In the fall 2014 this department initiated a transition from silos towards project orientation, acknowledging the caveat of silos and hierarchies, and the benefits of network and empowerment. The debates on disruption and the customer engaged enterprise ignited this further, which animated the leaders to think differently about experimentation, cross-pollination of skills and experiences, and delivery methods.
Company characteristics: A department in a Danish bank with approx. 100 employees in the department.
From that point on, a long-termed, tough, but fruitful teamwork was initiated. I was engaged in a long period as advisor, and over the next months, we together designed and conducted a number of activities (list not exhaustive):
- Spring 2015 we conducted an Organisational Network Analysis, only to document that the silos are indeed not only rumours or perceptions, but also very much a fact.
- We formulated the purpose of the department, striving to make sure that every action in the department supports this purpose, correlated to the overall ambition of the bank
- The employees and managers co-created a book, describing the future culture and what kind of leadership that was expected from each other
- We trained all managers in New Practice Leadership
- We designed and rolled out a project management office (PMO)
- We trained everybody in Agile Project Management, and trained the Project Managers even more.
- We introduced Agile Leadership and weekly stand-up meetings in the management layer.
- We pushed empowerment and involvement downwards, including the product ownership
- We redesigned the role of the line manager
- We constantly focused on self-managing teams and team leads, striving to establish the network-of-teams thinking and structure.
- Every week we measured the departments happiness and used it for debate about well-being
- Every second week we had stand-up meetings where everyone in the department was invited, and we went through status of all activities, rather transparently.
- We rolled out Yammer as a tool for leadership, collaboration, and cross-location dialogue
Results and learning
It was not without obstacles and challenges. People (both managers and employees) got frustrated, anxious, and made mistakes, which was anticipated from looking at the J-curve of change management.
However, in the fall 2015, we reran the Organisational Network Analysis, and documented that the silos were indeed cracking and that the communication in the department to a larger extend was networked, not cascaded. Ergo, the network collaboration and communication was growing, and the team-of-teams was winning ground.
This led to the bold but natural move of eliminating a management layer, to introducing the thought of networked leadership, and to redefining the role of the line manager to be focused more on employee mentoring and goals, than on product delivery and product ownership.
This is a team of teams-approach, supported with culture, experimentation, involvement, leadership and relations between each other.
Characteristics of the case
Put shortly, here are the characteristics of the leadership focus in the case.
Cover photo by Dan Carlson, Unsplash.