Thinking Big, Acting Small

Tiffany Snyder is one of those special people you meet who exudes an entrepreneurial vibe and happens to work in a large organization. She prefers agility to big initiatives that cause paralysis — a deadly symptom that runs rampant in organizations which have so many resources to throw at new ideas. Cargill, though not immune to the ailments large organizations can face, has proven to be a great fit for someone with an entrepreneurial mindset like Tiffany’s.

Growing up in an agricultural community in Iowa, Cargill was a natural job choice for Tiffany. She started there as a shift worker and has been there ever since — she’s just a little further up the ladder than she was in 1994, having recently moved into the role of Chief Information Officer for Cargill’s Animal Nutrition Enterprise.

When Tiffany joined Studio/E a few years ago, she was working on an audacious idea that she wanted to implement at Cargill. Today, Cargill IT’s Value Center of Expertise is a successful IT consulting center with a global team, having people located in Asia, Europe and North America. As part of her ideation process, what helped her move her idea forward was asset-based thinking, or taking an inventory of what she already had instead of doing a gap-based analysis of what she was missing. Inspired by her entrepreneurial ethos, we talked to Tiffany about working in a global organization, creating internal initiatives and adopting the entrepreneurial mindset.

Studio/E: How do you serve as a catalyst to unlock potential?
 I encourage people to put themselves in situations where they have to stretch beyond what they’ve done before, learning new things along the way. Being a catalyst is helping people find courage to lean into new growth opportunities and take risks.

Studio/E: What keeps you content at a large organization?
 I get out of bed in the morning and know that what I do matters: The company is nourishing the world. When you sit down for a meal, there is typically something that Cargill has had a hand in bringing to your plate. Feeding a world increasingly dependent on protein consumption begins with Cargill Animal Nutrition and the role we play in the feed-to-food supply chain. It’s inspiring knowing that we not only help our customers feed the world’s population, we also help them grow thriving businesses that contribute to our communities.

Studio/E: Tell us about Cargill IT’s Value Center of Expertise.
 It’s an internal IT consulting center that works with businesses within Cargill to identify how they can drive more value from their technology investments. I actually went from developing a high-performing team that created the COE to being a customer of the COE service in my new role. It’s really cool to experience the team in action.

Studio/E: What’s the secret to operating globally?
 Value diversity! There are different cultures, perspectives and backgrounds within our teams that give us great diversity of thought and experience. We benefit from being a company with significant presence all over the world, so we try to use our global scale while ensuring we meet the needs of our customers and employees on a local and regional level.

Studio/E: What’s a roadblock to building ideas inside corporations?
 In large organizations, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that anything you do needs to be at a really big scale and you need to accumulate more budget or resources to accomplish it. I think a way to go faster is to ask, “What do I already have available that can put my idea into action?” When we established the IT Value COE, we started with a big idea and a small budget. We wanted to get it started, iterate, show value and eventually get funded in order to scale further.

Studio/E: Creating something such as COE requires an entrepreneurial mindset. What are tips for adopting this mindset while in a large organization?
Tiffany: Gravitate to whitespace. 
Identify unmet needs in your organization where you can bring ideas that benefit your customers, employees or shareholders. If these opportunities align with areas you’re passionate about, go exploring. If not, pass them to someone better suited to drive them forward.

Start with what you have. Chances are you already have what you need to build a coalition of people and resources to put your idea into action. Start small, demonstrate value, iterate, and then grow it. It’s easier in a large organization to sell your ideas when you already have some wins to demonstrate the value.

Fail forward quickly. Put your idea into action and be willing to take risks. You’ll find some things work well and some don’t; both situations provide great opportunities to learn quickly and improve upon your idea. It’s only a failure if you miss the opportunity to learn and adjust from the experience.

Tiffany Snyder, Chief Information Officer, Cargill Animal Nutrition Enterprise
Headquarters: Wayzata
Inception: 1865
Employees: 150,000
Tiffany’s Desire: To be a catalyst to unlock potential, both within organizations and individuals.
Studio/E Competency: Current Means – Asset-based thinking that allows you to focus and use what you have right now to get your ideas into action quickly.

This post originally appeared in Minnesota Business Magazine’s September 2017 issue.

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