Restructuring a Fortune 500 using the power of Collective Intelligence

After exiting the global financial crisis Spain had fallen back into recession in 2012. Struggling with the economic downturn our client was instructed by head office to restructure, cut staff and reduce OPEX AND CAPEX allocations.

Their default approach was “it’s going to be painful, let’s just get it done” but we knew this mechanical approach would do long term damage to their people and the organisation. Our challenge was to persuade them to activate the organisation’s collective intelligence (CQ) then support their teams to come together and collaborate on a more humane restructure. One that would take care of their people and enable them to quickly get back up to speed.

To activate CQ you need to bring everyone together and make sure you are in the right environment. Our suggestion was instead of trying to piecemeal it over three months let’s bring everyone together and do it over a dedicated three day period instead, and let’s spend part of the process walking a famous coastal track.

The set up to get CQ is critical because you first need to align everyone’s intention and then focus attention on what needs to be tackled. As part of this it’s essential to create a non judgemental space where powerful listening can happen, perspectives can be shared and insights can emerge. To do this we used foundation Zone tools and models that helped align the group on how they were going to be with each other, and the process they were about to go through.

Fortune 500 01

To activate CQ you need to bring everyone together and make sure you are in the right environment.

What took place in the first stage of the coastal walk was a series of conversations that happened in pairs, functional teams and as the larger group. During the first half of the day all 24 members of the group had spoken to everyone at least once on the key restructure topics. At the halfway mark they had lunch, sat on the beach and took some time to reflect on the unanswered questions. These formed the basis of another round of discussion and perspective sharing on the walk home.

When they came together in the evening to check in, debrief and find out where people were at, everybody was asked how comfortable they felt moving to the next step - which was to create the restructure plan in their functional teams.

The process had been easy, fun and energising. The outcome was everyone had clarity on the issue and the answers they needed to move onto the next stage of the restructure planning.  It was the perfect level of group alignment.

With CQ being activated the group needed to come back together to receive input, refine, gain alignment, complete and celebrate together. The following day they moved into their functional teams and created their transition plans for the restructure. In the afternoon they shared with the wider team, received input, refined and then the entire group aligned on the restructure plan.

The session was concluded with a celebration.

Fortune 500 02

The process had been easy, fun and energising. The outcome was everyone had clarity on the issue and the answers they needed to move onto the next stage of the restructure planning.  It was the perfect level of group alignment.

What was the end result of activating and harness the power of CQ for the restructure?

  • The CEO and his executive team were acknowledged for including the wider team in the process and giving them the opportunity to shape the outcome.
  • Senior managers whose positions were at risk because of the restructure still contributed fully and came out feeling empowered and aligned.
  • Coming together as a team with the intention to activate CQ significantly reduced the restructure time frame (three days versus three months).
  • The Spanish team were recognised by Head Office for having the best prepared and most well executed Restructure.
  • The  focus around employees who were leaving wasn’t about employee issues, tears and sad goodbyes it was about respecting and honouring them for their time at the company.
  • People remained in the zone and the business quickly got back up to speed.

This is just one of many powerful examples we have witnessed while supporting clients to work with collective intelligence. We call it the X factor that most companies are missing out on because it has the ability to help organisations transcend the ordinary and create breakthrough solutions to the challenges they face.

While the theory of collective intelligence can be learned from books, the activation takes a special blend of ingredients and the courage to operate outside of the norm. If you’re interested in understanding how to activate collective intelligence inside your organisation we’d be happy to show you how.