Staff in charge

Blog -

Staff in charge

Banks have always been very hierarchical institutions. But even banks need a reboot every now and then, so we’re completely overhauling the way we work at ABN AMRO. Frank, a fellow bank employee, recently discussed this very topic here. A hallmark of the new approach is that staff are starting to work in self-managing teams using agile practices. My job is to help traditional systems make the transition to ensure they stay relevant in the future. In fact, it was after I wrote an internal blog post last year that six successful self-management experiments were launched. These are now being duplicated in various departments at the bank.

Embedding more decision-making power at each level of the organisation means a flatter structure nathalie hazenberg Nathalie Hazenberg Organisational Agility

The ingredients of self-management

I believe self-management has two main ingredients. First, it’s important to embed more decision-making power at every level of the organisation, which ensures a flatter structure. The second involves using staff talent and creativity to their best advantage, an exciting area of experimentation at ABN AMRO. After writing a blog post on this very topic about a year ago, I was approached by a manager who told me that a supervisory position between her and a particular team had been eliminated and that neither she nor the team were particularly keen on having it filled again. And so the very first experiment involving a self-managing team was born!

Experimenting and learning from results

In my role as a coach, I oversaw the team dialogue, in which all the members discussed the direction they wanted to take, best first steps, existing talent and role assignment. Suffice to say, all that planning paid off. Later experiments with other teams showed that good preparation can be make or break. Another team experimenting with self-management started out without defining any common guidelines. That’s OK, too – I mean, it’s an experiment, right? But as time went on, they discovered they needed some sort of interim kick-off so that all the members could make a fresh start. It was an important lesson for all of us: self-management doesn’t mean letting go. On the contrary, it’s about figuring out what guidelines and parameters you and your fellow team members will need moving forward.

Happy staff with team spirit in spades

Having concluded with a final evaluation, all the experiments may be over now, but they’ve prompted some big changes ahead. Staff participating in the experiments were, on the whole, very satisfied. They’re highly involved and motivated, growing both in their jobs and as people. A massive 79 per cent say they saw an improvement in their own performance, while 77 per cent say team performance improved. 77 per cent also say they were happier at work. Staff are often anxious in the early stages, though. They’re apprehensive about assessing one another and scoring their colleagues without a manager.

Still ahead of the game

I think it’s terrific that the very first experimental teams are still pioneering new ideas. They’re continuing to develop and are helping others by sharing knowledge. The initial team’s department has since been revamped to reflect a flatter management structure and a culture that encourages greater self-management. How exciting is that? We’re seeing a growing demand for support in making the transition to self-management. Several members of the team are also part of a multidisciplinary group who are developing a self-management paradigm, which we hope will further promote self-management at the bank with staff making the most of their talents, having been given the freedom and confidence to truly make a difference. Our ultimate goal is to respond more quickly to the outside world and our clients’ changing needs via a more agile organisation, which puts more emphasis on smart, IT-based solutions and embeds more decision-making power at every organisational level. And that means higher job satisfaction levels, too!

Relevant links

Share

Filter on