Corporate Blog

Corporate Blog

Report on Coca-Cola University Japan's transboundary training program for nurturing next-generation leaders capable of driving transformation further

July 21, 2021


Are you all familiar with Coca-Cola University Japan (CCUJ)?

■What is CCUJ to begin with?

Coca-Cola University Japan (CCUJ) is a people development platform launched on July 21, 2020 as one of the initiatives to embody the concept of "Business as usual is not an option" with an aim to nurture next-generation leaders who can drive the transformation and future growth of the Coca-Cola system and create new value that can invigorate the beverage market sector.
The training courses offered in CCUJ are divided into three levels: CCUJ Ⅰ is for department heads, CCUJ Ⅱ is for team leaders, such as section managers, and CCUJ Ⅲ is for non-managers with high potential of assuming leader-class position. Those who enroll in CCUJ are selected in the people development meetings held in each function. As CCUJ students, they participate in training programs designed to strengthen "5 Leadership Capabilities", which are composed of five leadership qualities that represent the behavioral elements and perspective required by leaders capable of promoting the concept of "Business as usual is not an option". (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1:

In this report, we will focus on the transboundary training program called the "Regional Revitalization Project" offered to section managers as a part of CCUJⅡcourse.

■Background that led to developing "Regional Revitalization Project (TEX)" as a transboundary training program and its objectives

CCUJⅡcourse is designed to strengthen and nurture four core elements which are: ① innovation and transformation (conceptual basis); ② strategic thinking (basis for strategic planning); ③ leadership (ability to execute the strategies to drive transformation); and ④ team performance (ability to deliver great results as a team by getting relevant members involved) "Regional Revitalization Project (TEX)" has been included in CCUJⅡcourse as a transboundary training program to specifically strengthen ① innovation and transformation.

People Development Dept. personnel in charge of CCUJ:
"The concept of this training program is to create a cycle of experience and learning through an iterative process of input and output. The program is therefore designed to minimize classroom lectures and offer the trainees opportunities to "actually try doing" something that will be challenging for them. By making them struggle to get things done in areas where they are not familiar with, we expect them to accumulate the experience of breaking away from their individual "comfort zone". Furthermore, we made arrangements this time to make them team up with college students who they often don’t have much chance to communicate or collaborate in their normal day-to-day business activities. By making them experience a series of projects together in this unique environment, we thought we could train their ② leadership and ③ team performance at the same time as well. In this age of the so-called "VUCA", where things are getting increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, business leaders holding the responsibility to lead their respective organizations need to develop the ability to perceive the world straightforwardly, have faith in themselves along with a clear sense of values, and be eager to continue evolving."

People Development Dept. personnel in charge of CCUJ:
"We also need to continue evolving as a company. Through this "Regional Revitalization Project (TEX)", the participants will encounter different sets of values and business models beyond what they have experienced in the past or thought were common sense, which will enable them to acquire new learnings and broaden their perspectives in ways they cannot obtain within their own organizations. By gaining understanding of the regional difference in culture, systems, and environment, they will also be able to develop their ability to interact successfully with stakeholders coming from different backgrounds. In addition, our employees, college students, and regional visionary leaders participating in this project will be able to learn from one another in the process of promoting the regional revitalization as one team focused on finding effective ways to address the social issues faced by the visionary leaders in each region. We hope such mutual learning experience will also lead to creating an opportunity for them to rethink what they aspire to be and what their career means to them individually."

Fig. 2:

Structural image of TEX (True EXperience) Source: FIRST CAREER Inc.

■Training starts! Members stimulated by visionary leaders!

This is a 5-day training program, designed to pursue the following theme: "How would you perceive and address the social issues if you were the regional visionary leader with a mission to develop a sustainable local community in that region?" On the last day, the teams formed by the trainees are expected to respectively present to the visionary leaders what they have discussed and organized as their concrete ideas to address the identified social issues.

On the first day, the trainees attended a briefing session where the visionary leaders, Mitsuhiro Sakai-san from Noto Food Co., Ltd. (Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture), Kaichiro Kazuma-san from Kazuma Breweries Co., Ltd. (Noto, Ishikawa Prefecture) and Hisao Hagiwara-san from IYOSUI Co., Ltd. (Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture) explained about the local issues they are facing in their respective regions and how they have been addressing them so far.

Hisao Hagiwara-san, IYOSUI Co., Ltd. (Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture)

The visionary leaders selected for this program are all in the same age group as our employees enrolled in CCUJⅡcourse. Through their different lines of business, they are working enthusiastically to address the different region-specific issues they are confronted with, which include depopulation and abandoned farmland. The trainees learned that these aspirational visionary leaders have different set of values and perspectives toward work, and were greatly stimulated by the strong leadership they exhibit to their respective organizations toward the direction they firmly believe in.

After being divided in separate teams, the trainees began discussing about the local issues faced by the regional visionary leaders with their team mates. Since the employees and students had different daily time schedules, they made arrangements among themselves to find time to get together for team meetings to identify the root causes and essential elements of the local issues, analyze the as-is state and prepare for the intermediate presentation they had to give 10 days later.

On the day of the intermediate presentation, they revisited the contents of the previous meetings, and shared the progress and direction they were heading team by team based on what they have captured so far as potential root causes and essential elements of the local issues o that they could sort out their key points more clearly in an organized manner. There were trainees who voiced their positive impression about this intermediate presentation as being a great occasion to broaden their perspectives by hearing how other teams were perceiving the issues and what kind of ideas they have been coming up with, which differed in angle and approach from theirs.

The stimulus they received from one another apparently has been helping them refine the intermediate presentation and prepare better for the final team presentation scheduled on the last day of this training program.

■What can be done through the concept of "Business as usual is not an option"

The final day has come at last.. The day started out with each team making the final presentation to the visionary leaders. In the room that was filled with a somewhat tense mood, the teams presented the business plan that they have thought through from all different angles and finalized as their conclusive proposal on how Noto can be revitalized and further developed as a sustainable region.
They were all received well by the visionary leaders, including several moments during the presentations when the visionary leaders raised questions and made comments to some ideas that they found to be highly innovative.
After hearing all the presentations, the visionary leaders wrapped out the day with positive comments that made the trainees fill themselves up with a sense of accomplishment and full satisfaction, which included the following:
"The presentations were all great because they were based on data and analytical insights that even touched on small details without dismissing them"; and
"We learned a lot from these presentations which included proposals of some ideas that we made us want to try out right away because they were new approaches that we never considered before".

Highlighted below are some comments from the trainees and visionary leaders who participated in the CCUJ II training program this time.

■CCUJ II trainees

<Shimizu-san, Online Sales Division, Strategic Customer Headquarters, CCBJI>

Q. What kind of impression did you get, listening to what the regional visionary leaders have spoken to you in this training?

I found that the visionary leaders think and take actions based on how they can contribute to their region. This was something completely different from how a business person like me think and act. In terms of business mindset, we share the same interest of ultimately making profit by coming up with ideas that meet the consumer needs, regardless of whether they are for regional business they do or for a nationwide business that we do. But I have been never being so attached or strongly conscious about the local community when I do business. So the way the regional visionary leaders approached their business was an awakening for me.

Q. What were some of the things that you felt were new learnings obtained through your participation in this training program?

When I listened to the comments from the college students and trainees from other departments whose past experiences differed from mine, there were many enlightening moments where I felt "interesting, never thought it that way" or "wow, the way I have been thinking wasn’t deep enough", even on some things that I thought were the best before hearing their opinions. What these moments have taught me is that I may have been misunderstanding myself all these years. I may have been making wrong assumptions that the knowledge I accumulated through my long work experience must be correct, and that by now, I know basically everything about my customers. I learned from them the importance of taking one step back to perceive things with a broader view. I also learned from the point of view of working as a manager the approaches I should take to draw out each team member’s individual strengths more effectively, and to communicate with people coming from drastically different backgrounds in ways they can get more involved.
In my workplace, there are many co-workers who have built their professional career through years of experience, including mid-career recruits. In this training program, I got the chance to work together with college students who have not entered the professional world yet. As I played the role of teaching or supporting them as their senior team member, I discovered some specific areas where I was still naïve or lacking in knowledge or skills.

In this project, I had to work with team members coming from different backgrounds, ranging from college students, local business leaders to lecturers, and put together a presentation based on different ideas exchanged with them. It turned to be a great occasion for me to learn about myself and how I look at things, and gain fresh perspectives that differed from my own.

<College student, Yagi-san, who participated in this program>

Q. What made you decide to participate in our training program?

Although I knew about the company profile and other basic information I picked up at job-search forums, I wanted to know what kind of work this company was engaging in, and understand more deeply about its business. So I decided to apply to this program which would give me an opportunity to communicate closely with the people actually working in this company.

Q. How did you feel participating in this training program?

When I participated in internship programs offered by other companies, the main group of people I interacted were often young employees. In this program, I had to interact with senior employees who were holding a managerial position. Considering the big age difference, I was sort of nervous in the beginning. But as we began moving toward the same team goal and our discussions began more active and heated, I soon felt comfortable communicating with them.
In addition, until I participated in this program, I never had any experience working for any particular local community. It was quite a challenge for me to come up with ideas to help solve the local social issues like aging and region-specific cultural aspects that I had no basic knowledge about because they differed greatly from the environment I was living in. So some of the ideas raised from college members like me may have been unrealistic or too out-of-the-box. But the senior members carefully listened to whatever we proposed, and even tried to study together some of the things they were not sure themselves. Moreover, the advices I received from them based on their business viewpoints were so inspiring and helped me look at things from a different perspective.

Q. Has your impression of Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan changed after participating in this training program?

My earlier impression of this company was that it was a pretty scary workplace that values individuality and makes performance-based evaluation which may not suit me well. But I discovered that the members in my team were very cooperative in getting the group work done, and treated young members like me with lot of care and consideration regardless of the big difference in age and experience. The way they supported each other to work on the common issue together created a warm working atmosphere that has left me a lasting positive impression about this company and its people.

<College student, Ikeda-san, who participated in this program>

Q. What made you decide to participate in our training program?

While I was taking a marketing class in my college, I read a news about Coca-Cola’s successful launch of Lemon-dou. What impressed me was the proactive attitude and challenging spirit to make foray into the alcoholic drink sector, which is a completely new market for Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan. I decided to participate in this training program because I was curious to know why an already well-known company like Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan keeps taking up new challenges without being satisfied with the status quo.

Q. How did you feel participating in our training program?

There were mainly two things that I felt strongly about.
One was about the notion of how business owners ought to be. Before participating in this training, I rarely had the chance to listen to the professional stories told by business owners like the visionary leaders we met in this program. The local stories told by the three speakers were all categorized to be in the same group of "regional issues", but what interested me greatly was that they were actually viewed and handled with three completely different convictions and approaches.
The other point that was particularly interesting to me was the various ways the employees with different work experiences digested and analyzed the stories laid out by the visionary leaders. For a youngster like me without any professional experience yet, this program gave me a great opportunity to learn from both the regional leaders and corporate workers, which were very inspiring and motivating.
I also found the discussions to be a lot of fun. I was nervous in the beginning and was worried if I could communicate properly with these employees holding a managerial position who were a lot older than me. But I soon found that they were building a very warm workplace environment that made me feel comfortable as equal members learning together and being always kind enough to listen carefully to my opinions as well.

Q. Has your impression of Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan changed after participating in this training program?

I did not feel any gap in particular in my impression of this company before and after participating in this training program.
There was an interview article about Lemon-dou I read in the past that talked about the concerted efforts of the people in this company who worked in earnest to make a successful entry into the new market. I felt that "one-team" spirit from the employees of this company who I got to know through this training program. At first, I had an image of senior members holding high positions to be all "square and tough". But as we made progress in the project, I began to feel their passion of working together as one team. By participating in this training program, I got to know the people in Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan more closely and gain a deeper sense of the workplace atmosphere of this company.

■Regional visionary leader, Hisao Hagiwara-san (IYOSUI Co., Ltd., Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture)

Q. What kind of meaning do you think there is for local communities to be involved in a training program like this?

As the world changes with speed like never before, corporations are also feeling pressured to reform themselves or revise their business models. I looked at it as a great chance to transform. When I stay focused addressing only the local issues in my small community, I sometimes miss the opportunity to look at the bigger picture and realize how the regional issues (lack of employment, lack of information or gap from where our products are consumed, etc.) have been changing over this period of COVID-19, which also means that the ways to address them may have to be modified as well.
To create new ideas and clues, it is important for people in completely different regions, line of business, scale of business, age and experience to get together to share their local (or internal) issues and conditions, and revisit them through different set of macro and micro views and values. I also think it is equally important to share the activities we have been working on and the visions we have been envisioning with promising next-generation talents so that they can evaluate us with their fresh eyes and give valuable opinions to us as well.

Q. Please share with us what stimulated you or what you learned while participating in this program as the visionary leader.

I learned a great deal from all the presentations in terms of the entire process of how each team viewed the issues, identified the core problems and came up with ideas to solve them. The skills they employed to plan the solutions and communicate their ideas were also stimulating.
More than anything, I was honestly very pleased to see the trainees grow in the training program I was involved as the regional leader. It became a precious opportunity for me to revisit my own style of leadership in the region (or company) I work in and make me more motivate to work harder than ever.

The organizers of this training program will also continue to work more energetically than before in people development and organizational development to contribute to our company’s mission to deliver happy moments to everyone while creating value.

Related Articles