UPS Chief Strategy Officer: How to Influence and Create Transformation on a Global Stage
By Dave Hendrick
When Scott Price (MBA/MA ’90) took the role of chief strategy and transformation officer at UPS nearly three years ago, he was the first external hire to the C-suite in the company’s 112-year history.
While adjusting to working and leading in a new environment with “deeply ingrained cultural norms” could have been a culture shock, it was nothing new for Price. He has excelled at learning new customs and ways of doing business at virtually every stop on his global career journey, which he detailed for students at a Leadership Speaker Series talk at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
After Darden, Price, who had pursued a dual degree in Asian Studies while at UVA, knew he wanted to live and work in Tokyo, but could not find a single company to hire him while stateside. Price said he sold his furniture, bought the cheapest ticket he could find, and through a Darden connection eventually found a position he had sought with The Coca-Cola Co. in Japan.
A whirlwind of global progression followed, with Price eventually moving to Malaysia to lead Coke’s efforts in the island nation, followed by still more responsibility at a post in Hong Kong. Roles with the global shipping giant DHL Express came next, with Price leading the company’s efforts in multiple countries and taking a role in the C-suite for the first time in his career, first as CEO of the Asia-Pacific region and then as CEO of Europe.
“I enjoyed the job,” Price said of his time with DHL. “I learned all of these cultures that were wildly different, and to be able to make progress and to grow these businesses, and trying to keep the theme of a corporate culture but at the same time respecting the national culture — it was an interesting challenge.”
After DHL, the opportunity to learn a new industry came in the form of the position of CEO of Walmart Asia, a post Price held for five years before taking a position as executive vice president of global leverage at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. After more than a quarter century living around the globe, Arkansas was perhaps the “biggest culture shock of all,” Price said.
From Arkansas, Price took his post at UPS, where part of his charge involves bringing stakeholders along for potential transformation, even as the corporation boasts a strong history of growth and stable ways.
In considering how to earn the trust needed to lead transformation, Price said he orients his thoughts and actions around three key questions, which have different answers depending on the environment:
- How do you influence people?
- How does conflict get resolved in the organization?
- How do people create change?
While the answers vary, the framework is surprisingly effective, regardless of corporate or national culture. The third question, too, takes on additional weight during a period of rapid, widespread change.
How to Create an Environment for Transformation
Said Price, “Every single organization and supply chain is being disrupted and being forced to reinvent at a speed never seen before, where gig startups can scale so quickly that large-scale companies are being disrupted by companies that have not been around for long.”
For UPS, that can mean seeking to lead or develop significant capabilities in rapidly emerging technologies, such as drone delivery and 3-D printing.
Leading in the age of rapid transformation also requires some digital fluency — you should know enough to be able to credibly engage your chief information officer, Price said. The keys to effective leadership are found in critical and creative thinking and the ability to influence people — many of the so-called “soft” skills that take on added importance as you ascend in an organization.
“I spent my entire career adapting to new cultures because it kept me intrigued, and it kept me interested and I enjoyed the challenge,” said Price. “And ultimately, it allowed me to create the skillset to be able to earn the right to be able to transform a company and to be part of the transformation.”
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The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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