Practice what you preach: AMS as Innovative Labor Organization

Human Resources

Sarah Stemgée is HR Director at Antwerp Management School. When AMS went through a transformation from a functional to an innovative labor organization, she first wanted to get a thorough understanding of what such an organization is all about. She searched and found the answer in-house, with the Master Class Innovative Labor Organization. The Master Class not only provided her with a theoretical framework but also a practical toolkit, which she immediately put to use at AMS. A perfect example of “practice what you preach”.

The Master Class Innovative Labor Organization was not the first course Sarah Stemgée signed up for at AMS. Even before she started working at AMS, she took courses on public and social profit management and HR management. She found both the content and the organization a highly motivating and inspiring experience. Wouldn't it be great to be able to work in such a knowledge environment where you have all the knowledge at hand and can put it to practice straight away?


Fast forward a few years, et voilà: Sarah Stemgée is HR Director at–yes indeed–AMS. Today she is doing exactly what she found so motivating and inspiring at the time: gathering knowledge from the experts in house and applying that knowledge within her own organization. When AMS wanted to fundamentally change its organizational structure, the obvious step was to take the Master Class Innovative Labor Organization: "Our strategic thinking exercise revealed that we really wanted to grow toward one AMS culture. But that seemed to be incompatible with our structure with its small, fragmented teams and its many middle managers. A good organizational structure should facilitate your mission & vision and your strategy, so we felt we had to thoroughly change our structure."

"To find out which direction we should take, we consulted with our own experts in the field of innovative labor organization. Scientific research shows that this organizational model both supports employees in creating a sustainable career and improves organizational performance. I was triggered to apply this model in practice, but I did not want to go into this totally unprepared. I first wanted to have a proper understanding of what an innovative labor organization is all about. So, I decided to sign up for the Master Class.”

"The meta-perspective you get is a very powerful lever."

"What I really liked about the Master Class was the introduction of the ‘organization canvas’ with its eight building blocks. It may seem rather complex at first, but it clearly shows that an organization is a system, and that everything is connected to everything else. So, you cannot just start adjusting one aspect of your organization. For me, that really was an aha moment. In practice, you often see managers responding to symptoms: our workflow is not running smoothly, so we will buy some new software. Or, that team isn’t functioning properly, so we will change it. The Master Class really provides you with a meta-perspective, making you realize how defining your organizational design is. And that is a very powerful lever to get things started.”

"We actually started building the new AMS structure step by step, using all the knowledge and tools from the Master Class. Along with our teams, we started putting the puzzle together bottom-up, using our workflows as starting point: What work needs to be done within AMS? Which activities ought to be increased, downsized, or done differently to realize our strategy? How do you divide activities into a logical workflow? What roles and processes are there? How can we combine all that with the talents and competencies of our employees? And this is how we created a new organizational structure, based on roles instead of functions and with self-organizing teams. We already got scientific evidence from the Master Class that this kind of structure provides workable work and enhances both job satisfaction and performance, and we can now see that for ourselves in our own work environment. Thanks to the self-organizing teams, people get more autonomy, and by using roles instead of rigid functions, they can have more variation within their careers and take on roles based on personal interests, competencies and (potential) talent.”

"You get a toolkit to start building and rebuilding your organization in practice."

"Thanks to the application of the knowledge from the Master Class, we can now focus on sustainable careers for our individual employees, and as an organization we have become much more agile. So yes, I would absolutely recommend this Master Class. It is quite an intensive program, but it gives you a deep understanding of and insight into how an organization works as a system. And as a manager or HR manager you will be given a toolkit to start building or rebuilding your organization in practice. In this way, you can build a structure that really supports your organization in realizing its strategy instead of slowing it down.”

Curious what this master class can do for you?

Download the brochure Innovative Labor Organization (in Dutch)