KARL MOORE - This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for the Globe and Mail. Today I am delighted to speak to Monique Leroux who is the Chair and CEO of the Desjardins Group, one of the largest co-operatives in the world.
Good afternoon, Monique.
MONIQUE LEROUX - Good afternoon.
KM - When we look at it, [you have]over 45,000 employees and [are]one of the largest co-operatives in the world, you have worked for the Royal Bank, Ernst & Young and Quebecor, so very much traditional and corporate structures. How is it different at a co-operative?
ML - Well it is different by the structure - we have a democratic structure, which means we have 6,000 elected officers and so we have elected officers in each caisse and those people get involved at the regional level up to the National level at the level of Desjardins Group and the Board of Directors. So that is one major difference because you have elected officers who have a say in what Desjardins Group will be doing in terms of growth, development and performance. So it means that there is a lot of communication, debate and discussions. We work by way of co-operation internally, so there is a lot of collaborative ways to manage this very large organization. The other major difference is that our performance is not just to provide solid financial performance: We have a mission and a vision that brings a sort of equilibrium between a solid financial performance but also making sure that we can serve and support our members, and support our employees and elected officers as well as being present in the communities. So it is a very broader kind of mandate, but when we are able to do that I think that the contribution to society is quite significant.
KM - At times it must be frustrating because at Royal Bank or at Quebecor you're the boss and you can say, "Here is where we are going to go" and most people will follow you, but in a co-operative movement you don't make those kinds of decisions.
ML - Not at all. I would say the structure is an inverse pyramid, which means you have the members and you have your elected officers on top of you so the relationship with the members, the clients and the owners is obviously very different. But I believe that, more and more, large organizations that will have success in the future will be able to manage differently. I do not believe in hierarchy, I don't believe that the top down way of managing is the best way to bring the best out of people in organizations. When you take the time to talk to people, get their feedback and communicate in a way that is reciprocal [then]you can get much more in terms of quality of decisions and when it is time to act on those decisions, the alignment is much stronger. So, at the end of the day, I think the model that we have, even though it is quite challenging to bring all of those people in the same direction, creates a lot of value and I think that is the way, maybe, to create sustainable prosperity.
KM - This has been Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for The Globe and Mail.