In 2012, I was asked to lead the Business Systems team in DONG Energy Wind Power, reporting to top management. The team had approximately 14 team members including some student workers, and a vast amount of stakeholders and collaboration partners in a complex network within the organization. We delivered a portfolio mix of IT projects, service delivery, and system maintenance of business critical knowledge management solutions.
At the same time, the Danish book UNBOSS by Jacob Bøtter and Lars Kolind was published, describing an approach to New Nordic Leadership based on purpose, movement, involvement, influence, building a social community, and on mechanisms instead of structures. You can see this book as both a summary of previous trends, and a predecessor of the things described in Exponential Organizations.
I decided to implement everything that was described in the book. I was so enchanted by the emotional narratives in it, that I took the leap of faith without knowing what tools and mechanisms, we had to build as we moved. An approach of experimentation, but with a clear vision.
Over the next months we used the narrative of “delivering green energy and being part of saving the world” as our purpose, and it was part of motivation, decision-making, and setting direction. The status and progress of every project and activity in our team was transparently available on our public whiteboard, and we strived to make the delivery leads have autonomy of their approaches and decisions. This was a huge team effort!
My desk at DONG Energy Wind Power. Note three things: (1) The visual status of activities on the board. (2) The model for motivation by Daniel Pink. (3) the “wall of fame”, celebrating results.
Results and learning
Clearly, we made some mistakes underway. It’s hard to change habits, especially with regards to involving people, listening to them, and giving them autonomy and mandate without falling back into micro-management, when they do things in ways, that you did not expect.
We also tried rolling out Yammer as internal social tool, but that did not catch on. In addition, we did not succeed in convincing many of our peer teams that the approach was great.
However, the team continues with the leadership approach today, driven by the new team lead who was part of the team originally.
The annual survey reflected the success of the approach, with high scores on clear goals, employee development, delegation, collaboration, and recognition.
This was a team-of-teams approach, based on courage, will, autonomy, experimentation, purpose, business understanding, involvement and empowerment, and relations between each other.
Characteristics of the case
Put shortly, here are the characteristics of the leadership focus in the case.
Company characteristics: DONG Energy Wind Power, the Danish national energy company with approx. 6,500 employees at that time, focusing on oil, gas, and coal – and on renewable energy like wind power.