Leading Ag Company Achieves Culture Shift & Change Effort in Compliance Approach

Yara International logo
CLIENT: Yara International ASA, world’s largest supplier of plant nutrients
LOCATION: Based in Oslo, Norway; Operations in 60+ countries, sales to 160 countries
SIZE: Nearly 15,000 employees

Client Profile & Challenge

From its corporate headquarters in Norway, Yara runs world production and support operations. It has a major share of the global mineral fertilizer market and also provides emission protection products and other environmental protection agents. Due to the nature of its industry, compliance with laws and regulations around the world is an important business function.

Ezekiel Ward, Yara’s Chief Compliance Officer, and his senior team had developed a compliance framework and culture that, for years, met the needs of the company. They had developed a rules-based approach that involved setting clear policies and procedures and then enforcing them. But as the compliance culture matured and the company’s needs changed, a new approach was necessary.

Yara sought to transition from a “rules and enforcement mentality” to a “value-driven” approach. The senior compliance team would shift from “doing” compliance to monitoring and supporting compliance efforts around the world. The way individuals on the compliance team worked and collaborated would need to change. In addition, they needed to involve regional management teams and empower them to take ownership of compliance.

Yara turned to CCL for help assessing the compliance culture and then changing it to something that better suited the company’s evolving compliance needs.

Partnering to enable culture shift

Solution & Results

Following a discovery phase, CCL designed a 4-year, multi-country initiative using a holistic approach. Our staff interviewed future participants during a field visit to Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger to hear their insights and identify skill gaps to help build a learning journey. The leadership development design was simultaneously personalized, social, and contextualized. We wanted to gain insights into the larger life story of the people we were going to serve, see the world as they saw it, and know what truly mattered to them. The key components of the learning journey included:

  • A 4-day, in-person Leadership Fundamentals program delivered to groups of 24 participants in the 3 countries;
  • A 5-day, face-to-face Leadership Essentials Train-the-Trainer program delivered to the 8 most motivated and qualified participants from each country;
  • Ongoing coaching;
  • Digital learning opportunities;
  • Self-assessments; and
  • Simulations.

For the first phase of the initiative, CCL trained 144 participants; 47 of these participants were then trained as trainers to deliver leadership-focused training in the second phase. All participants went on to train a total of 9,385 community members and colleagues.

This initiative generated 3 levels of impact as reported by participants, community members, and principal investigators:

  • Personal: an increased sense of self-awareness, a more positive affect (confidence, pride), and new habits and behaviors (such as feedback seeking and giving or experimenting more);
  • Interpersonal: a positive change in the quality of relationships with others; and
  • Contextual: the establishment of new, shared practices that increased communication, collaboration, decision-making, and trust.
Improvements in Direction, Alignment & Commitment Over 3 Months 

Community members also reported that the leadership training given by participants allowed women to speak up more and participate equally in the collective decision-making. CCL partnered with key Yara stakeholders to help them change the compliance culture. Team member interviews revealed the need for more collaboration, greater clarity around the new vision, and skill-building with the larger organization to co-create the new culture.

An initial 2-day session in Oslo facilitated by CCL brought the entire Ethics and Compliance Team together. Over the 2 days, the team clarified the vision and gained new perspectives and awareness — individually and as a group.

The team used these experiences and insights to understand what others throughout the business might be feeling or thinking regarding the new vision. They also started to anticipate how regional business leaders might react as they went about working in new ways. Through this new “other person” lens, the team had a chance to practice change conversations with one another by leveraging our change leadership framework.

This framework helps people think about leadership as a collective, social process in which all members of an organization can participate. Thus, the onus is not just on the formal group leader to “create a vision” and “make changes.” It is also the responsibility of each team member and the business managers outside of the team to collaborate through new behaviors that benefit the larger organization.

Three major outcomes of leadership are Direction, Alignment, and Commitment (DAC), which were assessed throughout the change initiative. CCL’s framework focuses on the leadership behaviors and practices that are important to create DAC, as well as the underlying beliefs, assumptions, experiences, and knowledge (i.e., leadership beliefs) that best inform effective leadership practices. The team spent time exploring the leadership beliefs and practices most likely to result in sustainable transformation.

While the team continues the change work, follow-up sessions and a reassessment of DAC after just 3 months reveal a number of important business results.

Individuals noted increased communication and collaboration within the team. For example, the team highlighted greater support, interaction, and collaboration between those working in the field and in headquarters. Field managers have shifted from asking for support to also offering support, signaling an important mindset change.

Business units outside the Ethics and Compliance Team are also experiencing the impact of the new approach to change. According to one team member, the business managers outside of the team responded so well to the change conversation that, “Now they are pushing me to go faster!” She said that this was a good problem to have.

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