Why did we hire you?

Soul of the corporation, scourge of the corporation

Mary Minnick is the outgoing CMO at the Coca-Cola Company. To judge from the press reports, it sounds as if she might belong to the category of change agent. Here’s what she had to say this week in the Financial Times.

Change is uncomfortable, just as a human characteristic and for organisations as a whole. It’s challenging, it’s complicated, and it doesn’t always make people comfortable.

Minnick pursued change anyhow. As she told shareholders. “I tend to be quite discontented in general. It will never be fast enough or soon enough or good enough.”

And we may judge how far she was prepared to transform the Coke paradigm, when she says,

All the work we did suggested that consumers are using beverages in dramatically different ways, ranging from disease prevention, to hydration, to weight reduction, to relaxation, to relieving stress and to fortification of nutrition.

Change agents of this kind don’t stay for very long. Ms. Minnick lasted 20 months. But then that is perhaps the very nature of their contribution to the corporation. They so upset the apple cart, they can’t stay for very long.

What’s weird is that the new corporation is going to need these kinds of people. As things speed up, as the corporation grows cloudier, both continuity and discontinuity are called for in equal measure. As things speed up, as change grows more intense, it is really hard sometimes to remember what the corporation stands for. How useful to have a “soul of the corporation” person around to remind us.

Bring in the revolutionary. (And make sure the pay package is rich, because they won’t be here for long.)