Exitas involves its employees in strategy development
How employee engagement creates a transformational culture
Exitas builds and manages reliable Oracle-data infrastructure with a focus on availability, security and manageability. The IT-sector, however, is the spearhead in digital transformation and subject to high paced changes. For any company that wishes to keep up with tomorrow’s reality, employee engagement is key.
Peter Van Spaandonk has been managing director at Exitas for about 5 years now. He manages a team of bright minds that produce an annual turnoverof over 6 million euro. Van Spaandonk starts off by saying “We’ve been doing our thing for 20 years- you could say that we’re the dinosaurs in our industry” Being a niche company, we operate in a very small market.
And at some point we realised that some of our competitors were struggling because of new, disruptive technologies. Even the technology that we use ourselves was starting to get compromised.
IT evolves at an uncanny pace that is hard to keep track of, after all. We realised that we were doing okay for now, but that our organisation was not ready for tomorrow’s reality.
One thing struck us as immediately obvious: in order to stay one jump ahead of the digital transformation, we needed an updated strategy.
Van Spaandonk realised that it would be futile to redesign the entire company’s ins and outson his own. It was to be a story in which all Exitas employees were co-authors.
“I’ve always believed in employee engagement” the managing director adds. “Because my point of view is one thing, but the team’s point of view is quite another. You see, any one of our team members has their own expertise, background and network. It makes sense to use that collective intelligence, to work out a new strategy.”
“Try thinking outside of the box, when everyone’s caught up in their day to day routine.”
And thus, Van Spaandonk started to brainstorm with his team on setting a new course, a few years ago. A job easier said than done, apparently. The so-called “reinventing the company” was a task piled on top of the mundane, every day tasks. “Whether it was following up on orders and invoices, or further training courses for our people to integrate new technological evolutions: I noticed that we were all easily distracted by the routine of the regular working week.” Van Spaandonk reflects.
“Try thinking outside of the box in that situation. A shame really, because it wasn’t for a lack of great ideas. In short: due to the lack of a sense of urgency, the initiatives died out.
Bedenk’s newsletter came at precisely the right moment, he claims. “The key question of the email I read, was: ‘How do you engage your employees and involve the entire company in the transformation process?”, Van Spaandonk goes on. “That was the exact issue I was facing at that point in time. The newsletter didn’t talk about big revolutions or innovations, the content was very hands-on and pragmatic about involving staff in the change process. That was the trigger that led me to join forces with the Bedenk fellows.
“In collaboration with Bedenk, we looked at how to directly include our employees from the get-go”
It soon turned out that the original Exitas approach lacked clearly defined goals. “What will we be doing for the next couple of months and years?” was a too vaguely put question, causing employees to head off in all kinds of directions. But this is not how you achieve the hard results you are specifically aiming for. “In collaborationwith Bedenk, we looked at how to directly include our employees from the get-go” Van Spaandonk continues. Over the course of several sessions, we surveyed the current situation and the internal perception of Exitas.
From mission statement to vision, ending in a strategy workshop
Based on the collected input, the management went back to basics: the reason behind the company. In other words: Exitas was first going to define their new mission statement, followed by the (re)formulating of their vision. This was essential in order to implement the necessary changes. “We’ve really thought long and hard about how the world will evolve during the next five years, how exactly it will be different, and how this affects our way of working.” Van Spaandonk recalls. Keeping an ideal scenario in the back of our minds, we formulated a long term strategy. Bedenk made us realise that we should revisit our vision and mission statement, preferably, every year. As this is the only way of staying agile enough, because as a company, due to the rapid pace of change, there is no way that you can properly prepare yourself for the upcoming five years.
“A reflection exercise led to the distillation of six strategic projects. On which we’d focus,for the months and years to come.”
Based on the new vision and mission statement, the strategic pillars on which Exitas would focus, were selected. We included a couple of managers during a new reflection exercise - the front- and back office,” Van Spaandonk explains. “This exercise led to the distillation of six strategic projects, on which we’d focus for the months and years to come.
Successful projectteams create engagement
Entering the final phase of the strategy roll-out, it was up to the CEO to debut the new strategic pillars in front of the entire company. “We were very eager to present our new mission statement, vision and strategy to our colleagues”, Van Spaandonk smiles. “The suspense had been building for some months now, because nobody knew what exactly had become of the survey.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you absolutely have to get people involved in the change process”
Communication only wasn’t sufficient of course, as the Exitas management knew. So how did this company take action? “We asked everyone of our employees who wanted to collaborate on a strategic project of their own choosing. This is how we formed the task groups, in which teams regularly meet up to shape and execute the project together. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you absolutely have to get people involved in the change processes of your company. Otherwise you simply won’t succeed.”
Exitas also acknowledges that this a a dynamic exercise. “For instance, during school holidays, certain projects come to a halt”, Van Spaandonk explains. “But we are positively optimistic: out of the six projects, four are well under way. One is a bit trickier, but we’ll get there in the end.”
“We aspire to infuse intrapreneurship into our DNA”
Van Spaandonk says that it’s wonderful seeing this guided trajectory made people come forward as role models. “We’re part of the Cronos Group, where intrapreneurship is infused into their DNA”, he acknowledges. “We share that ambition, and I believe we can already consider this our first success story.”
If you want a thing done well, (don’t) do it yourself.
If this guided trajectory has taught Van Spaandonk anything, it’s to be quicker to collaborate with an external partner. “It’s a classic reflex of the Flemish SME to think ‘I’ll just quickly do it myself’. But to have a fresh outlook, someone to assist you with this, that can be a huge help. Besides, it sort of works as an accountability check as well. It keeps you focused on the task at hand, instead of being distracted by the mundane madness.”
ABOUT Peter Van Spaandonk:
- Managing partner Exitas
- Education: engineer electronics
- 54 y
- Life motto: “Enjoy the moment”
- Partr of the Cronos group
- Management of Oracle databases for large companies and the government
- Turnover: 6 to 7 million euros per year
- 30 employees
Wondering how we can help you to develop a clear and supported mission, vision and strategy? Discover our offer here!