The world leader in building materials, Lafarge has a workforce of 80,000 people and a presence in 76 countries. It holds top-ranking positions in each of its three businesses: Cement; Aggregates, Concrete & Asphalt; Gypsum. Sales for 2005 were €16billion. The company offers the construction industry, and the general public, innovative solutions to bring greater safety, comfort and quality to their everyday surroundings.


Major change occurred to the Lafarge group in the period up to 2004 due to large scale acquisitions that included Blue Circle Industries and Redland. This resulted in a significant increase in employees and operational sites, and the need to: manage the integrations successfully; quickly leverage the potential of the new businesses; and drive performance to meet the company vision of becoming the ‘undisputed world leader in the building materials industry’.

The Challenge

  • To ensure managers shared and understood the vision of the Group
  • To increase networking and synergies across functions and divisions
  • To raise awareness and understanding of the link between behaviour and individual, team, and Group results, with particular focus on the following areas:
  • Creating a greater “Sense of Urgency’
  • Creating ‘Greater Accountability’
  • Enabling and encouraging people to ‘Lead by Example’
  • Creating an operational ‘Stretch Mindset’ (to do more with less)
  • Encouraging a culture of ‘Positive Conflict’
  • Creating a ‘Multi-Local’ mindset – combining local and global priorities
  • To motivate managers to implement learning and insights ‘day to day’.

The Solution

The Odyssey Group was invited to partner with Lafarge University. Our task was to provide a series of learning experiences for senior leaders across the company which would be the catalyst for major behavioural changes. Our interventions were built around the six behavioural challenges detailed previously.

Using leadership and behavioural development concepts, real-time facilitation, peer coaching, and a major simulation, we designed and delivered a fast paced, intense, and demanding learning experience. A two and a half day workshop was delivered to over 1,800 Lafarge leaders across Europe, Asia and the Americas over a three year period. We successfully challenged mindsets and provoked open and honest dialogue between participants to create the necessary levels of trust and openness that allowed deep-seated, sustainable behavioural change to take place.

The successful facilitation of these programmes led to us delivering further workshops for new leaders joining the organisation, allowing them to share experiences, become acquainted with the company ‘Principles of Action’, and developing the behaviours that had successfully impacted the business to date.

The Results

An individual perspective:

“The main learning for me was the link between my behaviour and the performance of the team in the plant. Following the programme, we are now driving the operations in the plant with SMART targets and clear priorities. In line with my commitments I have set up a system of daily, weekly and monthly meetings in the plant between people of different departments to analyse performance in safety, quality, the environment and production, looking at the gap with our targets, any problems and how to solve them. At the end of the meetings there are clear actions and responsibilities. I also started regular meetings with other departments to improve the communication between us after which I saw real improvement in plant working practices: people worked together and knew what the priorities and targets were. I now pay a lot of attention to communication which has had a direct link to the improvement of the business results in the plant.”

An organisational perspective:

  • Latest organisational results show sales up 21%, current Operating income up 41%, and earning per share up 48%
  • Internal feedback shows an average evaluation rating by participants of 84% based on an assessment of programme objectives being met

Qualitative feedback has been of a very high standard, with internal sponsors reporting significant positive shifts in behaviour.