January 2014 | 

Meeting New Challenges: One Executive’s Story

One Executive's Story

When Damian Pedreschi, the youngest member of the executive team at Beca, (one of the largest employee-owned engineering and related consultancy services companies in Asia-Pacific), came to Wharton’s Advanced Management Program last June, he sought answers and insights for a specific concern. Beca’s CEO had recently challenged the Beca Team to bring their clients into the middle of their business, and Pedreschi wanted to know how.

“We started developing a new Client Service Excellence Program before I left for Wharton. Based on feedback we collected from our clients, we discovered that we could improve consistency and work more collaboratively. It’s not unusual to have multiple technical disciplines working on one project, so without a concerted effort we could deliver different levels of service. Most of the feedback was very positive, but we identified some clear space ahead where we could grow. The Client Service Excellence Program was designed to address this.

“During the Advanced Management Program (AMP), I realized that for the Client Service Excellence Program to work, it needed to be absolutely owned by the whole business, not by marketing or business improvement. During Professor Ian MacMillan’s session on the consumption chain, I saw that this didn’t just refer to products but could also work with services. Our product is our people: their knowledge, skills, and experience. If any one link in Beca’s chain was broken or sub-optimal, from finance to HR through to our technical teams, it could impact our clients. We had placed a greater priority on those who directly delivered our services to the client. But the truth is every single person has an impact on how our clients experience Beca. With that insight, we reoriented the program, focusing on our 3000 people. It was a real and positive cultural shift.”

Pedreschi also gained powerful insights from a session on communication. “We had a University of Pennsylvania literature professor teach us poetry. It was like a ‘Dead Poets’ Society’ experience and one of the highlights of the five weeks. It made it so clear how important content is in the digital age. Professor Filreis helped us see how great poets consider every word and every syllable, and they deliberately choose a corresponding structure and rhythm. It was an incredible lesson in the power of communication which really resonates because we are all creating content all the time, whether it’s for our website or on social media. I have continued to emphasize to my team since I got back that content is what determines success. If it is not well written it won’t have an impact — reaching more people is not enough. You have to use tone, content, and structure well.”

Another benefit of AMP was the interaction with other senior executives from around the world, which helped him develop a more global view that will positively influence his decision-making. “The program is limited to around 50 participants. It creates a learning community that develops into a lifelong network. That was quite powerful, and is an important difference between AMP and other larger senior management programs. We are all still in touch and I am continuing to grow these relationships both professionally and personally.”

“The really important thing for me was realizing I was in the right place at the right time. University was a reasonable time ago, and I knew I needed a new learning experience. The world is changing and you need to keep up. When you get an opportunity to take five weeks out and step back from your working life and focus on new thinking, it gives you a fresher, clearer view on what is most important to address. I came back with so many ideas, and importantly I came back to an organization that both welcomed and wanted to engage to understand how my Wharton experience could benefit our business. My time at Wharton also produced another important learning moment for me. I understood with a new level of clarity I was returning to an outstanding organization. I am enjoying every new challenge and my goal for Beca to continue to enjoy the energy and learnings from my Wharton experience for many years to come.”

And what about Pedreschi’s initial concern about bringing clients into the middle of Beca’s business? “We are now in the initial stages of the Client Service Excellence Program. The initial roll-out of the program has seen more than 90 percent of our Team across Asia, Australia, and New Zealand complete a specifically designed online learning module and attend focused workshops designed to encourage the drive and provide the tools to empower our Team of 3000 to consistently deliver positive experiences for our clients. It would not be working so well if I had not had the AMP opportunity.”