Eandis: Agile Community Growth (2017)

Eandis is the largest electricity and gas distributor in Belgium and used to be government owned, being very much a PMO driven organisation looking for ways to grown Agile interest within their organisation. Co-Learning collaborated with people from within the PMO office to grow their internal Agile Community by means of a Company Wide Retrospective, 2-weekly Lean Coffee Sessions, some Culture Hacks towards several large Open Space events growing their community to a solid 300+ people.

The client

Eandis (today Fluvius) was the overall name for 7 Flemish electricity and gas distribution grid operators and Eandis System Operator (ESO), their operating company. They covered about 78% of the municipalities of the Flemish region in Belgium where electricity and gas are the two most important energy sources regulated by a governmental energy regulator (VREG). The organisation employs 5000+ people (internal + external) to expand, maintain and innovate on their distribution networks and are running multiple multi-million projects to achieve that.

The challenge

The challenge set forward by Pascal Mestdach, at the time of our intervention, the Head of PMO/Agile Coach was to increase the active people within their Agile Community and at the same time incrementally improve their existing Agile PMO practices in order to improve their overall agility. In an organisation that was government owned and structured, not as easy as it sounds but Pascal has proven to be a true leader and driver to make it happen.

What we did

Next to acting as a general Agile Coach within the Eandis PMO group our Co-Learning coaches re-ignited the 2-weekly Lean Coffee sessions and collaborated on setting up a lively and very open Agile Community intranet space, actively recruiting people to join the initiatives and helping the PMO office to become an information expansion to others in order to increase overall reach within the organisation. Attendance in the Lean Coffees grew to a steady +/-20 with enough rotation in topics and people so that the overall reach was broadening up.

The more information was gathered, the more information was shared the more an urge came to organise an overall company retrospective where a larger audience could provide pro's and con's on their current work environment. Together with Pascal and his colleagues we organised and facilitated a couple of face-2-face and many online collaborative work sessions that resulted in over 200 items that were identified as positive and about 300 items that are causing troubles to get the work done. Great results, highly supported by many many people in the organisation and now we needed to follow through on those results.

Based on the OSA Framework we organised a first Open Space using the results from the company wide retrospective as leverage and input. We prepared well, crafted an effective invitation clearly stating that participants will create the agenda and own the follow up actions. This first edition we welcomed about 60 people that engaged in 20+ sessions that resulted in over 50 actions to take and become more effective as an organization.

Together with the Eandis Agile Coaches and in extension the entire PMO office we followed up on these actions and made sure all progress was well rewarded and recognized in the organisation leading to even more actions to take place. A snowball effect was achieved that resulted in a second Open Space, 6 months later and with around 150 people. This latter one was supported from the back of our tandem principle based coaching and today there are many people in the organisation capable of designing, organising impactful Open Space sessions.

The results

When we started the journey Eandis had an active Agile community of +/- 30 people and at the time we stepped of our tandem based coaching they achieved a growth towards 300+ people. Today, being Fluvius, they are still frequently running Open Space events in many different contexts to address many different challenges they have to deal with. Pascal Mestdach and Didier Durinck were so proud on what was achieved that they presented their results during the XP Days Benelux conference.

We also receive information the use of Agile practices is growing slowly but steadily within their organisation.

Our services used

We brought a higher level of awareness on Agile mindset and practices through awareness sessions and collaborative practices with highly effective, interactive and large-scale workshops.

Start date: March 2017 - End date: November 2017

Stad Kortrijk: Budget Games (2013-2014)

Early 2013 the maire of Stad Kortrijk (Belgium) was looking for more innovative ways to engage citizens to participate in the council policy and investments. A bit like private organisations are looking to engage their people in portfolio management and strategy settings we thought and challenged the maire to organise Budget Games. An active way to allow people to participate in priority setting and have some serious debates on the items at hand. Stad Kortrijk engaged with Co-Learning to fully organise their (and for Europe) first Budget Games ever for Aalbeke and due to that success Stad Kortrijk engaged with Co-Learning to train them to design and facilitate this by themselves. We went for our tandem coaching principle for a second edition in Heule 2014.

The client

Stad Kortrijk is a reasonably sized city within Belgium with about 75.000 citizens in different sub-parts like Aalbeke, Heule, Marke... When we engaged Vincent Van Quickenborne was recently elected as its mayor and looking for some different ways to engage its citizens, sport, culture and other institutions within the city council decision making process.

The challenge

The challenge Stad Kortrijk and Co-Learning collaborated on was: "How can we engage 100's not to say 1000's of people in priority setting decisions?". Traditionally one would send out an inquiry to every citizen and send out city personnel to go door by door and acquire information that is then consolidated and consulted by city council members to make decision. Something that isn't very transparent to all and leaving a lot of power to city council people and their interpretations. We wanted to come with something more innovative with a higher level of transparency towards the citizens and modified our "Buy a Feature" workshop design (done in private organisations) towards a larger, maybe even more sensitive, setting of Budget Games.

What we did

Co-Learning took the full lead in the first Budget Games edition for Aalbeke which required a lot of preparation with city personnel and council members. During the process we used many collaborative workshops to come to all necessary artifacts to run a successful Budget Games event with 10's of people. These workshops provided learning to both Stad Kortrijk as Co-Learning and adjustments to our standard workshop design as used in private organisations. For this first session Stad Kortrijk had a lot of work to bring awareness to its citizens that this would be a highly important event and unlike the name suggests, not a game.

For this first session Co-Learning required more skilful facilitators than available within the company and used its large network to recruit extra experts (from its public workshop design & facilitation events) for the event day itself while keeping a strong hand on the event design and preparation. It turned out to be very successful and Stad Kortrijk wanted to continue with this technique for other regions and extended their collaboration with Co-Learning to educate their staff to design and facilitate similar events in the future. The second Budget Games event for Heule was used to use our tandem principle coaching approach for their staff, extended with some very customised and targeted internal courses. Facilitation for that event was completely arranged with Co-Learning and Stad Kortrijk personnel and became even a bigger success, more than 100 people participated and the priorities achieved from the sessions were accepted by the city council and been put in practice at the time of writing this down.

Co-Learning has written a dutch book that described the full spectrum of preparing and facilitating a Budget Games in order to spread the word and inspire other organisations to do the same. It is amazing to be part of giving back power to the citizens and let them decide on topics that concern their front door, their kids soccer club and so on.

The results

Thanks to all the hard work of Stad Kortrijk we got 60+ attendees for the session in Aalbeke that could decide on 17 different tenders and 2 different cost saving programs. During the workshop the citizens came with an extra cost saving opportunity the city council could follow up on. Active debate and the active setup of the workshop led to a smile on people their faces even though the decisions made were not easy at all. Thanks to the first session the second session in Heule had 100+ attendees and, even though a small hiccup, ended with similar feelings and smiles by its participants.

The best benefit is that those decisions were made by citizens, they became the advocates of what was decided and the city council acquired more credit about what is done versus what is not going to be done. Discussions and debate were delegated from city council members to its citizens now - empowerment!

Afterwards Stad Kortrijk also used this technique for children in schools: https://demos.be/blog/budget-games-voor-kinderen-uit-kortrijk

Google can definitely provide some more insights on the results achieved and we invite you to go and read our book (Dutch only though).

Our services used

Thanks to our experience with collaborative priority setting workshops in private organisations we could create a highly specialized workshop for Stad Kortrijk, training their staff to own this technique themselves and move it forward.

Start date: 2013 - End date: 2014