James Quincey took over as the President and Chief Operating Officer of The Coca-Cola Company on May 1. Soon after joining, he announced a number of changes to drive the next leg of growth. Here’s a brief conversation with James on the changes

Why are we making these changes now?

It all starts with a continuous focus on our five strategic actions for growth: 1) Driving Revenue Growth Through Segmented Market Roles; 2) Make Disciplined Brand and Growth Investments; 3) Drive Productivity and Continuous Improvement; 4) Streamline and Simplify our Business, and; 5) Focus on our Core Business Model. These changes respond to three key imperatives. One is to bring the talent pipeline through, and continue to promote people who have a proven track record of getting results and growing talent year after year. Two is to bring some rotation and freshness to markets. A fresh pair of eyes is a good thing; stability is also a good thing. It’s important to strike a balance between those two. And third, is to continue streamlining our operating structure so we can be faster and more efficient. 

What is the rationale behind the structural changes?

The biggest structural change is the creation of the Europe, Middle East and Africa Group (EMEA), which combines the operations that currently make up the Europe and Eurasia and Africa Groups. As we looked at the Business Units within those two Groups, we saw an opportunity to streamline the structure by reconfiguring two Business Units to more closely align with our evolving bottler footprint in this region. In doing so, we reduced the number of Business Units to six. With one less Business Unit, we no longer need two Groups. Within EMEA, Africa has been reconfigured to include two new Business Units: West Africa, and South and East Africa, which aligns with soon-to-be formed bottler, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa. We have also merged the Central and Southern Europe and Russia, Ukraine and Belarus Business Units to create the Central and Eastern Europe Business Unit, which more closely aligns with our bottling partner in those territories, Coca-Cola Hellenic. 

This is a lot of movement. How do you make these changes without disrupting the  organisation?

Clearly any kind of substantive change has the potential to disrupt things, but without change we can’t move as fast and we can’t reconsider things and make better plans. Change is always a necessary component of improvement. So the question is not whether to change or not to change, but to measure out the change at the right pace. We think this is an appropriate pace given the strong plans and the momentum the business has, and therefore a good time to make these changes to strengthen our international business and leadership pipeline for the future. 

I thought the company eliminated Groups as part of its restructuring in 2015?

As we announced last year, the Groups were significantly streamlined, with a focus on removing a number of the functional layers and improving links between our Business Units and Corporate. The changes we are announcing now continue this streamlining, notably in Europe, Middle East and Africa where two Group President roles will be consolidated into one. As it has since last year, our Group structure will continue to consist of a Group President and a small number of supporting associates. 

What makes Brian (Smith), John (Murphy) and Alfredo (Rivera) the right leaders for the Group President roles?

I think each of them, in their own way, has three things in common. They have a proven track record of success in good times, and in tough times. They are strong, disciplined leaders who make decisions that are in the best interests of the business for the long term. Finally, they are very good at developing talent – identifying and bringing people through the pipeline who are becoming the next generation of leaders at our Company. 

What can you say about the BU presidents who have taken on new responsibilities?

Of the eight BU presidents who have new responsibilities, six of them are currently BU presidents and two are new. Of the people who will have expanded or enhanced responsibilities – Nikos, Kelvin, Zoran, Henrique, Therese and Curt – this is about continued development and bringing a fresh pair of eyes to the business. We need to maintain freshness, and balance that with stability and continuity, and we need to do it at a measured rate of change. These are all proven leaders who will step right in to their new roles, and bring new perspective and thinking to their teams. As the two new Business Unit Presidents, Peter and Joao, are clearly ready for their new responsibilities. They have the experience, talent and leadership qualities that will no doubt make them successful. They are great examples of our talent pipeline in action. 

James Quincey is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Coca-Cola.