Nutrien Cultivates and Grows a New Culture with PBL

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Nutrien Cultivates and Grows a New Culture with PBL

Process Based Leadership® provides Nutrien with company-wide cultural improvements in communication, accountability, decision making, and overall organizational engagement.

Nutrien, operating through three segments; Retail, Wholesale and Advanced Technologies, is a multi-national organization with over 10,000 employees, and has grown aggressively over the past decade with multiple mergers and acquisitions.

The Challenge

Inherent with rapid growth through acquisitions, is the challenge of bringing together diverse individual company cultures under one company banner.  As a large organization with a long and rich history, Nutrien is no exception. As they grew rapidly through mergers and acquisitions, they came to the realization for the need to define a Nutrien “how we do business” way of operating to integrate the local cultures at the various, newly acquired locations.

“We really struggled with alignment as an organization. There was a lot of confusion, people didn’t understand why we had certain priorities and how they fit in. Everyone had a very general idea of what was important, but we were not consistent in our execution.”

TJ Heidrick, Manager of Manufacturing Special Projects.

To best understand their challenges, Nutrien enlisted CSI to conduct an assessment including interviews with members of the Executive Team, Plant Management, Operations, Maintenance, HR, Finance, Sales, and Marketing.  Results showed random pockets of excellence, strengths in one location were liabilities in others, no sharing of best practices, no cross functional collaboration, major difficulties in communication, and a general disconnect caused by too many conflicting messages and initiatives coming from senior leadership. 

Core Areas in Need of Development:

1) Communication.

  • Employees believe that communication with their managers has been lost; especially when managers travel more than 50% of the time.
  • Many employees report an overuse and/or misuse of meetings.
  • Employees struggle with information overload and knowing what is most important and relevant – email use being a major culprit.

2) Business Focus.

  • Some metrics and scorecards are in use, however, there is a lack of consistent use and consistent application of the scorecards across departments, levels and locations; all appear to be utilized independently.
  • Too many concurrent, conflicting initiatives, making prioritization difficult for employees.
  • Employees are unable to see the big picture due to a short-sighted, reactionary culture.

3) Decision Making.

  • Higher level personnel tend to over-analyze and get caught up in the details, making it more difficult to come to a decision.
  • Sometimes decisions are made at the wrong level, while other times too much second-guessing occurs, leading to micromanagement and lack of true empowerment for employees.

4) Accountability.

  • Many tasks go incomplete because of varying approaches to decision making.
  • Too often accountability is based on feelings, rather than actionable, outcome-based discussions.

5) Culture and Behaviors.

  • Most managers are burdened with so many administrative duties that they are unable to be with their team and support their efforts in hitting goals, so they resort to firefighting (reactive) efforts.
  • There are major differences from one site to the next regarding empowerment and autonomy. Some people feel micromanaged, while others have total freedom to make decisions.

The Solution

Following a full analysis of assessment data and a debrief with Nutrien senior leaders, CSI worked closely with the senior leadership team in the development and refinement of the Nutrien PBL Process Implementation Plan.  From this Plan came the roadmap for cultural change level-by-level with regard to how expectations will be set, how leadership will communicate, how performance will be monitored, and how everyone will adhere to minimum standards of engagement.

Beginning with the Potash, Nitrogen, Senior Leadership Teams, Nutrien cascaded implementation of culture-shifting communication processes, accountability systems, behavioral expectation standards, and performance management solutions driven by business scorecards.

The Results

  • Commitment driven by non-negotiable processes and mentality
  • New terminology and follow through regarding taking action
  • Weekly scorecard reviews provide clearer focus
  • Quarterly metric and action trend reviews
  • Clearer definitions for what “success” looks like
  • Alignment from top to bottom
  • Increased communication of successes
  • Authentic, sincere approach to recognizing people who drive improvements

Measurable Improvements

  • Culture changing to one of more focus on bottom line business results and continuous improvement
  • Noticeable improvements in communication, both horizontally and vertically
  • Increase in prevention of safety issues
  • Scorecards provide ways to be open and honest about performance, then link to a process that drives accountability. This has led to better understanding of and focus on key business focus areas
  • Successes are being recognized and communicated creating a more positive work environment and reinforcing an integrated Nutrien culture


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