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Adoption and diffusion of a marketing led organisation in syngenta seeds

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Author: Wiig, E.L.
Mentor: Kester, L. · Hultink, H.J.
Faculty:Industrial Design Engineering
Department:Product Innovation Management
Type:Master thesis
Embargo lifted:2012-08-22
Keywords: adoption · diffusion · virtual communities of practice · marketing led · launch strategy
Rights: (c) 2011 Wiig, E.L.


Project context and scope

The launch of the Marketing Led Organisation (MLO) in Syngenta Seeds in 2010 marked, in effect, the start of an adoption and diffusion process with the purpose to spread the MLO throughout the Vegetables EAME organisation. The way to diffuse the MLO was using a dedicated group of carefully selected employees, called Multipliers, who would receive training and act as change agents to implement the new ways of working required by the MLO throughout the organisation.

The project sought to answer the question: How effective was the diffusion process of the MLO and the utilisation of Multipliers for that intent, and how can that process be improved? For Syngenta the project served as a formal evaluation of both the MLO and the Multiplier program. The assessment used adoption and diffusion theory. Adoption refers to the decision any individual or organisation to take up, use or incorporate a product, idea or innovation, while diffusion relates to the spreading of the innovation in the market, organisation or social system and the amount of users (Rogers, 1995).

Two data collection methods were used over a five month period: studying internal company documents and conducting semi-structured interviews. In total 22 interviews were conducted with internal stakeholders with different levels of involvement with the MLO. The findings from the interviewees were compared to the findings from the literature review, conducted in the domains of adoption and diffusion, and launch strategy.

Results from analysis
From the analysis it emerged that there were four main phases in the diffusion process: the set-up of the diffusion process, the diffusion to the Multipliers, the diffusion to the rest of the organisation, and sustaining the diffusion process.

The set-up was among the most successful parts of the diffusion process and facilitated the other phases. The structure set-up was effective for a diffusion process because it took advantage of the interpersonal network to aid the diffusion. By nominating Multipliers at different hierarchical levels and having them locally anchored, the changes could be adapted to fit the business needs and wording. Furthermore, with the setting up of the Multipliers, an organisational infrastructure was put in place that was capable of continuously diffusing new elements of the MLO.

The diffusion to the Multipliers and their subsequent adoption was vital since the diffusion of the MLO was to be cascaded through the organisation through them. The Multipliers’ adoption was successfully facilitated by the launch of the MLO. Especially the close co-operation between management and the Multipliers was key in the success of the launch and in the Multipliers’ adoption.
The Multipliers acted as change agents that engaged in a fairly successful diffusion process towards their teams. Consequently, the logic behind the MLO has been understood and implemented to a degree in the organisations everyday work. Nevertheless, the reasons for adoption were less strong for the team members compared to the multipliers.

The fourth and last phase was the most challenging phase. The diffusion of the MLO was slowed down by the announcement of a large re-organisation within Syngenta. Even before this, difficulties in sustaining the diffusion process had emerged that were related to the lack of a suitable roadmap, that an intended transition of initiative did not occur, and that the Multiplier did not become a true community.

Proposal: Initiate a Virtual Community of Practice
From the results, it is evident that the setting up and launch of the MLO was done mostly successfully, but the most crucial challenges were in sustaining the diffusion process. Especially the re-organisation meant that existing practices would not continue. Consequently, the project proposed to initiate a Virtual Community of Practice (VCoP). “Communities of practice [CoPs] are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (Wenger et al., 2002). The value of the VCoP was that it offered a new way in which the Multipliers and the MaSE Leads (Multipliers in Crop Protection) could be united in a common community and begin to generate and diffuse the new integrated offers. By using a VCoP, the process of developing offers, sharing them and introducing them in several territories/countries would be facilitated, meaning that developed offers would have the potential of getting a larger market opportunity.

The literature review regarding VCoP identified that the two most critical roles initially in cultivating a VCoP were management and the coordinator. The detailing of the proposal therefore sought to ensure that both roles would buy-into the proposal.
A management proposition was made to convince them of the merit of the VCoP for the organisation. The proposition described the potential value of the community to the organisation and the rationale for supporting it. In addition, the responsibilities of management were covered, of which the selection of the leadership team was explained in depth as this was the connection between the two stakeholders.

For the coordinator, the small number of VCoPs in Syngenta implies that any coordinator with the necessary skills in marketing to function as a coordinator would most likely not have any experience in coordinating a VCoP. A way to offset this lack of experience was to provide the coordinator with guidelines on how to set-up, launch, cultivate and sustain a VCoP within the new organisation of Syngenta. The guidelines were developed by compiling literature, results from the analysis and existing internal tools and best practices in a way that fitted with the new organisational context.

The evaluation of the management proposition and coordinator guidelines was conducted by the project supervisor. In her opinion the proposition of creating a VCoP was good and highly valid for the new organisation. The guidelines were also positively evaluated. They would reduce the amount of re-invention in Syngenta, provide the future coordinator with valuable help, and were clearly structured and understandable to use.