momentum effect
Momentum Effect by JC Larréché

I attended a presentation last week by Jean-Claude Larréché, famed marketing professor from INSEAD (still teaching there and also was there when I attended in 1993).  Jean-Claude gave a short and punchy overview of the key points of his latest book, “The Momentum Effect” which was published by Wharton School Publishing last year and is now out in French, “L’Effet Momentum“.  What made the evening particularly powerful was that, after his exposé, a host of different actors, from different industries, recounted a series of real life examples.  And, the style “requested” of each presenter was in the form of a story, which made the content all the more memorable.  Here are the salient points that I captured:

The Momentum Effect is about creating effective and durable growth with the reality of limited resources.  Too many of the measurement systems generally accepted today are static, taking an instantaneous snapshot as opposed to understanding the underlying dynamic strength or weakness, aka the momentum.  The bottom line for companies that experience the [positive] Momentum Effect are those which create a strong internal culture (tending toward the concept that “the employee is the brand”) all the while creating traction with the client.  As Larréché says, there is a need to “pilot the external market” all the while mobilizing the internal forces.  The two big typical errors in terms of mobilizing the internal team: not devoting enough attention to talent finding and building; having ‘pre-established’ [i.e. erroneous] concepts of talent (I would interpret this as, for example, hiring too many clichés and clones).

Among the stories that followed Larréché’s exposé, Christian Blanckaert (ex-MD Intl of Hermes, current CEO Petit Bateau) talked about the difficulty (need) to manage disorder and disequilibrium.  It’s not about how you manage the good times or the planned events.  It’s about leading through the spontaneous, unexpected moments.  As I was discussing with another expert in management yesterday at lunch, one can sort out the difference between the wheat from the chaff in terms of the leadership during periods of crisis.

Claude Brunet (Axa DirComm, Marketing & HR, ex-CEO of Ford France) presented the challenge at AXA to bridge the gap between the internal feeling of pride among the Axa employees and the external negative image of insurance (in general).  This is not your every day challenge — but, perhaps, there are lessons to be had for companies in the opposite situation.  Axa began a programme in 2006 to measure the level of “employee engagement” as opposed to satisfaction (a more static or 2-dimensional measurement).  They ‘invested’ in an internal blog addressed to top management in May 2008.  Interesting details on Axa’s internal blog: with 110,000 employees worldwide, they had 55,000 visitors (he did not specific unique), 20,000 comments and, using a ‘semantic’ analysis, that 85% of the words were positive.  All the same, I am quizzical about drawing conclusions about the positiveness of comments published on an internal blog… I would have to guess that the 20,000 comments came from less than 10% of the employee.

In June 2008, AXA launched a campaign that spoke inside and outside the company, “Redefining Standards” (translated into French in a binome statement as “Reinventer votre assurance.  Reinventer votre métier.

Reinvent your job
Reinventing our job

Brunet then said how their “engagement” level had been rising 1-2 points per year since 2006, but that since the latest campaign that the level had jumped 4 points.  Certainly, the idea of measuring engagement within the company is as relevant and powerful as measuring, what is more frequently discussed these days, client engagement.

Larréché’s point is that the positive momentum comes when both the internal ‘energy’ resident in the employees and the traction with the client are aligned.  I could not agree more.

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