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ADMA Learning Network Event 1 & 2

Topic: Human-Centred Organisation
Location: Belgium

Getting people on board

On November 27th and November 28th, Agoria facilitated 2 ADMA Learning Network Events in Belgium, with 2 hosting manufacturing SME’s that have won the Belgian Factory of the Future Award. A limited number of participants allowed for a lot of interaction and discussions throughout the days. The morning program contained some conceptual models and tools, that were shown being put into practice by the hosting companies during the afternoon session.

New ways of organising work

“We don’t have crappy people. We have crappy systems that lead to crappy performance”.

Long story short: The way we organise work (not the execution, but the whole process from customer order to customer delivery) has a tremendous impact on how jobs are performed, on the delivered quality and subsequent customer satisfaction, as well as on the engagement and motivation of individual contributors.

The concept of innovative labour organisation enables resolving these issues by reviewing the way things are done. However, there are a couple of principles that need to be accepted and defended by management, to enable new organisation forms to be implemented successfully. Those proposed principles are that people are good (and thus want to deliver satisfactory results) and that people can help and complement each other, if we let them.

As a consequence, we start to organise bottom-up: the core process is given to a team, that also has all means necessary at hand (capabilities, competences, machinery, time, (external) contacts, information, etc.). In a second step we provide them with the necessary guidelines and framework to work on their core process. And if we provide the adequate amount and the right type of coaching, the teams should be able to perform to the required level, or to take the correct measures to enable doing so.

Focus on people

  • Clear and well-defined core process

    What does the team need to deliver? What are the requirements and necessary instructions? Whenever there would be interdependencies with other teams, these issues should either be designed differently or handovers organised to facilitate working together.

  • Manageable requirements and organisational design

    A core process that requires 50 people working together can’t be organised in one team, but should be organised differently: multiple parallel teams? A couple of consecutive teams? …
    The organisational design need to be adapted to taking up joint responsibilities; there has to be a need to collaborate. If that’s not attainable, teamwork is not recommended.

  • Maturity in competencies and team management

    All tools, skills and requirements are available and well-known by the teams; a learning plan is drawn up (together with the team), all necessary actions are executed to assist them in training and developing the competencies and skills necessary within the team.

  • Autonomy requires information, a lot of information; and communication and consultation

    In order to work together, people need to talk to each other about tasks, on the job learning, quality issues, planning, etc. They need to have communication skills, but also the tools and information necessary (production time, lead time, availability of parts, etc.)

Also the hosting company, BMT Aerospace, confirmed that the 2 main focal areas – teamwork and internal communication – require a lot of dedicated and specialist attention. With highly skilled people and autonomy in their job, operators organise their own performance and are quickly engaged in innovation and flexible changes to processes or products. Autonomy is a win for all.

Shared Leadership in Innovative Organisations

Autonomous teams can do without management, but not without leadership. It requires more leadership to manage autonomous teams in a flexible organisation, than to steer a fixed hierarchy.

In new working environments, where complex processes are managed and executed by highly skilled operators, that interact easily with external partners, the way things are managed has to be redefined. An autonomous team does not match with top-down command and control, but requires a coaching and supporting management style.

Achieving this new deal in leadership isn’t easy. It requires multiple aspects:

  • A visionary leader at the ‘top’

    A CEO or director or manager that embodies the new vision for the future, and that focuses on the long term.
  • A team that develops maturity in self-organising and team management

    They will have to learn to work together, manage conflict, focus on common goals, share information, train each other, etc.
  • A middle management that subscribes to the new leadership model

    Shared leadership requires to let go of expertise roles and probably also of the unique link between one team and one supervisor. Usually they are the ones suffering from change the most: inapt competencies, roles that are not yet properly designed, etc. They are however at the same time the key enabler for transformation success.

A shared leadership enables people to take on responsibility for shared goals, means and objectives, but has to be authentic at the same time. It has to allow for individuals to be aligned with their personality. A cultural mismatch will likely cause stress and entails later issues and problems, such as discontinuation of leadership styles.

Shared leadership facilitates creativity, innovation, collaboration, diversity of points of view, which are drivers for flexible and agile companies to thrive. With shared leadership people have the right to take a decision, and they also have the obligation to consult all those impacted.

For guaranteed continuation and success, not only operational teams, but most certainly also the management team should function as a team, rather than as a group of individuals that all have their own silo that they steer. Through common goals the organisation will strive. Reinventing the management team can be tough challenge, as their individual interest will no longer prevail. Humbleness is likely not a trait that has been used to select and promote senior management, it is now a key attitude of the chosen leadership style, to enable people to grow.

Hosting company Van Hoecke showed that it is no longer feasible to keep strategy an exclusive prerogative of management. In an organisation where everyone is engaged, they all can and should contribute. Tackling this can be a challenge, but the different points of view are certainly an enrichment during the information gathering phase. And even more so in later communication and roll-out. As everybody has had the chance to contribute, they likely feel much more involved in the choices made and the chosen strategical paths.

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