? You see that something's changed, so you need to respond. And let's say investing in agility there in the physical part is definitely something that we all need think about when that we need to do.


But there's another part to agility and this is where it becomes interesting and that is the signal that something is changing. At first it's very weak and then becomes stronger and stronger and when it's in exponential change and all of a sudden it's there. And I think in supply chains where you need time to respond there is a huge value in recognizing the signal when it's still very weak.


Those are the two parts. Recognizing a weak signal and the earlier you can recognize it the better and then once the signal is there, your ability to respond physically to those changes are the two sides of agility. And I think with cognitive automation this is the big unlock in making sense of weak signals that we very often miss as humans because we don't recognize them because they're too weak or they're within the noise. But I think let's say the ability to detect signals early to when they're still weak is a very, very important point in this world today and will be when we're going forward.


So, I think that is something that where, let's say aided, cognitive automation can actually work very well.


Fred Laluyaux:

What about the third leg, right? You talked about early detection, of course sometimes you cannot detect. I mean, you were in a good position to understand what was happening in China. I don't know how quickly you were able to realize that what happened in that province in China was going to impact the world in the way it did. Then you have the need to formulate your reaction. Plans based on that signal once you get it, so the sooner you get the signal it's better. Then you have to be able to do some what if's and some scenario planning, and probably have a library of scenario already mapped out in case things happen.


But what about the third part that a lot of clients talk about which is the execution? Because when you're in that situation which is changing everything your ability to you send a signal back to your organization and for things to get executed. That's not easy, right? And nobody like change and your talking about the complexity of your supply chain with your ecosystem that we talked about and your own people.


Marc Engel:

Yeah, yeah. Well, when the signal is very strong that's actually easier because everybody sees the need, so I think the biggest piece of change management with all these digital technology is that if you're getting good at detection of the signal early and it's not obvious why you're doing something, it gets harder to rally people behind the things.


I remember myself, my own journey is that the first call I had on COVID was January 7th. Just remember on your own journey that was very early, January 7th was very early. And then we had one on January 25th when the Chinese New Year was there and obviously getting bad there but still to get anybody in your Europe or in the U.S. or anywhere else on the world interested, it was very hard. But we could see in China hand sanitizers that were already peaking.


So, we said "Look, if this is going to spread..." and people we're saying it's going to spread but it wasn't clear yet because there wasn't a lot of COVID outside of China. And then it's more difficult because people don't understand why you're doing it. I always find that when people get the rationale in supply chain we're great executors. But it is basically "How do you with the change management?" Because it is about trusting the system. It's about letting go and letting the system take over.
It's a little bit like when you put your navigation in your car on, you have to trust it because if you don't trust it, you're better off not putting it on because it... let's say A it's driving, you either trust the car to do that or you do it yourself. And what we're finding is the biggest change in our company is to get the planners to get the people who have to execute, to trust the system and not saying "Well, that doesn't seem right let me just override that because I've done this job for 25 years and I know better."


I think that is the biggest piece of change management that were looking at in all these digital technology.


Fred Laluyaux:

And I have to say something that people probably don't know but when we were presenting the technology and I was... Monday where we were doing this call it was three o'clock in the morning for me here in San Francisco and I was crumbling with my WiFi that time. We presented the vision and we talked about cognitive automation is the ability to deliver recommendations that could be accepted.


And you said something that internally at Aera has became known as the so what moment. Because that's pretty much what you said, you said "Guys, so what? Okay, we can deliver the recommendations but how do you impact the change?" And it literally forced us to think about that new chapter. We talked about data science process and change. And I always come back to my team and say remember the so what moment, right?


So, how do you impact? You deliver all these fantastic insight in real time, I tell you what you can do but if you cannot execute and if you don't build the trust glass box approach.


Marc Engel:

I remember it well, Fred. Just also to underline that point is I think you showed me that in one month in Europe, I think it was. The system had given 19,000 recommendations and we had actioned 136. And so, for me the thing was "Okay, have we looked at the other 18,900 or have we just ignored them or did we not have the time?" So, I think the... Once you build, let's say once you've proven that you have a model that can really take over, the only way is to accept them or reject them.

Because obviously, we do that, we double check the system in the beginning but at the end of the day where you really get the added values is when you say "Okay, every recommendation the system gives I'm just going to follow because I have enough trust in it. And that I think is the real pivotal moment in this cognitive automation journey is when you can trust it and you close your eyes and you let the machine take over.


Fred Laluyaux:

I mean, we talked always about the pioneers of cognitive automation. Obviously, I'm not trying to make this specifically about Aera, more about the broader topic but we've had the pleasure to really pioneer and think and build and design some things together.


And they really do things, right? There is the automation, so how can we actually increase the throughput of the decisions that planners make. I think you said the challenge that we had is the complexity of the decisions that planners have to make is such that they don't have the bandwidth to make all the decisions that they should be making in a given day.


But the second part is the augmentation, which is if you let the system run, the system starts improving over time. The quality and the accuracy of the recommendations and that usually comes with the augmentation of trust. And this is why we say you have to start this journey soon because you have to build your own data, your own digital memory of the decisions that are made so that the system can deliver better recommendations over time which is fascinating because it's really a new type of technology.


Were not talking about a software that replaces a previous software that does the same thing that you've been doing for 40 years. We're talking about a system that learns and can improve its accuracy over time. So, I'm literally diving into the next question but I think you've already have answered it. Which is when you think about cognitive automation, what role of technology... and not just for what Aera does but the technology, what are your thoughts on technology and what roles does it play in that journey toward agility? Do you see it as a nice to have, as a must to have?


Marc Engel:

No. I mean, it's an absolute must have. And if I sort of take you a step back in our own personal lives, we used to remember telephone numbers. I can still tell you any telephone number of any house I ever lived in the past. I don't know the mobile number of my best friends today because I've outsourced to this device that I have here on my table. And you notice it when you lose the device by the way. How powerless you are.


I was talking about navigation in cars. We very often put the navigation on not because we don't know the route but it give us the estimated time of arrival and so, we know when we're running on time and we know to call ahead if we're 10 minutes late and we can say "Look, I'm going to be 10 minutes late." And you just remember how that was before you had these kind of systems.


So, there's so many systems in our personal lives and in our business lives that are kind of avatars that are basically making us more powerful and letting our minds... giving our minds space to other things. And I think, if I'm looking as an example it is humanly impossible to plan 78,000 SKUs per week. And if now want to do that concurrently by day on a super segmented supply chain where we probably have 10 different segments and all these SKUs have to be planned and distribution planned et cetera, et cetera.


It is just humanly impossible to do that at real time speed and so, just like your mobile phone has taken away the need for you to remember telephone numbers, we just have to accept that this cognitive automation is helping us free up our mind because it's just impossible. The amount of data that you get thrown at you is just impossible to keep processing that in old ways.


And I think that is the role of cognitive automation. It is an avatar that makes us more powerful, that allows us focus on the big things, and it's creating like a self running and self healing supply chain. And that is for me of cognitive automation and that's how we need to see it, that's how I see it.


Fred Laluyaux:

No, it's brilliant and absolutely, I mean we've been sitting in planes a long time ago that's gone now, but we've been sitting in planes that we're in autopilot for a long time and we didn't have a problem with it. Now, why are we talking about it? But the same logic has been applied to the enterprise of course.
Marc, I want to be mindful of your time. We got a couple more questions. The next one is a big one. You look at 2030, 10 years from now. I mean, you talked about the acceleration of the change, the exponential curve. You've talked about the acceleration started five years ago. We talked about the... already touched a bit on that but what did you supply chain for CPG company will look like in 2030?

Big question and you're on the record, I'll call you back in 10 years.


Marc Engel:

I think we're always overestimating our ability to change in time but underestimating the final point and so, I'm always worried of giving 10 year projections but because you are seeing that sometimes the... Let's say technology is slower but when it comes it changes much faster.


But what I do see is a much more synchronized real time supply chain. I think, let's say we always say making today what you sold yesterday, so replenishing in real time is going to be a big topic. I think we're going to be seeing completely different trade landscape. I think consumers will also receive more stuff directly without intermediation. I think there will still be a big loyalty to brands which for our business is important but brands have to stand for something, for something in society, for something for the planet, and for something for me.

So, I do think that's the future for brands but I think the supply chain will be a very, very different supply chain.


I think it will have many, many more partners, much more synchronized, much more automated, self healing, self driving, and that is in my view where we're going to go. And you need to prepare for that now because it is probably going to take longer in the beginning but as you said a minute ago, Fred. You need to start now because the systems need time to understand what you're doing and the more time you can give it, the more happy you will be with the results and the reliability and then easier the change management will be to get there. So, while it is 10 years away, we really need to start now because we're getting at a point where it's just humanly no longer possible to do this on a spreadsheet and do this in your head at the pace the world is changing.


Fred Laluyaux:

It's fascinating what you said because once again I use this expression a lot internally, when you launch a new company and you're a software business in my case. I always tell everyone it is going to take you twice as much time. It's going to be twice as costly at best than what you think but if it works it's going to be exponentially more powerful than what you think. And when you're on that journey even though you know the recipe, you know it going to... you're always kind of delusional in thinking that it's going to happen faster, it's not that.


It's not the speed it's impact, right? The ratio of speed to impact is what really matters, so very interesting that you said the same thing about your world when our worlds are from what we do, is quite different.


So, Marc, last question. And it's one that's dear and near to me and we... we had Professor Joseph Fuller from Harvard Business School talk about the impact of cognitive automation on the future of work. My question to you and that's my last question, is what advice would you give to a young graduate? Someone coming out of a business school today interested in becoming the next Marc Engel. Let's just say a few years from now, what would you tell them to do?


Marc Engel:

I think it's going to be very different than my own. I think there's some things that will never change and those are the... let me call it the soft sides of leadership. And the first thing that I would say is, there is an amount of luck, if you're not lucky then it's difficult but I think you can earn luck. I don't think luck happens to you, I do think there is an element of luck that you can earn.

Let's say be where the action is and be at right time at the right place and I think that's not going to change. I think it is absolute a top sport, it's a marathon and not a sprint. So, let's say health and particularly resilience and mental resilience is something that I think is not going to change. It's even gaining more importance as the world is changing so fast and our brains need to change with that as well.


I would say authenticity, so being able to be yourself is going to be, I think still a recipe for success. But then I think basically, making sure that you stay on top of the trends in technology, in digital, in business is going to be absolutely vital. What I'm also seeing is that I think you really need to understand what are your own values and what is your own purpose, what do you want to achieve? Because I think it's about ambition to become the next Fred or the next Marc or whatever.


I think at the end of the day, what are you passionate about? I've always stayed with Unilever for so a long time because I always felt that my purpose is making a difference to things that really matter. That's what I get excited about. That's what I get out of bed for in the morning. And I've always found that Unilever, that I could contribute in that way. Whether it's around sustainability or whether it's around digital transformation or helping people or doing good for the world or transform industries et cetera, et cetera.


I've always felt that Unilever had a lot of space for me living my purpose and my values and the values were very aligned with the company. And I think those things are very, very important. I think you need to also enjoy what you're doing. Taking a job for just ticking a box on a CV, if you're not enjoying what you're doing, you're very unlikely to excel in it. And so, I would say look those are just somethings that I think will not change but I think the whole sort of unlearning and relearning and reinventing yourself...


What we had in careers of 30 years, you're probably going to have if you start now every four years because cycle time being so much faster. Maybe every one year, so it's going to be a real challenge to keep yourself relevant to, to keep yourself on top of things, and to reinvent yourself all the time as a leader but also in your skill set. I think that's absolutely a changing recipe in success. Some of the examples were things that I think were true in the past and will probably be true in the future.


Fred Laluyaux:

Thank you so much for taking an hour of your incredibly busy schedule to spend with us and share your insights on all those different topics. Couldn't thank you more and thank you for your partnership over the last few years and for the years to come. Thank you so much, Marc.


Marc Engel:

It's been a pleasure to be here and always great to see you.

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By
Marc Engel
,
Chief Supply Chain Officer, Unilever PLC
Published:
January 21, 2021
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