The IT department of a large multinational shipping company had just finished a significant organisational redesign. The new structure was ready, the consultants were gone and the new leadership team was ready to get to work. Yet: the organisation was in a stuck state – and the big question was: how can we help all 200 internal employees to shift into gear for the new organisation?
One thing was clear from the start: all employees were committed to their performance - delivering IT support to their colleagues. In fact, this was one of the main factors that stifled innovation. They would rather follow the ‘old‘ pathways and routines, because these were familiar, tested and proven. Eventually that resulted in having as many processes as the IT department had employees - a feeling of overwhelming complexity. People did not completely trust the new organisational structures and processes yet – also because these had not yet all been defined completely, some fine-tuning still had to be done.
We started to work with the management team and the department of process management. Together with them we investigated who was supposed to cooperate with whom in order to make the new system work. And we involved all employees in their respective roles to really bring their questions and roadblocks to the table. Underlying it all was a positive can-do question: how will we make this work?
We became to see the process as “re-wiring the synapses in the company brain“. The key intervention we designed was a one-day event with everyone involved, to do exactly that. We physically built the work process, in the form of a maze with 2 meter high walls.
At the start of the meeting, the IT-specialists were asked to take on the role of a project, an incident or a work package and they subsequently had to find their way through the maze. In doing so, they discovered what processes were in place, what everyones’ roles were, how different steps and tasks were interconnected, and what refinements still needed to be made. In the end, all project teams shared their discoveries and discussed what they needed to do differently in their own roles and in cooperation with others.
The day proved to be a true catalyst for change. It provided people with knowledge on the new structure, their role and the interconnectedness of the system. But perhaps the most important shift was that people knew whom to address, whom and how to ‘work‘ within the new structure and how to go forward to improve it further. The paralysis that was there before was lifted, the “synapses have been re-wired“.