Leadership

Case summary: The challenge

In 2018, Morocco’s OCP was a decade into a far-reaching transformation from a mining and exporting phosphate company to a diversified player offering fertilizers customized to crop conditions and farmers’ individual needs. To successfully achieve its growth ambitions and expand into new fields of business, Dr Mostafa Terrab, Chairman and CEO of the OCP Group, recognized that developing the talent and skills of its people would be crucial.

“Turning an industrial phosphate mining giant into a customer centric agriculture company requires talent and a shift in mindset to deliver this transformation,” he said.

The approach

As a first step, Dr Terrab asked IMD to diagnose what OCP lacked to execute its strategic vision. Bettina Büchel, Professor of Strategy and Organization, Tawfik Jelassi, Professor of Strategy and Technology Management, and Learning Manager Catherine Agamis travelled to Morocco for a week-long diagnosis. They visited three sites, conducted individual interviews with top executives, and led three workshops with a focus on digital innovation and culture.

The team came up with the following recommendations:

  1. Develop ambidexterity to exploit its phosphate operations efficiently and explore emerging opportunities to diversify into phosphate related by-products.
  2. Focus on capacity building in domains such as innovation, digital capabilities and customer centricity.
  3. Expand leadership and change capabilities and talent.

With upskilling and talent development deemed critical to OCP’s broader success, IMD collaborated with ABS, the business school of Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, and OCP to create Beyond, an 18-month talent development program. The three partners agreed on the theoretical content and applied learning at design workshops in Lausanne and Morocco.

The Beyond program’s first cohort of 50 participants – consisting of 27 internal employees and 23 external hires – alternated between off-the-job academic learning and on-the-job action learning. The knowledge and skills gained in the classroom were applied to 44 existing strategic initiatives aimed at improving how OCP exploited its existing mining and industrial operations and exploring new possibilities for growth.

“The tight link between the strategic work with OCP’s top management and the talent program emphasis on learning and delivering strategic initiatives fueled a transformation that would otherwise not have been possible,” said Professor Büchel.

 

The results

Beyond was so successful that OCP decided to launch a second cohort and create a separate program – Learnin’Pact (launched in 2022) to expand the concept of interweaving academic and action learning to all its 23,000 employees.

The impact of Beyond can be seen on four levels:

  • Individual: Following the program, 40% of the cohort was promoted to leadership positions.
  • Business: The program helped reduce operation expenses by 16%, improve production capacity by 10%, improve stock-to-port capacity by 21%, and reduce water consumption by 25%.
  • Organization: OCP’s HR developed and implemented innovative recruitment and talent management systems based on the Beyond Many OCP business leaders ask to host Beyonders in their teams.
  • National: A total of 21 Moroccans returned to join the first cohort and help reverse the country’s ‘brain drain’. More than 30 European-based Moroccans were admitted to the second cohort. The program also contributed to the development of the Africa Business School in Morocco by co-designing innovative offerings.

“Given its strong connection to the field, the Beyond program has disrupted both how the custom programs are designed and the purpose of these programs, which, in addition to upskilling employees, has become a powerful driver of change within the company,” said Yasmina Lamtiri, Director Custom Programs at Africa Business School.