Interview: Employees across the world competed on delivering the best future strategy for the IT provider Columbus. Normally a company’s new strategy is created behind closed doors. However, this time the management in the IT consultancy Columbus choose a new method for the strategy work, tells CEO & President Thomas Honoré in this interview.
How did this strategy work differ from previous?
“We developed a project for all our employees with the name Social Engagement. Via our internal media, we asked our 1,200 employees who would like to be part of creating our new strategy. Then we formed eight groups with a total of 50 employees from different countries, functions and age groups. The eight groups should develop their own strategy presentation.
How did you use the eight strategy presentations?
“We made a competition where the eight groups should present their suggestion for the senior management. After that, we selected four groups that went to the finals.
Why did you choose that method?
Our idea was that the initial work with the strategy was important in the process of changing the existing strategy. We have employees in several countries, therefore it is essential for us that the strategy work is anchored in all parts of the organization. By choosing four to five employees in each country, who started discussing strategy, we already started the implementation. The employees use for example the company’s social media to discuss the strategy work.
However, isn’t risky to lose control over something as important as work with the company’s strategy?
“I don’t think that we lose control. On the contrary, we receive more thoughts about the work from many employees, who meet customers every day. It is really about a process that lives on our internal social media anyway. So you might as well structure the work getting employees to work together.”
What was the result?
”After we appointed the winners, who presented the result at our country meeting in 2015, I took the feedback to my management team. That way we have received a really good contribution from 50 of the company’s most engaged employees. After that, we had a more traditional process, where we presented four focus areas to the Board at three workshops during 2015. The strategy was approved by the Board by the end of 2015”.
Has the process been different than expected?
“Yes, the result was very different than I expected. Our employees presented many thoughts about how they see trends among our customers. Columbus is a consultancy, so our most important asset is our employees. Therefore, we need to develop a workplace they believe is cool. And we have implemented many elements in the strategy, that would not have been part of it if we had had a traditionally process.
Which elements would not have been part of a traditional process?
“There are many elements in our strategy, which are suggestions coming directly from our employees. When I saw the eight presentations from the global teams, I was inspired and got ideas, which were very different than if the process had been anchored in the management”.
How far are you with the strategy work now?
“It has been approved and it will be announced in the first quarter. In April, we will launch the strategy in corporation with our management teams globally, who will be the ones responsible for implementing the strategy in the organization. So the strategy work is so to say back in the organization now.”
How was the reactions during the strategy process?
”The board was pleased with the process. And the employees were very excited, because they were given the opportunity to work with their company in a total different way than they are used to”.
Is it a method, you will use again?
”It demands many resources, so it is not a method, you can use very often. We have chosen employees, who are ambitious and engaged. This kind of employees have a tendency to be hard working and very busy in daily life. When you ask them to affect the future of the company, they work harder and more. This is where you have to take care of your organization, so employees still have space to do their work.