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Holland Colours Apeldoorn (HCA) is a family business with a hands-on mentality, where innovation is truly important. The firm manufactures pigment in sustainable beeswax capsules, for colouring plastics. This invention makes it safer to work with dyes because employees do not come into physical contact with the toxic materials. HCA operates throughout the world, in America, the UK, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Hungary and Mexico. It is a relatively small business, with around 400 employees, but it has a large customer base.
The firm’s focus is becoming increasingly clouded through spreading out too widely, with local differences. Employees were focusing on their own departments rather than on the business as a whole. The business had to become more professional in order to continue successfully. In this case, what this meant was a standardisation of procedures. But it was exactly this had created tension with the hands-on, entrepreneurial culture. They were worried that this culture – the firm’s driving force – would be lost. The question was: how can you still be a flexible business if you are working to standard procedures?
We helped HCA to clarify its strategy and focus, and then bring these to life in the organisation. We did this by working with them on leadership development and by providing a structure for internal communications. We translated leadership through to underlying units and created points when managers could swap ideas about what they had to do for continuous improvement.
The organisation was being compelled to adapt to its changing environment and all employees, from policy through to production, were being challenged to do the same thing. What was missing was a structure, with channels and resources to support this challenge. We developed a mix of resources for this that allowed employees to make a contribution, online as well as off-line, and share their thoughts on how the strategy was to be translated into their day-to-day work.
The result is that the workforce now has a rhythm, language and structure for opening up discussions about the strategy. The strategic focus offers a basis for dialogue between managers and workforce and allows them all to make their own contributions to the strategy. This gives them the tools and knowledge to work together on the challenges in a changing world.