“With Constant Care”: What we can learn from Maersk’s deep transformation

“With Constant Care”: What we can learn from Maersk’s deep transformation

Article written by Henrik Kofod-Hansen of Novosensus


Maersk transforms how logistics business is done, and how 80.000 people work together. It’s too early to judge if it will be successful, but it is already clear that Maersk’s transformation offers a new view on how logistics providers can think and behave.

One of the guideposts for the transformation is Maersk’s famous core value “with Constant Care”. It  originates from a letter that Mr. A. P. Moeller wrote to his son, Mr. Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller, 75 years ago. Over time, Constant Care has evolved, but it still plays an important role in Maersk. The evolution of Constant Care represents 3 important mindshifts, that other logistics companies potentially can learn from.

The Evolution of Constant Care.

Originally, Constant Care was avoidance focused, designed to prevent loss. Later, Constant Care softened somewhat to allow for faster decisions, but there was still a notion of avoidance. Both interpretations of Constant Care were defined by a “finite mindset”, with little space for curiosity. It was about filling vessels as productively as possible, and adhering to the established rules with a zero-sum mindset.

In the newest update of Constant Care, an abundance mindset emerges, with an emphasis on exploring the surroundings. It is about being curious, discovering new possibilities and thinking out of the box. Literally.

A core cultural value is something an organization only changes with Constant Care. It is safe to assume that Maersk reinterpreted Constant Care with the objective to guide the transformation. In this, there are three significant psychological shifts that drive the organizational mindset.

Shift 1: From an avoidance to an aspirational mindset.

The avoidance mindset hates to be wrong. Mistakes are disasters that easily lead to blame and feelings of guilt. People learn to take the safe bets, and protection and prevention drive the culture. The aspirational mindset is different, as it looks towards what can be, and how to get there. It is constructive, instead of reactive. There is an appealing vision, which is it worth to take some chances for to achieve. Often, aspirational minds are willing to experiment and explore, to learn from when things are not going as expected.

This mindshift does not mean that risks are ignored, but they are viewed through a different lens. The odds are calculated with a focus on how to make things work, instead of how not to do it wrong.

Shift 2: from a finite to an abundance mindset.

A mindset of abundance is characterized by curiosity and exploration, with the objective to create a new reality. The existing rules that a finite mindset adhere to, are no longer accepted and followed. Instead, the abundance mindset is willing to take risks, and is more focused on expanding the business scope and value generation, than exploiting status quo. The abundance mindset has an optimistic and constructive worldview, and a higher confidence in own abilities to create newness.

For both shifts, learning is central. No aspiration can be achieved, without learning to leave the comfort zone, and no abundance mindset will make a good business, without learning to focus on the right things. Therefore, Maersk’s transformation is at core about unlearning and learning.

Shift 3: From defensive pessimism to realistic optimism.

It would be wrong to ever characterize Maersk as a pessimistic organization, and yet Maersk today conveys a more optimistic worldview than in the past. If we look into 4 psychological classification on the pessimism-optimism continuum, you can try for yourself to classify how you experience Maersk and your own organization today:

My observation is that Constant Care was originally an expression of defensive pessimism, and it has over time evolved towards a realistic optimistic state.

The Maersk Transformation.

From an organizational psychological perspective, Maersk’s transformation is in essence about enabling people to move through the described 3 shifts. The forming of an aspirational, abundance and realistic optimistic mindset is a personal journey for every employee. Some find it easier than others. The integration of new people, with different attitudes, behaviours and professional expertise, at the same time both enables and complicates the transformation of the company culture.

The shift from a finite to an abundance mindset creates a new set of expectations towards employees and leaders. To successfully grow integrated logistics solutions and digital services, that drive more and a different kind of value for clients, the organization must create new ways of interacting. That can naturally lead to conflicts between liner and logistics people, and between asset focused experts and tech entrepreneurs.

Problems occur when people are not close to each other on the avoidance/finite thinking vs aspirational/abundance continuum. When leaders operate with a finite and avoidance focused mindset, while their people aspire to build new possibilities with an abundance mindset, misunderstandings and frustrations emerge. This is also a looming conflict between liner and logistics people, that potentially can slow down the transformation.

A transformation of a gigantic and proud organization takes time, and experiences ups and downs. Therefore, Constant Care is as important as ever for Maersk.

Outlook for other logistics organizations and people.

Maersk’s transformation is a force that reforms how the global logistics industry functions. In response, some companies will be radical in the way they create new value for customers and employees, while others will grow through M&A, until they realize that their culture is not elastic enough. But the vast majority of LSPs will only take incremental steps, that may turn out to be too little and too late. Thus, now is the time to critically review the company vision and strategy.

Logistics people, need to unlearn and learn. Some even need to “learn to learn”, as they have been caught in uncurious organizations, where there was no need to learn anew. If they do not embrace the changes, and build new mindsets, abilities and skills, they risk becoming irrelevant.

Therefore, logistics professionals and logistics service providers should work on becoming more aspirational and approach the future with an abundance mindset. The motto for this transformation could be “With Constant Care and Curiosity”.

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