Chairman of Wesfarmers, Boral and ASB Adjunct Professor, Dr Bob Every on leading change

Monday, 26 August 2013  Features

Chairman of Wesfarmers and Boral, and Australian School of Business Adjunct Professor, Dr Bob Every AO, visited the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) and presented to MBA students on his experience of leading change.

Dr Every's overview of the Coles acquisition by Wesfarmers provided the students with a realistic case study as an example of the complex business issues that they may encounter in the workplace. The students are currently undertaking studies in a course called Integrated Experience (IEX) that challenges these emerging business leaders to apply core business principles in an integrated and multi-disciplinary fashion to come up with solutions to challenges such as those faced during the Wesfarmers and Coles Transaction.

Dr Every conducted two sessions: in the first he gave an overview of his career history and journey of leading change through various leadership roles in business; and in the second he specifically covered his experience whilst at Wesfarmers undertaking the acquisition of Coles.

Dr Every described his role as Chairman as being the 'Custodian of the Culture' and gave the students career advice around the importance of culture in facilitating change management.

When speaking about the Coles transaction, Dr Every attributed its success to the implementation of a turnaround strategy based upon improving the operating efficiency of the business and addressing customer service. He also shared his biggest learnings from the tough years of the GFC with the AGSM students.

"Leadership is about taking calculated risks," said Dr Every. "But you need to get more right than you get wrong if you're going to be sustainable."

In his presentation, Dr Every also advised what he personally looks for in a CEO and encouraged students to seek out a mentor.

"You need to realise an MBA is just the start of your career," said Dr Every. "Think about what you enjoy and be prepared to do the hard yards before getting to the top; don't try to plan too far ahead. Your career is not a sprint, it's a marathon."

Dr Every also spoke passionately about his involvement in not-for-profit organisation Red Kite that supports families of children with cancer, which he has been a Director of since 2008 and was appointed Chairman in 2011.

Professor Mark Stewart, Academic Director MBA programs said Dr Every's presentation highlighted the everyday challenges students will face in the workplace and provided a highly relevant case study for the IEX program.

"The Integrative Experience is an innovative team-based leadership and business problem-solving course that marks the end of the core studies component of the AGSM Full Time MBA Program," said Professor Stewart.

"The Wesfarmers and Coles Transaction is an example of a major corporate transaction that prompts students to consider the various core business frameworks and theories completed in their first two sessions of the MBA Program and to apply this knowledge in a practical application."