“Our Employees Participate With all Their Capabilities.”
Irene, how do you define „agile“ in the Netural context?
Empowering employees to decide independently what is best for the client and the company. We employ highly skilled, motivated people who are free to operate and grow in their fields of responsibility with a holistic understanding of their clients.
What motivated you to reorganize the company?
The complexity of clients´ demands and the resulting dynamics within Netural forced us to delegate responsibilities to teams. No single person, no matter on which level in the hierarchy, could deal with projects as complex as those we have to manage and execute. What we really need here is a diversity of perspectives from various fields of expertise, combined with short decision-making paths for those in daily contact with our clients. This helps us to avoid bottleneck situations and frictions that would kill our innovation capability.
What has changed, and what did you learn along the way?
Employees participate much more now, and with all their capabilities. They operate proactively, think economically, innovate independently, and take pride in successful projects because they have a clearer view of the big picture and understand client satisfaction as their personal success. Key learnings: Such far-reaching change requires a huge amount of commitment from all those who are involved. It takes patience and stamina to stick to the new concept once the going gets rough.
What are the advantages for individual employees?
Our employees are not mere plannable resources. We encourage them to participate according to their interests and skills, choosing from a wide range of possible development paths. Taking roles, I can prove myself and gain insights about my own abilities. I am also free to drop a role, which allows me to switch between management tasks and specialist tasks without risking a loss of face.
How does decision-making happen, and how much can I involve myself as an employee?
Decision-making processes vary, but it has to be clear from the start who has latitude, and how much of it, in any given field. In decisions like, e.g. recruiting, the management will necessarily have the final word. But team planning, project prioritizating, job training priorities and client service decisions happen on the team level and are decided by the individuals in charge, according to their roles.
With hierarchies continuously flattening, where will career paths lead?
They will look much more diverse and colorful than in conventional pyramids. Every employee can apply for various roles and will be elected by the other team members, provided they find him or her suited for the position. Thus, even a younger employee could wind up on the steering team, with a chance to prove his or her leadership capability. On the other hand, those who are more interested in specialist issues can aim for a leading role in the technical departments where they will define standards, act as a mentor and will keep up the skill level of their teams. So there is a variety of exciting options on offer.
How long did the change process take?
It is still ongoing, and we keep learning. The big challenge lies not in defining positions and drawing a new org chart. - Actually, we do not even have one now. Rather, we struggle to integrate conception of man into our professional routines, one that helps us to interact on a level playing field. This involves a company culture that invites feedback and a collaborative spirit. It can also only work with people who have enough self-confidence to volunteer to make decisions and shoulder the responsibility. I think it will take three years until the old approaches have made way for the new.
How should one tick culturally to approach this kind of project?
It takes decision-makers who aim beyond the comfort zone and leave no room for vanities. Thus, they will open a cultural space that invites innovation, learning and experimenting with and for one another. It also takes the self-confidence of being excellent in your job and enjoying what you do. That gives you the courage to think outside the box and to learn along the way.
Where will the project go from here?
I hope we will keep changing and growing forever. My best guess today is that we will take another one or two years to replace conventional tools and formats with new, intuitive approaches. We will do this one by one, along the way. I am confident that big reorganizations like the one we had last year will never again become necessary, thanks to our new organizational structure.
Thank you for your time, Irene!
Always a pleasure!