GM Blog: Adaptation, Polarities & Doing Good Business in 2020

This time last year, I was getting my feet under the desk as Facteon’s Group General Manager. During those first weeks in the role, I penned an article announcing my “big plans” for Facteon in 2020. As many businesses experienced, the events of 2020 derailed those plans.

As the manufacturing ecosystem braced for disruption, 2020 has been a year of adaptation, balancing polarities and doing good business.  

I begin this reflection piece by defining a widely used, yet often misdefined, word: Resilience.

Resilience is a quality often praised as the ability to weather any storm. To hold fast and to withstand, to outlast. However, it is better defined as the ability to bounce back and to react in response to external forces.

The flaw in operational resilience is its intense focus on a return to the prior state. Nassim Taleb, author of Antifragile, says: “Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilience shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better”.

As 2020 comes to a close, I look ahead to a remarkable 2021.

In the words of the late Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel: “Bad companies are destroyed by crisis, good companies survive them, great companies are improved by them”.

To make 2021 a remarkable year, Facteon cannot merely adapt to survive. Instead, it must transform to thrive.

While the beginnings of a COVID-19 vaccination programme in some countries serves as a light at the end of the tunnel, 2021 is set to be another year of adaptation and learning. For that reason, being antifragile is central to prosperity at both a human and business level.  

My “big plans” for Facteon going into 2021 are somewhat different from what I had imagined. However, they are no less significant and will drive the business towards achieving its core purpose. The Facteon of 2021 experienced by our people, customers and partners will be a hybrid of its current and an ideal future state. It is set to be a remarkable year of many firsts.

Co-Creation with our Customers

The year of 2020 has served as a reminder of the importance of balancing agility and fluidity with patience. Our customers have demonstrated a willingness to act. However, the speed of these decisions has slowed. We have adapted to the reality of working with the customer throughout the extended co-creation process. This is central to Facteon’s continuous focus on becoming increasingly customer-centric.

For Better or Worse

When disruption occurs, there are always opportunities for long-lasting business change. A significant challenge for Facteon over the past year has been minimising our reliance on international travel. To meet market demands, we drew on the global resources of Facteon Group.

When I spoke with NZ Manufacturer in May, we discussed the benefits of manufacturing closer to home in a post-COVID economy. Inspired by that notion, Facteon delivered a modular welding solution to a home appliance manufacturer with a facility in Southern China. This solution was designed in New Zealand and built in China, close to the customer’s site.

Ultimately, the restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic served as a proverbial bucket of cold water waking businesses up to the fragility of their current business models. It has been said that calm winds don’t make capable sailors. This brings me back to the notion of hold fast and survive or adapt and thrive.

Businesses risk jeopardising long term success by regressing to their pre-pandemic state. The adaptations and learnings during the pandemic have the power to trigger permanent business change.

Revising & Evolving Business as Usual

A key challenge in 2020 was balancing the needs of the day and long term strategic business goals.

In May, Facteon undertook a strategic realignment of our senior leadership team and wider business. While this was a deeply challenging process, I wish to thank all involved for their candour and understanding. The average tenure of a Facteon colleague is 17 years. Hence, this was not a decision that was taken lightly.

The focus of a restructure is often chasing the next quarter and remaining profitable. However, it is important that such a process hinges on building a better Facteon. A version that is more agile and customer-centric.

I must emphasise that a restructure should not be a pandemic response. For Facteon, the end goal is ‘customer stickiness’ as we continue our work to move beyond a transactional approach.

Polarities & Prosperity

The act of balancing controlling and adapting highlights the difficulties around prospering in the presence of polarity. A leader’s primary purpose is to create an environment in which great ideas emerge. Over the course of the year, I saw my colleagues throughout Facteon share and deliver on a range of great ideas. From executing a revised approach to internal communications to drawing on the resources of Facteon Group, the team’s ability to adapt both surprised and delighted.

Doing Good Business

The events of 2020 laid bare what works and what does not work within our business. All businesses face a choice regarding whether they plan to carry forward the learnings from 2020 or whether these adaptations will remain a short term band aid fix.

Facteon refocused its capabilities to deliver for our customers. These efforts made Facteon and its people more adaptive, responsive and customer-centric. These are the facets of doing good business.

In the way that our customers choose us, we choose our customers. Staying true to this notion was particularly challenging in a year characterised by uncertainty and a slowed pace of decision making.

Despite such forces, Facteon elected to hold true to its core purpose. We cannot possibly serve every facet of the broad manufacturing industry effectively. Instead, we focus on where we best deliver value.

Thank You

The “big plans” I held for 2020 pale in comparison to my plans for a remarkable 2021. The lessons learned have prepared Facteon to bring its best in 2021.

To my colleagues, thank you for your frankness, resilience and hard work. For those that exited Facteon, I wish you the very best and I thank you for sharing your talent with us.

To the families of Facteon, 2020 provided a welcome glimpse into the personal lives of my colleagues. For those I met over Microsoft Teams video calls during COVID-19 lockdowns, hello again. Thank you for the sacrifices you have made that enabled Facteon and its experts to continue doing what it does best.

To our customers, thank you for your transparency regarding the state of play in your corner of the world. We look forward to a mutually prosperous 2021 characterised by the co-creation of value.

To our shareholders, thank you for your investment in Facteon and its people. We look forward to further stretching our capabilities in 2021.

To the people of New Zealand, our healthcare professionals and our Government, thank you for playing a part in keeping our communities safe. We are sincerely thankful to be a New Zealand born and bred company. The fantastic work of New Zealanders and our Government allowed us to continue delivering for our customers.

I wish you a well-deserved and restful break this holiday season.

Take care,


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John Cochrane

John Cochrane

General Manager - Facteon Group

John began his career as a Chemical Engineer. He has since worked across the globe, holding over 20 years’ experience in senior management. Having lived and worked in China for several years, John speaks conversational Mandarin and he has a keen interest in Chinese culture. Part of John's time in China was spent working with NZTE in a government role as Trade Commissioner. John also has a depth of experience in the area of predictive maintenance having helped manufacturers to optimise their operations through improving overall equipment effectiveness. John leads the Facteon Group in delivering the latest automation, Industry 4.0 and Industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions to factories across the globe.


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