At Valcon, we have more than 20 years of experience in supporting large transformations at world-leading companies. When it comes to business transformations, whether it is a digital transformation, an operational excellence transformation or another type of transformation that requires a change of both systems, competencies and behaviour, we see that it is a success criterion to select and train a group of employees to become change agents to manage the transformation. While external consultants can be used as support to accelerate the transformation, it is the internal “motor” of the organisation that drives and anchors the change in the long run.
During business transformations, organisations typically struggle to find the time to take people out for full-time training and at the same time execute strategic projects. A typical pitfall is that the project initiatives are not aligned with the strategic objectives. Therefore, we always stress to our clients that the chosen project initiatives must close the strategic gaps. We then use these project initiatives as the basis for an education programme to train internal change agents. In this way, we solve one problem with the other: How to allocate people for training while at the same time executing key strategic projects.
How we educated Topsoe’s people to become change agents
In 2020, Topsoe initiated its long-term strategic transformation to become green with the ambition to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in its operations within this decade. In doing so, Topsoe must strengthen its existing business and has therefore initiated an operational excellence transformation to ensure future competitiveness through customer focus and cost-effectiveness. This will both support the financing of the new business and develop competencies that can be leveraged in both the new and the current business areas.
To support Topsoe’s operational excellence transformation, Valcon developed an education programme to train its people in leading the change. The programme is a one-year full-time education consisting of hands-on project execution in combination with supporting theory classes. During the programme, the trainees will execute four projects with a focus on both results and hands-on deliverables. Each project has a target to deliver at least EUR 300,000 in annual savings, which will both fully finance the programme and create the necessary change for the transformation to progress.
The education programme is designed to develop the trainees’ competencies in project management and change management as well as their hard skills in systems and process optimisation. To reduce the dependency on external consultants going forward, the best trainees will after completion of the programme be selected for supplementary on-the-job coaching. The aim is that they are then not only able to execute projects on their own but can also train other employees in doing the same.
To ensure that the education programme reached a high international level, each trainee was given a formal exam by the end of the programme to become a certified change agent. For the certification, Valcon cooperates with a German university that is recognised as a leader in applied science and in the German automotive industry. The university acts as an independent third-party validator that ensures that the certification exam meets the recognised international standards.
The first group of Topsoe employees has just completed the education programme and received their certifications. Going forward, Topsoe has decided that the programme will be a key element in each employee’s career plan and a fundamental prerequisite to becoming a leader.