Magazine article Communication World

Leading and Learning by Example: Bayer HealthCare's Sreejit Mohan Explains How His Team Took on a More Strategic Leadership Communication Role

Magazine article Communication World

Leading and Learning by Example: Bayer HealthCare's Sreejit Mohan Explains How His Team Took on a More Strategic Leadership Communication Role

Article excerpt


To Sreejit Mohan, director of public policy and communication for Bayer HealthCare's West Coast operations, the how is as important as the "what" in his communication team's activities. His team of six full-time employees has broad responsibilities for internal and external communication to 2,000 employees in the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle, as well as community relations for all of Bayer HealthCare's West Coast biotechnology operations.

In the past five years, the team has evolved from a tactical support provider into a strategic management function. What they do and how they do it is now very different. And more important, from leaders' perspectives, the team is providing much more valuable work.

Mohan is quick to say the communication function is still a work in progress. However, is anything ever finished these days? We all need to be in beta, making continual improvements.

In the following interview, longtime IABC member Liz Guthridge, the managing partner of Connect Consulting Group, a change communication consultancy based in Kensington, California, and the originator of Lean Communications, which applies traditional lean manufacturing and management principles and practices to communication, spoke with Mohan about how his group's practices have changed; the two have worked together for the past four years.

Liz Guthridge: What was the trigger that caused you to rethink how your communication team worked?

Sreejit Mohan: We did an acquisition in which our leaders relied heavily on the communication team for change communication support. We did great and delivered an award-winning program. Yet I realized that if we continued supporting change initiatives, we would need to change our mode of operation, and retool ourselves from a process and skills perspective. We didn't have enough horsepower.

LG: In 2009, the company accelerated the pace of change, which led to some substantial changes in how you did business. What increased your urgency about making changes?

SM: Three things were happening in parallel. First, the business was continuing to experience changes. We were bringing on new leaders, changing our organizational structure and introducing new initiatives. Second, and consequently, leaders were requesting more strategic counsel and support. Third, I participated in a leadership development program with other West Coast leaders, which gave me greater insights and understanding about how I needed to act as a leader of my team, and also how to address the needs of the other leaders in the organization. For example, I realized I should build greater trust with my team and empower them more, build stronger relationships with peers, give and receive more feedback, and work on becoming extremely self-aware so that I can make improvements. The other benefit to this leadership development program was that all of us on the leadership team started to use common language and tools around leadership.

LG: Can you talk about applying lean principles to your communication function?

SM: I was already familiar with lean concepts because of my engineering and management background, and also from supporting a manufacturing organization. Lean talks about the importance of the three "P's: purpose, process and people. The three "P"s helped guide us in adapting our function.

For about a year, we operated without a well-articulated purpose statement. At a team meeting, we created this purpose statement: "To deliver to our customers high-quality communication services and products that provide outstanding results."

That worked well for about 18 months. However, as leaders started requesting more strategic support and we started seeing the greater value we could and should add, we realized we should revisit our purpose statement. At your suggestion, we simultaneously studied our stakeholders. …

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