Envision Training Week, 2022 Batch – Riyadh, KSA – November 2023

Hi! My name is Charlie and I am an F15 from the 2022 batch, which means I’m about to finish my second rotation. In January I will be moving from a Milk Based Beverage Innovation Project in the UK to a Supply Chain Sustainability project in Sweden. However, before that my batch reunited for a training week in Saudi Arabia focusing on the Envision Leadership Competencies. For this training week, both the PMGPs and F15s travelled to Riyadh from all over the world (Denmark, UK, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Dubai, Malaysia & Indonesia). 

The training week had a focus on problem solving as a team, as well as common elements with the other training weeks of Leadership Stories and local market immersion. There was also some time for good food in the evenings and trips to football matches and local tourist spots.

On the first day (a Sunday!), we were taken to the office in big, 7-seater cars through the chaotic Riyadh traffic. Peter Hallberg (Managing Director of Arla KSA) and Saeed Al Qahtani (Director of KSA HR) welcomed us and educated us especially on the change that Saudi Arabia has undergone in the last 5 years. The influence of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030 was something we were told about but also witnessed first hand through the week. 

The afternoon saw, Martin Blixt Jacobsen introduce us to McKinsey’s 7-step problem solving framework which then set us up for the major part of the week – the business cases. After Saeed took us out to eat like Kings near the traditional royal palace on Sunday night, we arrived the next morning with an appetite for our new projects. Chantal van Driel briefed us on 2 projects and Mikkel Voigt on a 3rd before Karen finally broke the news of who would be working on each project.

The rest of the day was spent determining the exact SMART question each project team would seek to answer before again going out for more obscene amounts of food that even Erik & I couldn’t get close to finishing.

The most exciting part of our business cases came on day 3 when each group had its own external visit. My group, Team Innovation, visited a Modern Trade store (hypermarket) & Traditional Trade store (mini-mart); Team Foodservice visited cafes and restaurants; Team End2End visited the Arla production site on the other side of Riyadh. It was amazing to see the presence of the Puck brand.

Day 4 saw us examine what it is to work in a team with the help of Tom Cook our Hogan guru. After some discussion of “conflict competence”, we returned to our business cases where we “put the fish on the table” and really considered how the individuals within our groups were interacting. Presentation finalisation ran slightly into the evening back at the compound but everyone was well prepared by Thursday morning when we presented our conclusions to the key stakeholders including Kim Villadsen (Senior Vice President of Arla MENA).

Throughout the week, we saw the increased freedom of women who as recently as 2017 were not allowed to drive or leave the house by themselves and had to eat separately at restaurants. Arla’s commitment to empowering women was shown to us on the final day where we attended the launch of Aseelah “The Voice of Women”.

Kim summed up his experience of working in new countries when he said (to paraphrase), “Don’t just read about a place and judge it, go there and see it for yourself”. I think we all left with a new perspective on KSA and Arla’s business there, as well as developing our problem solving and team work skills – covering all envision competencies of Organisational Understanding, Global Mindset, Intellectual Power & Create Direction.


 F15 Graduate