Agents of change

6th of November 2017
Agents of change

Change is a difficult, but essential, part of any prosperous business. Where new ideas come from, how they are communicated and crucially how they are implemented can be important factors in making new initiatives a success. Jan-Hein Hemke, managing director at soft FM service provider and contract cleaners Facilicom, has given his managers the chance to play their part by becoming ‘agents’ in a special mission.

Whether we like it or not change is all around us; just ask a taxi driver or hotelier facing down new, disruptive competition from Uber or AirBnB. No industry is exempt from change, especially with the IT revolution currently underway.

When looking to make proactive changes in a business, there are a number of ways to gather ideas. Perhaps the most commonly tried (if not always the most commonly used) is the staff suggestion box. We have those, but wanted to go much further to drive change ina n effective way that would gain widespread support.

Mission possible

‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it…’ goes the famous line in the Mission Impossible TV show and films. We decided to take a leaf out of that book by inviting some of our managers to become agents in ‘Accept Mission’ an online innovation software. Those who chose to accept were formed into teams and were given daily tasks gathering data and looking at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) around our organisation.

We felt that embedding this mission as part of people’s everyday working lives would be the most effective way to really capture the essence of the business rather than working in a more abstract way in a training workshop, for instance. It also means we gather a lot more data about how well our policies and practices are working. This way we can ensure we are delivering the best service possible.

Before the introduction of ‘Accept Mission’, SWOT analyses were created by the same small group each year. Now instead of around five people, more than 50 people with different positions and backgrounds are involved, making the result that much stronger. Because ‘Accept Mission’ is an online tool with both desktop and ‘app’ capability it removes the physical constraints with the brainstorming or decision-making process. There is no longer a need to get everyone in the same place at the same time.

Being online also means ‘agents’ work undercover so they aren’t limited by hierarchy or political influences within the organisation, which they may otherwise be if in a physical meeting, meaning a wider range of ideas can be suggested and evaluated.

‘Accept Mission’ is not a costly initiative to implement. In fact, it brings time and cost savings as there is no need to physically meet. It can be used for just 15 minutes a day.

Since ‘Accept Mission’ began in February 2017, 22 UK agents have participated in the programme, contributing a total of approximately 200 ideas. These have been incorporated into the business
SWOT analysis.

Making work a game

To be successful in business you generally need a competitive edge, and we are able to harness this through ‘Accept Mission’. There is internal competition within teams to see who the most successful agent is, between the teams to see who can produce the most ideas, and also between the different parts of the group. Since the mission launched, Facilicom UK has the highest rating; 80 per cent of its ideas have been scored at over 65 by the Innovation Board compared to an average 50 per cent in the other companies.

This ‘gamification’ of the SWOT process has introduced a whole new approach and a raft of new ideas. By making it a game, Accept Mission has enabled us to involve a large group of employees from all divisions of Facilicom.

Those people signed up as agents receive a mission email, which they can choose to accept or reject depending on their priorities. They then choose an undercover ID from a range of options including James Bond, and perhaps more surprisingly Yoda! After that they receive a briefing and can add their ideas, as well as commenting and voting on other people’s. At the end of the process the ideas and participants are ranked, making it clearer which ideas are more workable.

There is a clock ticking and agents always know what their score or experience rate is for each mission. In all objectives or missions everyone gets an update on what the score is of their team or as an individual agent. The best ideas will automatically be listed at the top of the scoreboard.
Ultimately this approach benefits the whole group and of course, our clients, as innovations and improvements are constantly being considered and delivered.

Beyond borders

The mission extends beyond the UK, with other companies in the Facilicom Group (The Netherlands and Belgium) participating and all the ideas are considered by the group Innovation Board. This board was established to create a structure for innovation across the Facilicom Group and allow ideas to be quickly put into practice and brought to market.

The board – which includes several ‘decision makers/influencers’ from all businesses within Facilicom Group – meets on a monthly basis. The primary focus of this group is not to come up with crazy, creative ideas. On the contrary, the main objective is to create a cultural organisational environment in which innovation can flourish. The board provides a ‘system’ for the innovation process, and creates the right preconditions to adapt innovation into the organisation (which is a challenge considering the basic focus of process optimisation).

Accept Mission is a great way to create a lot of ideas in a short period of time.

Change in the DNA

An example of the innovation produced by this approach is (directclean) a business solely created for smaller organisations which just want to deal with their cleaning online. They can use the website to request cleaning personnel and give feedback on their progress, as well as paying invoices, for example. The website means they can manage it all by themselves. It created a whole different market channel for our business.

Some people embrace change and many others fear it. However, by incentivising a wide number of people to develop innovations, making them clearly relevant to day-to-day work and ensuring they can be implemented quickly, change can become embedded in a company’s DNA. When this happens, change is accepted as a process that everyone has been involved in, and welcomed for the opportunities it offers, not just feared for the potential threats – something that many people might previously have seen as Mission Impossible!

Facilicom Innovation Board

The Facilicom Innovation Board (FIB) was established to facilitate innovation for Facilicom as a whole, and create an innovative climate with which Facilicom can boost its growth and achieve its goals. These goals apply to both current and new clients. The FIB reports to the board of directors. The FIB meets on a monthly basis and consists of senior management representatives from each Facilicom division and the Facilicom Group. Its tasks:

• Facilitate the realisation of good ideas
• Stimulate innovation within each division
• Spot and share lessons learned and interesting innovations for other divisions
• Improve the way innovations are handled.

The implementation of innovation starts with a clear innovation strategy. The FIB has determined this innovation strategy based on the business strategy and has decided which strategic domains to focus on. Each division is responsible for the management and execution of its innovations. Only innovations that apply to three divisions or more are being guided by the FIB itself.


Our Partners

  • ISSA Interclean
  • EFCI
  • EU-nited