Pertamina’s catalyser

Winning the EFMD 2020 Gold Award for talent development was an honour for all the partners, especially as this is the first time an Indonesian company has won such an award.

This article will not cover the same ground as the published case study: it is intended as a reflection on the experience of building a world-class leadership programme in an Indonesian context.

Let me begin by describing the experience of the collaboration of four external partners with a leading Indonesians state-owned company.

Gotong Royong

Gotong royong is an Indonesian concept that means “mutual cooperation” (gotong) and “working together” (royong). It is an important characteristic of Indonesian management. Professor Thomas Mannarelli, one of the INSEAD directors of the Catalyser programme, ran an exercise on team collaboration with Pertamina participants. They did better on this exercise than any participant team that Professor Mannarelli had seen before.

“I was really taken aback at how well and how quickly they collaborated”, he says. “There is always a tension between co-operation and competition in the exercise where the disposition to compete usually dominates until they realise they have no chance of success without co-operating with other teams. But in this group their choice to co-operate was clearly dominant from the outset.”

The gotong royong spirit is what made our complex collaboration possible, especially in the co-creation stage when we built the components of the Catalyser learning experience.

The partners

The first partner in co-creation is the Pertamina team itself, represented by its Talent Management department and Pertamina Corporate University working together. These teams showed courage and commitment whenever there was a new challenge or a problem to resolve — of which there were many.

Next are INSEAD and Deloitte, which were outstanding partners in designing and delivering the leadership Accelerators, the learning programmes that took the participants to China, India and Abu Dhabi for immersion. INSEAD and Deloitte created a measurable mindset change for Pertamina’s future leaders as well as developing leadership capabilities.

Here is what Professor Mannarelli said about INSEAD’s role in Catalyser: “The partnership that has been established with PERTAMINA for the Catalyser programme is precisely the ideal collaboration that INSEAD seeks – one that does not simply tick boxes, but creates collective transformation of mindset, of culture, and most importantly, of leadership behaviour and action. Through a collaboratively developed, and constantly evolving journey, Catalyser participants receive hands-on experiential learning, supplemented by rigorous research-based pedagogy and field exposure to individuals and organizations at the forefront of disruption inside and outside the energy industry.“

Deloitte’s perspective on collaboration was described by Rukhsana Pervez: “Catalyser is a true testament of commitment to building leaders of the future – for company and country. Our focus and intention for Catalyser Participants was simple – to build a new DNA for leaders in PERTAMINA, one that enables them to THRIVE, not just SURVIVE in the rapidly changing, disruptive times we all live in. Our approach was predicated on a “show don’t tell” approach. Taking participants on a journey of provocation and personal realizations, while constantly exploring new opportunities, ideas and innovation at an individual and organisational level.”

Finally, the Senior Advisors, Hora Tjitra and Bob Aubrey, were appointed as architects and co-ordinators of Catalyser. Aubrey was the architect of the overall learning design and worked with Tjitra on the mentoring, career development and action learning components of Catalyser. Although Hora did his cross-cultural doctoral studies in Germany and lived in China, his deep understanding of Indonesian culture and management was vital when it came to mutual understanding and problem-solving.

Catalyser’s co-creation process

In the beginning, the Senior Advisors asked the Pertamina team how we should work to create an innovative leadership programme. Using the Rindfleisch and O’Hern typology for new product development, we agreed to the first type, which matched our commitment to gotong royong.

  1. Collaborating: open contribution, customer-led selection
  2. Tinkering: open contribution, firm-led selection
  3. Co-designing: fixed contribution, customer-led selection
  4. Submitting: fixed contribution, firm-led selection

The first phase of co-creation started with benchmarking research on leadership, followed by focus groups with Pertamina senior leaders to define the needed capabilities and learning experiences.

At this point several innovations were discussed and adopted. These fed into the concept design. We decided to develop and assess leadership aspiration as well as capabilities. We agreed on a massive demand on the time (3,400 hours) for over 100 senior managers to serve as mentors for the first cohort of participants.

We agreed to base the second year of the programme on a requirement for all participants to define and implement a mobility opportunity, which is very difficult to do for 120 participants a year. Finally, we agreed to create a measurement system based on individual interviews with each participant by a panel, to take place at the end of year 1 and 2.

The second phase of co-creation started with selection of the learning partners. We elaborated
a complete Request for Proposals and many of the world’s top business schools and leadership consulting firms sent proposals. Deloitte’s and INSEAD’s proposals were outstanding and their presentations confirmed their creativity and commitment.

This led to the first pilot of four Accelerator programmes (Enterprise and Energy for INSEAD, Global and Innovation for Deloitte). A detailed measurement system was created linking the company’s strategy to the career strategy of each participant.

A key commitment agreed by all the partners was to make the Catalyser programme a truly Indonesian leadership programme, demonstrating how Asian leadership is different, complex and yet world-class.

The Indonesian context

“Catalyser is not just another leadership programme. Our investment is a bet – we are betting the future of our company on the leaders we promote into key positions. Failing to make Catalyser successful is not an option, given the energy needs of Indonesia. Catalyser is not only for promoting our high potentials, it is also an opportunity for our senior managers to take a transformative role by matching the next generation of leaders with our strategy”, said Nicke Widyawati, CEO of Pertamina

The Catalyser programme is the biggest leadership accelerator currently running in Southeast Asia. It represents the growing readiness of Southeast Asian companies to develop world-class leaders.

The origin of such a large acceleration programme at Pertamina was born from the need to face a strategic talent gap – the imminent departure for retirement of nearly all senior leaders by 2023. At the end of the Suharto era, for a period of 10 years, Indonesian State Owned Companies had frozen hiring. The gap was of national concern given the importance of SOEs to Indonesia’s development.

Within this Indonesian context, Nicke Widyawati was appointed as Director of Human Capital by the Indonesian Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises in 2018. She immediately asked Ihsanuddin Usman, then Senior Vice-President of Human Capital Development, to make leadership development a priority. She herself would become Pertamina’s CEO a year later. Her role as Human Capital Director was filled by Koeshartanto, who was appointed HR Director by the Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises and implemented the Catalyser Programme.

The promotion of a younger generation with 10 to 15 years less experience was in fact an opportunity to create a more entrepreneurial mindset and ensure new strategic capabilities for Pertamina’s leaders.

Catalyser’s multiplier effect

Pertamina’s award in 2020 follows on the heels of the 2019 Gold Award for Thailand’s oldest bank working with IMD. These EFMD Gold Awards have encouraged other companies in the ASEAN region to take initiatives to build their own world-class leadership programmes rather than copying best practices and buying off-the-shelf leadership “solutions”.

Within Indonesia, sharing of Pertamina’s experience has generated online conferences with hundreds of participants connecting to find out how to build world-class leadership using their own culture and capabilities. In Singapore, as I wrote this article, the European Chamber of Commerce hosted a conference on the Pertamina experience with the theme “the New Normal in Leadership.”

Singaporean and international leadership schools and companies, as well as many international leadership providers who have already won awards, underlined the need for Singapore to go for their own international Gold Award for leadership development.

So it seems that a multiplier effect in the region can be attributed to Pertamina’s Catalyser thanks to EFMD’s recognition that partnership is the way forward in the leadership ecosystem.

Watch the partnership project video.

Pertamina / INSEAD / Deloitte
/ Tjitra and Associates Consulting / Bob Aubrey Associates


See more articles from Vol.14 Issue 03 – ’20.

Leave a Comment