I have always said that it’s smart to learn from the mistakes of others. On the other hand, it’s also smart to learn from the success of others. Recently, I have spent a lot of time studying how to develop our working environment. One excellent example in this field is Vincit Oy, which was ranked Europe’s best workplace in 2016 by the Great Place to Work Institute. Vincit Oy is happy to share their knowledge on improving working environment or, at least, how they have managed to do that. You can read more about this in the Vincit blog: https://www.vincit.fi/aiheet/tyohyvinvointi/ (in Finnish). Supercell’s CEO Ilkka Paananen supports these ideas in this Accell Insights article, “Why Supercell’s founder wants to be the world’s least powerful CEO” (http://tech.eu/features/15492/supercell-ilkka-paananen/). Both of these organizations let their teams and individuals make independent decisions without continuous control from their managers. This results in satisfied and engaged employees. After all, nothing motivates like trust and responsibility. It seems that, in a working environment, the role of a manager should be primarily about coaching and, if needed, offering support in decision making.
Just the other day, I was thinking about the vast number of major and minor decisions that we make each day at Noccela, a workplace of 18 people. Would things work at all if each decision needed to be discussed with and approved by the senior management? These thoughts are also supported by a study that the Harvard Business Review quoted in their article, “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart”(https://hbr.org/2017/05/what-sets-successful-ceos-apart). The study showed, among other things, that a quick but wrong decision produces, in the big picture, better results than a right but slow decision. The study concerned mainly CEOs, but the same principles apply to the everyday actions of each and every one of us.
Now, let me take you 70 years back to a time when skis were made of wood, men of iron, and the concept of management was a whole lot different than it is now. Back then, Mikko Ivalo wrote in his book, “Henkilökohtainen työnjohto” (Personal management):
“Above all, a leader must be sturdy and physically strong. As the manager, he must master the work of his subordinates much better than they do. He maintains his authority by strict discipline, infrequent talking and by shutting down any resistance in the bud. The employees will then reward their manager with humility and obedience.”
Fortunately, the world is changing and so is the development of the working environment.
So how do we at Noccela try to do things differently? Here are a few concrete examples:
- Less control and unnecessary detail in decision making, more freedom for individuals and teams. This is something we’ve been practicing, but there are still improvements to be made.
- Trust, freedom, and giving responsibility are apparent in all our daily actions.
- It’s okay to make mistakes. The important thing is that decisions are made quickly and that our operations are straightforward (and, of course, customer-driven) – without this, we wouldn’t be where we are now in terms of product development.
- In recruitment, we focus not just on the know-how but also on the individual. Some of our recruitment decisions have been quite special indeed. Instead of hiring the candidate with the best CV, we have chosen to hire a person who, in our view, fits our team the best, adds something to the Noccela team, and brings in their own approach and a hunger for continuous learning.
- We want to keep our work environment as open as possible. This applies also to the CEO, whose door is almost never closed. There shouldn’t be anything, not even a small thing, that would stop people from stopping by to talk about business or any other topic, for that matter.
- An ongoing conversation with coworkers, a genuine interest in what they do during and outside working hours, and discussing interests are the best ways to get to know someone.
- We will keep our organization model as flat as possible.
- Our employees created, by their own initiative, a list of 20 ways to improve our working environment. This document was printed and shared at each workstation, and it can also be found on the intranet.
- The professional competence of our employees is being developed through training and acquisition of learning materials.
- We have established an early support model that is also supported by the occupational medicine. There hasn’t been any need to use this model yet, but it is in place.
Juuso Anteroinen, CEO, Noccela Oy