Pieter-Jan De Man is director at STAS, a fourth-generation company specializing in moving floor trailers and tippers. The company had already undergone a first organizational change, inspired by Pieter-Jan's participation in a learning network of Workitects. Intrigued to find out what bigger impact innovative labor organization could have on his company, Pieter-Jan joined the Master Class of AMS. As part of his thesis, STAS was further transformed from a functional organization to a flow-based organization. "A revolution with measurable positive results", he concludes.
"The principles seem so simple but just starting to put them into practice proves to be a major hurdle."
"We are lucky to have an owner who is very open to innovative labor organization. And we had been through a first organizational change process before, with positive results. So, we didn’t have to start from scratch, we already had some support for our second 'revolution'. Still, it is not so easy to apply innovative labor organization in practice. The principles are so inspiring and seem so simple and self-evident, but just starting to put them into practice proves to be a major hurdle. Questioning the obvious in your organization, in our case questioning a way of doing business that had proven its worth for more than a hundred years: it is still a really big step to take apart a machine that has been running well for so long and to put it back together again."
"The Master Class provides you with a strong theoretical framework, but you also get the opportunity to apply this framework in practice."
"That’s the real added value of this Master Class, if you ask me. You’re given a strong theoretical framework, but you also get the opportunity to apply the theory in practice. Each participant gets the chance to pitch a project proposal and other participants who are interested may join your project. We presented our case and eventually started working on it at STAS with a group of fellow participants.
Professor Van Hootegem happened to be visiting STAS when we presented the new organizational design to our employees. Explaining the difference between a functional and a power-driven organization in 45 minutes to 60 employees is quite intense. And yet you see how quickly people identify with the principles of innovative labor organization. Silo thinking, lack of flexibility etc.: everyone agrees that these are bad for business."
"We are much more proactive now."
"That is, until you suggest breaking down walls (literally, in our case) and putting people together in squads. Then all of a sudden, all sorts of practical worries emerge. It’s paramount that you don’t let yourself get deterred by this. Those hurdles really are not as high as they seem. Once you start making real changes, you'll soon see the results in the workplace. Our buyers, for example, used to specialize in one type of product and followed up on it for the entire organization. Now they are part of one unit and buy everything for that unit. It involves a much wider range of products, but at the same time they are more closely involved with their fellow engineers and salespeople. This makes them much better equipped to avoid problems. Where there used to be a need for retroactive problem solving, we are now much more proactive. You just need a little bit of courage to take the first step and then the benefits will follow automatically."
"It would really make me happy knowing that many more companies are going to put the principles of innovative labor organization into practice."
"I promised the other participants in our project group to continue to give them feedback, even if the Master Class has already been completed. It’s important for them as well to know the impact of the organizational change that they have helped implement at STAS: what are the advantages and disadvantages? What are the pitfalls etc.? In this way, we continue to learn from each other.
In any case, I would recommend the Master Class to everyone. That is, if you want to put the principles into practice. The philosophy is so inspiring, it would just be a shame if it doesn't bring about real change in practice. STAS has proven that it can be done. Thanks to the program, we have been able to carry out our second 'revolution', with many measurable positive results. My dream is to continue doing this: to prove that feasible and healthy work, and effectiveness and profit can go hand in hand. It would really make me happy knowing that many more companies are going to put the principles of innovative labor organization into practice."