After the departure of its owner-founder early in 2020, an ecological consultancy firm continued as an employee owned company. The approximately 25 consultants organise themselves like a 'flock of sparrows'. There is no hierarchical management and everyone is co-owner of the company. In addition to customer projects, employees also take on all management tasks - managing and building the organisation together. Whoever takes the lead on a particular subject varies from time to time. Everyone works from home and freedom is an important value.
A challenge lies in the area of coordination - essential in a flock of sparrows, and not so easy to achieve in practice. That is why the company sought support at the beginning of March for the question: 'how do we organise better coordination within our organisation?
Since the national covid-19 related regulations in themselves had little impact on their ecological field work and because the firm's workload always rises sharply during the summer season, the consultants wanted to get to work on this - despite the fact that it was no longer possible to get together physically. After all, the issue was still highly relevant, or perhaps even more so. But how?
Together with two staff members, we designed a trajectory for a number of meetings during 2020, in order to set out a course. The first day in April was an entire online event. Here, all 25 colleagues came together virtually to work on the next steps. We alternated plenary meetings with working in small subgroups and then presenting results to each other. In itself, this day was already an example of alignment and coordination.
We took three steps, and remained focused on the here and now, based on the idea that if we succeed in finding new work patterns during this period, we will also be able to translate them to new circumstances in the future.
- Diagnosis: what in the structure, work processes, everyone's behaviour and underlying values, norms and beliefs makes coordination and alignment so difficult?
- Ambition: what could coordination and alignment look like in the near future - and what would that require of the structure, behaviour and underlying norms and values?
- Design: what concrete experiments can we do in our daily practice to improve coordination and alignment?
By making smart use of the online possibilities (such as breakout rooms and polls to probe thoughts) we were able to work in an effective way and it was also safe and personal enough for the difficult conversations to occur.
It was an intensive day, with high involvement of everyone, also due to the variety in work methods. For many people the day was in itself a good experience of better coordination and alignment, which inspires and boosts In addition, practical ideas arose to enhance coordination in practice. To be continued!