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Driving culture change

In conversation with Craig Hayman, CEO of AVEVA
October 2020

In February 2018, Craig Hayman was appointed CEO of AVEVA, a software house in the UK FTSE 250. A few months earlier, Schneider Electric had merged its software division with AVEVA, owning 60% of the enlarged company's stock. Craig set about integrating the two companies, recognizing that a successful integration would involve a cultural transformation. In this interview, he describes to Emanuela Aureli of Spencer Stuart how he led the combined business through a culture change program, helping AVEVA evolve from a technology to a values-based company. In the course of this integration Aveva entered the FTSE 100. Following the recent acquisition of OSIsoft, a California-based application software business, AVEVA is on a trajectory towards a $10billion market capitalization.


Full transcript

Emanuela Aureli: Craig Hayman, you consistently sought out roles where driving transformation was at the heart. So, when you joined AVEVA in February 2018, what did you expect? What did you find out, and how quickly culture became a hot topic?

Craig Hayman: Yeah, it was a very exciting time back in February of 2018. Strategically, it was so obvious to bring two businesses together, what we call the Heritage AVEVA business and the Schneider Electric Software business, into one company. Just from a customer’s point of view, or a shareholder’s point of view, an employee point of view, it made perfect sense. But operationally, it was really complicated. You had two different cultures come together, you had two different sets of ideas, two different sets of perspectives. And it became pretty obvious, I’d say for me, within the first week, that culture kept coming up as a topic.

Emanuela Aureli: How would you describe the different cultures, the AVEVA culture and the Schneider Electric culture?

Craig Hayman: We really were bringing together AVEVA, which is a company based in Cambridge in the UK, been around for 50 years, together with Schneider Electric Software, which was a division of Schneider Electric, which is an industrial provider of hardware around the world. In fact, those cultures are very, very different. What they do is different. But actually it was worse than that. Inside Schneider Electric Software was over a dozen different companies that Schneider had acquired over 10 to 20 years where things hadn’t changed. The employees still had their original badges from their original company, the facilities still had their original logos, so really, we were bringing together over a dozen different companies. We really had to find our shared values, our culture, within those two companies.

Emanuela Aureli: What would you say were the most significant challenge to overcome these barriers that you faced in between these two sides?

Craig Hayman: We needed a common cause, a common reason to get out of bed in the morning for everybody, and we found that in our customers. We surveyed our customers and we asked them what do they place value on? It came back in order, even though we were a technology company, the technology was third. First was trust, then partnership, then third, technology. Then we went to the Heritage AVEVA business and said, “What do you believe in?” They said, “Well, we believe in trust and partnership and technology.” And the Schneider Electric Software business, “We believe in trust and partnership and technology.” We said, “Well, that’s it. That’s our North star. That’s our common cause.”

So, in fact, I went round and I did all these town halls with everybody, probably 90% of the population. And there’d be a question where someone would ask, “Craig Hayman, what is our culture going to be of this new company?" I said, “Well, that’s a good question.” Because honestly, as a new CEO, I had no idea what it was going to be. So I said, “Well, tell me a story where you think we’ve been at our best.”

There was a moment as they’d tell a story from those cities around the world, where they’d lean in and laugh and people would nod and they, “Yes, that’s it.” Those stories had one thing in common. It was where they were focused on solving a customer‘s problem, it was one where they built trust and alignment and they pulled people within the company to serve that customer in some way. And so we said in fact, when we first began talking about a culture with Spencer Stuart, we said, “In here somewhere is our common cause.” And it was so exciting from that to build what is now, I would say, a values-based company that we’re very proud of.

Emanuela Aureli: And that was exactly the following question I had. Can you share with us some tangible, pragmatic initiatives that as an organization you took?

Craig Hayman: So, how to bring everyone along together? Well, first of all you need a way to talk about it inside the company and Spencer Stuart had written this great set of articles in Harvard Business Review back in January of 2018, as I was preparing to be the CEO of this new company, I really inhaled that content. It was perfect timing. It was great content. It had a way to think about culture, think about values, think about change management. So, as I went through into this discussion, we used that to frame a discussion about culture. First at the executive leadership team, eight people, the top highest eight people inside the company, then at the strategy leadership team, the 20 people.

And then we worked through these culture workshops that were just fabulous. To take teams through, “Look, here is the culture of the company today.” That was pretty eye-opening. “Here is the culture of the company we want to have tomorrow and here is where you are as an individual, and there is a place for you in the future. But understand you’re going to have to operate a little differently as we move towards the future.”

We realized that we had to dial up learning, still be results focused, but dial up learning and dial down safety, as you like. And so that changed management, as the work that we’re doing together is to go through the company, across the entire company, culture cafes, 8 to 12 people, maybe locations, take people through the change management. “Look, this is where the company is today. This is where the company is tomorrow. Do your own a self-assessment. Learn a little bit about yourself. Look around the room and see these people and realize you need to work with these people to effect the change inside the company.” I have to tell you, it was probably one of the most uplifting, most positive experiences for our employees.

Emanuela Aureli: What was it about our methodology that was unique to you and you felt you can trust us to partner with you successfully?

Craig Hayman: Well, look, Spencer Stuart has travelled this journey many, many times with many, many customers or clients of Spencer Stuart around the world. It understands this journey. And so when you think of our company, we were going through this for the first time, and when you’re going on a journey, you want to take a guide with you. You want to take someone who’s travelled that path, who knows the twists and turns, someone who can partner with you. And so we found in Spencer Stuart, a partner who was knowledgeable, understood the journey, wasn’t focused on an individual outcome, wanted to help us find a strategy that was aligned with our business, one that was pragmatic for our business and one that would help us serve our employees, our customers, and our shareholders.

But tactically it’s 10 to 12 people sitting in a room, including yourself, Emanuela, including myself, with teams working through that change management, helping teams find themselves.

Emanuela Aureli: How will you continue sustaining this phenomenal growth?

Craig Hayman: Well, I think the success is nice. These are somewhat trailing indicators. I think a culture and a values-based company, I think, is one of the great successes of our partnership. Spencer Stuart has helped us evolve from a technology company to a values-based company. One that serves our participants, one that puts integrity and flexibility and excellence and ambition and dealing with uncertainty and innovation for our customers, and brings that forward to build a more sustainable future.

At AVEVA, we’re very proud of the work we’ve done together because values is what we think is going to help power us through that digital transformation.

Emanuela Aureli: What value would you put it on the culture change and how much has this played in achieving the phenomenal success that you have so far?

Craig Hayman: Culture is a critical element. We wouldn’t have a company, without this work. Now two years later I can sit here with you and be a little bit articulate, but nowhere close to articulate as your team on the topic, is just because of the work we have done together. Just to be very broad for a second, I think this idea of a values-based company where the culture is sort of throughout everything you do, the values are throughout everything you do, I think that is a company of the future, long-term success. There are likely some studies that prove that out, I just know from our experience from the last two years, it’s absolutely the case.