Former Partner, President and CEO
People Success Insight:
Creating a culture of “move fast and fix as you go“
Former Ketchum Partner, President and CEO Barri Rafferty led a team focused on solving a messy problem: How do you adapt an award-winning PR agency to a business landscape that’s changing at lightning speed?
“In the old days, we had the time and luxury to sit around the table and debate ideas, with the expectation of getting to consensus,” she says.
But in this day and age, Barri says, “what used to take maybe weeks sometimes takes only hours. Now we’re in a project-based, month-by-month, quarter-by-quarter world, and so we need to continually compete by offering the best ideas.”
Ketchum’s clients expect a mix of fresh thinking and deep expertise – often in a compressed time period.
To encourage speed-to-idea thinking, Barri built an environment of risk-taking, both in terms of the company’s strategy and on behalf of its clients, as well as celebrating and learning from differences, and psychological safety.
“I think people are much more willing to raise their hand if they know that rather than getting punished for something failing, they’re actually going to get support from the organization to help get it right.”
“We have created a no-boundaries approach,” she says, “where people at every part of the company can have great ideas.”
Before she left Ketchum to become an executive vice president at Wells Fargo, Barri and her team focused a significant portion of their efforts on finding the right technology to help connect Ketchum’s people and allow them to work together more effectively. This initiative has become particularly salient as the organization leans into the idea of a truly flexible workplace.
“If people feel they can bring their whole self to work and integrate their work and their personal lives,” Barri says, “then they’re much more likely to be happy and to feel more satisfied in their work environment.”
The foundation of an environment like this is trust. That means supporting – and modeling – highly-visible discussions around failure, even when it’s uncomfortable. Barri says that starts with her, by both admitting when she would have done something differently and supporting her team members when they do the same.
“I think people are much more willing to raise their hand if they know that rather than getting punished for something failing, they’re actually going to get support from the organization to help get it right,” she says. “My goal is to be an accelerator for business and to make sure that I’m managing that flow of knowledge to get outcomes, but I’m also…inspiring different ways of thinking.”