Honeywell’s executive training program includes a big focus on flexibility.
As Honeywell chairman and CEO Dave Cote told us recently: "You never know how all of your markets are going to evolve, so you need to place lots of bets in lots of places. Our executives need to be flexible in terms of planning the future."
During the recession, Honeywell continued to work across all of its geographies on improving major processes and continuing its functional transformation plans.
"We deliberately didn’t cut critical R& D or sales teams on the street, so we’d be well-positioned to take advantage of the recovery. We continue to expand offshore. We’ve gone from 40 to 50 percent of our sales outside the United States, but because two-thirds of the world’s GDP is outside the US, we still have plenty of room to grow."
While second-tier companies and organizations without a strong executive bench or executive talent pipeline used the recession to pick up external talent, Cote said Honeywell chose to look deeper internally.
"We wanted to recognize the people who had worked hard and stayed with us and we gave them the opportunity to step up."
Leadership requirements didn’t change in tough times, Cote said. "A good leader is still a good leader, so we are always looking for the same things, people who can be flexible, do the tough things and do them in the right way, people who understand the reality of their market and adjust accordingly. But the ability to do that might become more visible during tough times. It is easier to be a hero during easy times."
We agree. Flexibility and operational excellence go hand in hand. Winning companies of tomorrow will be those to recruit and develop such leaders as a major source of competitive advantage.