You have given up bosses at Unic. How does one come up with such an idea?
Ivo: Our goal was not simply to remove the bosses but to find an adequate organisation form for the future. At the beginning of our discussion on the strategy processes, we could not have imagined that we would finally give up the classical management at Unic to replace it with something completely new. However, we see ourselves as facing a mighty dynamic and complex market, which we can only respond to with a lot of agility and a superior self-organisation.
Sandro: In order to make this step, you have to be confident that the present structure is not suitable anymore for an increasingly dynamic market environment and the demanding customers. We believe that with a responsive model we can meet our challenges in a better and more agile way by means of consistently removing any bureaucratic hurdles and long decision-making processes and that in this way we can also remain closer to our Customers. Besides, the understanding of management has profoundly changed over the recent years, and it is more and more difficult to attract the best employees to work within classical company structures.
How do you plan such a transformation and how do you implement it?
Ivo: After we obtained the decision of the Management Board, we have informed all the Managerial Staff first and conducted intensive discussions about the Why and How. The objective was to obtain everyone’s support for our project. There, we met practically with unanimous agreement. It was an important sign for us, and we have been lucky so far as we have practically not lost any one from our former Management Team. After that, quite traditionally, we drew up a Change Project and did some thinking about the methodology. In doing so, we defined a number of different phases (Preparation, Planning, Transition, Support and – Running), and what was needed in each of the respective phases. Information collected from yet more employees proved once again to be a milestone in our efforts, and we were really excited to see the great response from their side. This positive feedback encouraged us even more to keep our ambitious timing and plan.
Sandro: In order to prepare all our employees for the implementation start, we created an e-Learning course and offered a number of different live sessions, during which questions could be discussed – and have been facing thousands of those at the outset of this new world. Once started, the Holacracy implementation process was accompanied by internal "Holacracy Coaches", whom we had trained externally, and who helped establish the new structures and processes and support the teams. In addition, we set up a Change Office team, which has been supervising the transition until the present day. This is indeed a massive transformation process for us, as we all have worked our entire professional life under completely different structures to those we are having at Unic today.
What is your position at the moment and where are the challenges?
Ivo: Having implemented the Holacracy processes and practiced the standard roles, we achieved a very sound position and clear structures already after the first few months. Also the knowledge about the company’s organisation was established. At the moment we have arrived at the next stage, and we are learning how we can use the new self-organisation in an optimal way. We have set out on a long journey here, and every day we are learning something new. The processes here are just one thing, the culture is another – and this area is much more intensive and complex. We all must learn a lot of things together but also unlearn a few – for instance leadership without delegation, placing the sense and purpose in the centre, the approach to roles and tensions, etc.
Sandro: As Ivo says, the appropriate support during the period of cultural change is one of the biggest challenges. Being close enough to the different needs of people and supporting the cultural change adequately is not an easy task. Responding to the employees on the human level and accompanying them on the path to self-organisation is both an important and intensive job. You need to learn to listen and offer assistance in the right areas while bearing in mind that in this process it is vital to maintain the dialogue and together create the Unic of the future. Ultimately, this will not be a short change but a long joint journey.
What are your Customers saying to this move?
Ivo: The response from our Customers is a broad one – often exceeding just a simple interest. We have been receiving inquiries about the possibility of exchanging opinions and about concrete support in specific areas. This is the reason why we have launched concrete offers to the subject Responsive Organisation. We would really like to share our experience, which we have been building every day, with others. Generally, it can be said that the impact on the existing customer relations leads indirectly to substantial changes, however, we are convinced that in the midterm our Customers will profit from an even more agile Unic.
Sandro: Many customers attribute a great courage to us, and they probably also sense that it is not the last time that we carry out this kind of change. It is great to receive feedback which shows that both the customer focus and the continuous care have gone down well with our Customers and brought us added value. I have personally not experienced any negative responses from any Customer. Many Customers need to find out for themselves how they should become more agile and more proactive on the market. I think that we can play a role model there.
What are the greatest experiences that you have had so far with Holacracy?
Ivo: I am happy to see how some people managed to step into their completely new roles. I also find it fantastic, time and time again, that we are able to develop our Organisation at an unbelievable pace – also at times when we have a feeling that we move too slowly and are not there yet.
Sandro: I think it is great to see how more and more initiatives on all sorts of different subjects can emerge from the Organisation and get directly implemented. For example, we build new customer teams thus allowing us to obtain a better customer focus and be nearer to our Customers. We are also relaunching the collective Monday Morning Meetings with the aim to reinforce team spirit and to share latest information. Also some more important matters can be decided this way in a much shorter time. For example, we need ca. 10 minutes in a meeting in order to remove the duty of obtaining approval for unpaid holidays. In what other company is this possible?
I am Partner at Unic, and before the implementation of Holacracy I was a member of the Management Board. In my role as the Chief Strategy Officer, I was responsible for the development of a new company strategy including a new organisation system. Before that I was the COO at Unic for 5 years. Prior to that, I had worked in various top management positions in different companies in all sorts of different branches, amongst others I worked in Accenture as a Business Consultant for a number of years. I have devoted my entire professional life to the subject of organisation and company development.
Today, I am busy assuming all sorts of different roles, one of them being a Holacracy Implementation Lead and Coach, which involves responsibility for a successful and sustainable implementation and practical application of Holacracy. As a Transformation Consultant, I support other companies in their transformation into a Responsive Organisation, and I travel as a speaker in that capacity.
Before Holacracy, I led the Business Consulting Team at Unic. Whilst working as the Lead Link of the Change Office as well as in some other different roles, I have shaped significantly the Unic’s transition process into a Responsive Organisation. Being an occupational psychologist, I have been always fascinated and strongly preoccupied with the subject of organisation and change in the workplace in the context of digitisation. For many years I have been advising companies from all sorts of different branches on the subject of Digital Transformation, Collaboration and Digital Workplace.
I am convinced that the work practice will see a rapid change once again during the next years, and I am delighted to be able to accompany organisations and people on that path and help them take the next step into a successful future.
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