Helping a company rediscover its passion for what it does better than anyone else,
using its own amazing people and history to do it.

I really appreciate your 'outside-the-box' approach and style, leveraging all the senses and positively challenging us to do things differently, like invite external experts into the programme. I believe you have helped us to develop a truly unique program and one in which we continue to get amazing positive feedback and pull from the business. Your ability to listen to our needs, understand where we are as a business and then stretch us out of our comfort zone to
achieve our objectives is excellent.

HR Director, DE

The challenge

When we started working with DE Master Blenders 1753 (DE), it was setting up on its own as a standalone business, having left its umbrella company Sara Lee. As the name suggests, it's a business with centuries of history and heritage.

It was a dream brief for us. DE wanted to fire up their people about what they do and what they produce - our speciality - and get them thinking in new ways about tea and coffee. It wanted to excite them about the independent company's new journey.

Our job was to put together a few days filled with creative, interactive sessions that would set a new tone for the organisation and leave everyone passionate about the direction, opportunities and products.

So we started with their top 150 people from the global business. If we could get these high-fliers fired up then they would pass that on to the rest of the 7,500 employees around the world.

The other part of the brief was that we would run this first 2 and a half days as pilot and then gradually hand it over to them to run and own. This informed everything we did.

The first thing we did was to go and find the experts in the business who live and breathe the very stuff of the company - tea and coffee. We wanted them to help us design a programme that enabled the business itself to bring its expertise and energy to life.

We strongly believed that the business should be firing itself up rather than relying on outside speakers. So we spent time unearthing role models in the business. For example we found a brilliant supply and demand specialist in Zurich to whom we gave a platform to share their expertise and energy with the wider business.

We took these inspirational people and their stories and then started to shape it all into a coherent, interactive three-day narrative.

We had one rule: no Death By Powerpoint in any of the sessions. No-one wants to be talked at for three days, after all. We pushed for everything to be hands-on and involving, with DE's people discovering their business for themselves. All the experts were fantastic to work with and we helped them mine their own information over the next few months.

Our approach

In practice

We set up the first few sessions on Day One to explore the context of the business and get everyone thinking: what do I need to think about to be passionate about what we do? What do our rivals do that's exciting that we could learn from?

The result was several days of real energy, ideas and discovery. We had one session in which teams had to create their own blend of coffee from scratch: learning how to select the beans, roast them, blend them, grind them and take them home as their own.

We had an expert on latte art show people how to do symbols on the coffee froth, hearts and flowers etc. We also set up an actual tea auction to show how tea gets traded. Elsewhere we looked in detail at tasting coffee, exploring coffee that's been processed differently, the taste of 'instant vs. French Press' for example. Nowhere else in the world has the appetite for instant coffee that the UK does, for example. Why is that, we debated?

We also pushed DE to be brave and look wider than its own organisation for inspiration and innovation, so another session saw a whisky master blender come in to talk about parallels between tasting whisky and coffee.

By the end of the second day he and a master blender from DE had hatched a plan to put a coffee blend into a whisky barrel and see what happened... It was a great example of how the company could start thinking in totally new ways (we'll keep you posted on the coffee).

The last half-day was looking at what, in the short term, each person could pick up from the sessions and take back. For example, we were asked by lots of attendees to 'box up' the tea auction as a module that people wanted to replay for their teams as soon as they got back to their day jobs.

We received excellent feedback on the pilot events. The business has now taken ownership of the programme and is delivering it to their own people.

We really challenged DE to be creative and it was a challenge for us too. After all, we knew we had all these great people, knowledge and stories, the magic was in designing a programme which brought this to life and really used it to push people and move the business along.

The results

It was exciting to work with an organisation that had such a rich heritage and was also making a new start. It was both exciting and inspiring to see people reconnect with their products and become even more passionate about being part of the 'new' business. Creating a design which was high impact and could be replicated and rolled out using internal resource was an important success factor and we're delighted that the programme is now embedded in DE and is being successfully rolled out.

About DE Master Blenders 1753

D.E Master Blenders 1753 is an international coffee and tea company, headquartered in the Netherlands. With sales of 2.7bn Euros, its coffee and tea products are available in more than 45 countries and 70% of its revenue comes from markets where it has a No.1 or No.2 position.  View website