This knowledge session is about the journey I have made in recent years with management and the teams at Rabobank, about 'contracting' the assignment, about Agile and self-organization and the (my) changing role. The knowledge session takes place at the Watson & Associates office in Moordrecht on Friday, November 29 from 10.00h to 14.00h. Participation is free and a sandwich lunch is provided. Let us know if you are coming!

Just as with any existing organization, Rabobank has to deal with the adaptation paradox, the fact that organizations are more likely to survive the more they adapt to be more proactive, but also that social systems are naturally strive for balance and stability, something that actually hinders the development of adaptability and learning capacity. This knowledge session is mainly about this changing balance.

When, in 2016, Rabobank consciously opted for self-organization, more ownership and responsibility among employees, this required a different role for (remaining) management. After all, all the implicit clarity offered by a hierarchical structure had to be replaced by explicit new flexible structures and processes and roles that regulate decision-making and many other matters that previously belonged to (team) management.

Rabobank also opted for self-organization because, among other things, it can be a powerful means to motivate professionals intrinsically and to be able to respond effectively to what is being asked from outside by customers and other interested parties. Employees are given more and more room to set their own priorities, consult and collaborate, within the framework of the organizational goals, based on a structured process.

Healthy teams are the building blocks of this, teams that are able to give meaning to their role and are discussion partners for other (management) teams. Teams provide the context for acquiring new norms and principles and translating them into appropriate behavior. This by creating situations in which team members are, as it were, tempted to behave in new ways.

But since most employees do not yet have experience with self-organization, this requires the organization to provide clarity, direction, guidance and trust. More ownership, responsibility and initiative do not happen automatically, that must be well organized, however strange that may sound in this context. And, there is no 'jacket that fits everyone', teams follow different paths and therefore need customized support.

This Customization and clarity go hand in hand when jointly appropriate frameworks are determined, which are safe enough to provide bedding for movement and development. The aforementioned balance is constantly sought in this process.

In line with the factors that stimulate intrinsic motivation, these frameworks may include:

  • Meaningful contribution & results, what clear result agreements are there with regard to the process of self-organization and the content of the work, and how will the team show how well they are doing?
  • Appropriate autonomy & division of labor, what roles (purpose, responsibilities and activities) are there and what is the process for delegating responsibility. Which (Agile) method is applied and what are the requirements from quality control and prioritization.
  • Growing competences & development, which (new) competencies are required from individuals and the team and how does development take place here?
  • Valuable connections & ownership, which norms and values ​​ensure that real teams are formed in which employees get the best out of themselves and their colleagues and that this team formation is given priority.

In the first instance, teams need a manager who is literally and figuratively present. That sense sets goals for the activities within the organization, which encourages the expansion of the appropriate autonomy, that encourages growth in (new) competencies, that works with the team on valuable connections and that does so mainly through positive examples visible. The development of this new (serving) leadership style requires in the first instance recognition of the dysfunctional effect of the old ('command and control') leadership style on the new desired situation. When old beliefs give way to new ones, new behaviors can be worked on, creating step by step an environment in which teams and employees can be successful.

Roald Droog, Transition Coach Rabobank

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