Dace_Kalnina

Culture Transformation Journey: Step by step, day by day

By Dace Kalnina

They say that it is the journey that matters more than the destination. Together with Isabelle Krauss I have had the opportunity to witness a wonderful yet not easy culture transformation journey in the Directorate –General of Informatics at the European Commission*.

With the reduction of resources and an increasing pressure on IT to deliver everything better, faster and cheaper, it was high time to look at internal matters in the organisation and see what can be changed and how.

With the arrival of the newly appointed Director-General it was clear that things would not be the same around the house.

The first step was to identify – where do we want to be and how do we want to be perceived within the European Commission. Instead of sending an email to all staff with a pre-cooked vision statement, the Director-General invited managers and staff representatives to brainstorm together and create a shared vision – DIGIT had to become the trusted partner.

Much easier said than done, right? It was clear that the vision would be just a vision nicely written on a paper if the 500 people doing the everyday business would not own it.

And so the journey started.

Over 5 years there have been stops and detours, acceleration and pauses, happy travellers and exhausting times, positive surprises and doubts but all the steps have led to a more open, collaborative and trusting culture.

They say that you can measure the staff engagement from the conversations in elevators and parking lots.

Our objective was to create conditions for people to talk together, help them find each other and encourage open conversations. We believed that these conditions needed to exist to unleash the power of collaboration in order to achieve our objective to become a trusted partner.

How did we make it happen?

  1. We listened to people to know what they really needed to do their job well.
  2. We gave people opportunities to meet each other on different occasions.
  3. We created an ever changing core team of change agents.
  4. We made our project teams as diverse and open as possible.
  5. We engaged with senior and middle managers to be sure we were on the same wave.
  6. We trusted the process and allowed agendas with no agenda points.
  7. We even moved to open space offices.
  8. We inspired others to start similar journeys.
  9. We celebrated successes and learned from our own mistakes.
  10. We built our culture step by step, day by day. And we still continue…

You will hear the whole story on May 4 in the Employee Engagement Summit in London.

*Directorate-General of Informatics (DIGIT) is one of the 43 Directorate-Generals in the European Commission. Its mission is to deliver digital services to enable EU policies and to support the European Commission’s internal administration. It has the responsibility to provide the Commission, and whenever appropriate other European institutions and bodies, with high quality and innovative workplace, business and infrastructure solutions. DIGIT’s vision is to take on and drive forward the digital leadership role within the Commission. There are around 530 officials working in Brussels and Luxembourg.