Danfoss with Vivek Menon

January 24, 2022


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Currently Senior Director at Danfoss, Vivek loves to build new businesses with great products and customer experience. He has been with Danfoss for more than 14 years in various leadership roles in product management, innovation, and marketing. These roles have been diverse across business segments, multiple M&As and different regions of the world.

He considers himself an intrapreneur and a growth hacker. Vivek’s personal motto is “Breaking silos with a smile 😊” We can’t wait to hear all about his journey!

Living Room Conversations: Self-Managed Teams at Danfoss with Vivek Menon

Ricardo = Ricardo Ghersa (Host)

Vivek = Vivek Menon (Guest)

RICARDO: Welcome, everyone! I’m Ricardo Ghersa and I’m most happy to welcome you to the, we are already at the 18th episode of Living Room Conversations. Offered by the Living Room Institute. So I know that some of you are joining us either through Facebook or Linkedin live and this is meant to be an interactive conversation. So please feel free and I actually encourage you to post your questions, your curiosity and to really make this a live and interactive event. Other than being interactive this event is also supposed to be cozy and you should see me on a sofa and so let’s have this conversation also in an informal setup and see what comes out. So for those of you who have already been with us in previous conversations, welcome back. And for those of you who haven’t been with us yet this exchange, these conversations are focused on future of work and new ways of working. This is the broad domain that we are exploring now without any further due i’m excited to in a short moment introduce you to our guest for today, Vivek Menon. And perhaps you we can already bring you on our sofa. Hi Vivek.

VIVEK: Hi! Hi Ricardo.

RICARDO: Good day. So Vivek I’ll ask you to introduce yourself in a short moment. I would like to point out two things that I have read about you that stayed in my mind. The first one is a quote and you have actually there on your linkedin profile and I really liked it. You basically say that a passion of yours is to break silos with with a smile and that kind of smile I assume so in that little sentence you are actually bringing forth a key challenge that most companies nowadays, if not all are facing to an extent, or to another the challenge of having different departments, different teams communicating effectively. So this is the the quote I wanted to

mention and then there is this sentence which you know after having chatted with you the other day read a little bit about your work seem also to encapsulate quite a bit and it’s basically about delivering growth by bridging customer and employee experiences. So focus both on customer

and on employees and again I guess in this short sentence you are bringing forth another key challenge that many companies are facing nowadays so I will be curious to explore with you how you are actually taking on these challenges. But before diving deep it would be wonderful if you share a few words about yourself and about the Danfoss group which not all of our listeners may be already familiar with.

VIVEK: Sure, thanks. Thanks a lot Ricardo you know my name is Vivek Menon I am based

in Denmark right now. I’m from India I work for a company called Danfoss probably quite well known in Europe at least it’s a quite large traditional business into mobile hydraulics, climate and energy solutions. So the part of the business that I represent is the mobile hydraulics part. So think large construction and agricultural vehicles like tractors or combine harvesters and many of the solutions and products that Danfoss provides is going into those machinery.

So that’s the part of the business that I am from. Really appreciate this opportunity and this

forum of the Living Room Conversation to share some of our stories and experiences with your

audience and have like real heart to heart I would say about our journey and the curiosity that might be there. About similar journeys or maybe some questions you might have about our

own journey. So I think that’s that’s maybe a quick introduction I am leading the business unit or I have been leading the business unit of e-steering which was the first self-published business unit within Danfoss and that’s the main story that you’re probably gonna hear about in this

discussion today.

RICARDO: Indeed Vivek will do a dive deep for sure into the the journey that you have had

in your business unit and at the same time I’m aware that you already had other interviews

that are available online on the journey itself. So today we’ll try to tackle it perhaps from a slightly different perspective than what you have already shared as compared to the past and then of course we’ll see where the questions from the audience also lead us.

And so, Vivek. The journey itself would you like to tell us how it all got started?

VIVEK: Yeah I would say the journey got started probably you know, in 2016, 2017 when you know, Danfoss was at that point of time looking at as many organizations trying to accelerate you know growth and increase the agility in which we are operating with our business. At that time I was part of the initial intrapreneurial program Danfoss has started in Berlin. And at that same program my future manager Dominico Travozo was representing another division and we met at that point of time and soon after the the program was over, he was actually keen to start a business unit in the new ways of working style and he was a student of Gary Hamill and a

believer of you know, challenging bureaucracy and hierarchies in organization. And he still you know he was like you know ‘looks like we are thinking along the same lines would you be interested in leading this business unit?’. So that’s kind of how we got started on the journey in 2017 and then from there onwards you know it was a kind of empty canvas that Dominico provided us to say ‘hey you know go forth and grow this business’ that is you know quite exciting and future oriented. 

And also do it in a very you know, new ways of working, try to make it in a self-managed teams fashion. Of course saying that and then you know what does it really mean? And what does it mean for the context of the team? That was a whole different thing so we had to actually spend time you know with the whole team, understanding the why do we want to do this and once we had the why clarified with the team and the how became the next question that was there for everybody and we worked with each of those elements you know in terms of structure, in terms of processes, in terms of mindset and behaviors. And then built each element as we went along and then as we learned more we traded, did retrospectives and work with it further so to get to that level of how we are working in this kind of a self-managed way we have to build our own alternate structures, processes and mindsets. And in many ways also bring new ideas to Danfoss because of that so I’m quite happy that we were able to bring new ideas to Danfoss and our teams outside e-steering. 

RICARDO: Vivek, I would like to go back to the why. And so if I hear, if I understand correctly Dominico, your manager and you both saw the potential behind a new way of working

and so well, in a way, this is a nice start because you too at the top of your of this business unit organization, you convince yourself this makes sense, this is a great idea. Okay I’m curious to hear a little bit more about the next step because for sure a challenge that the peers of you managers you know kind of forget of organizations may face is they read you know, they read the book reinventing organization or they learn about what’s possible in this space, they

get excited and then well and then they have to convince the rest of the organization. So what has been your approach to bring the passion, and to make the team that you had feel the potential, how did you do that?

VIVEK: Yeah actually first and foremost you start with yourself. So before you even say it right you know it’s one thing to say that you have read the book right? I had also read the books and then Dominicao also had read the books but then when the team asks you or anybody asks you how are you actually gonna do it it’s not like we have made you know the full plan of how to do it. So I think that’s the first thing that you know first step is to really absorb for yourself that this is going to be a change for you and your team and therefore once you accept that part then you start to work with the team to actually make the change happen so I think you know with any change management of the scale we are talking about I think the key success has to be involving the stakeholders. And the first stakeholders are you know, your own team so you know the erstwhile managers in the team, the frontline people and engineers in the team we all had you know very valid questions, challenges and concerns about all of this journey. And then we that’s why we spend the initial six months trying to address these questions and understand what is really the strategy of the business, and what are really the pains of the business. And I

think if you really listen, then you understand that the organization is also asking for some of the things. 

So I can you give a quick highlight; one of the reasons that we were really passionate about getting this started on this journey was one of the employees before I joined had reached out to Dominico and you know, and asked for you know, a specific meeting so that he could highlight that there were a list of ideas that he had that he could never get through to in the organization to get implemented. And he felt that you know we were too slow in in taking decisions and reacting to new ideas and that was one of the triggers for Dominico to say hey you know then we need to be able to you know, find ways to not let the innovation that is there in the organization can be held back in some way or form because of some formal structures and things like that. And another element was really that when we looked at our scores on customer responsiveness and speed. We know not just our business but the business as a whole, the division as a whole could see that we could definitely improve on our customer reaction and customer responsiveness. 

So if you take these two things together really that’s you know again coming back to what you said the second quote right delivering customer experience and employee experience, it became the basis of us to define the ‘why’ because we could really see that whatever we had done until now even though it was exciting and good and from our technology point of view, we still had ways to improve both from an employee experience and from a customer experience perspective. And I think once the team really understood that and then had that as a burning platform we could then move forward into the whole part.

RICARDO: That’s interesting, Vivek. Because it sounds like during this six months you had an initial ‘why’ but then if I hear you correctly you engaged the organization in conversation and this ‘why’ clarified through the input that you received from different persons, different parties within the organization. Am I hearing correctly that the ‘why’ somehow got clearer and clearer?

VIVEK: Exactly. Exactly. Right, exactly and I think not just the ‘why’ but- or ‘why’ of the

self-management part but the why of also the the business and the purpose of our business unit so what is the purpose of the business unit, what is our strategy at a high level you know, we

kind of put all of that on the table for the team to engage with, and debate, and challenge and build up. So it was not like something we did in a traditional way of saying you know this is the strategy and now just implement it. But more like this is the hypothesis let’s go and you know

challenge it from all perspectives and see if we are coming out with these changes in our strategy. 

And actually it was as part of that that we actually added the self-managed teams as an element of our strategy also. Because earlier it was seen that this was just a way of working for us and 

but the team really felt that the way of working is so new and so different, especially at that point of time in 2017 compared to all of Danfoss, that they felt it should be actually mentioned as part of our strategy. So we have three elements of our strategy of, you know, developing our next generation products. You know, growing our customers and enhancing our customer experience and investing in new future technologies. Those were the three must-win battles we had and the team really wanted to add the self-managed teams as the fourth must-have battle so that was something that was coming out of these workshops that we did with the team. 

RICARDO: Feels like you have been pretty bold from the very beginning because from the very beginning you basically engaged the team to define the new strategy or reviewed strategy as

part of the clarification also for the self-managed component. So interesting to hear. Okay so you have the six months you you come up with the revised strategy you clarify the benefit that self-managed team can bring to the group and now we come a little bit into discussing the how

reading what you have done I well I understand that you have been reading and exploring about different models and then you saw that Holacracy and Sociocracy certain elements at least were more suitable for the needs of your team. And then, if I read correctly from one day to the other you basically changed and you said ‘hello good morning from today we start with this new model’. So would you like to share a little bit about the we understand already the preparation

that went into defining the why but also how did you prepare if you did it at all, from a mindset standpoint or even knowledge standpoint, your colleagues to do the transitioning?

VIVEK: Yeah so actually you know we also engage with external help to do the transition so we had Jacob Thiego from implement in Denmark who was supporting us during the initial I think six to eight months of the transition in 2018 especially. And I think that was a big part of the discussion was this is new. New to the world, new to everybody and let’s not claim that we know everything right and I think that is that was already a big starting point that the team was not feeling that we were faking something that you know I trust this process or here’s a seven step process to doing this change I think you know having that kind of open dialogue with the team really helped. That we have some idea of the changes that we want to bring but we don’t have the answers to all questions especially when you take away the hierarchy, suddenly all the problems that were hidden in the system, they actually come out. And a lot of questions that came to us are also questions that are not necessarily clear in a hierarchical organization. You know if you talk about career paths right? Just to give an example a lot of people say ‘oh you

know what will be my career path in a self-managed team’ you know okay I have I’ve worked for 15 years in hierarchical organizations; there was no clarity. You know there isn’t a zoom that there is a, there is a- what do you call it this this ladder that is existing and you’re all climbing the ladder but anybody who’s worked for you know in five years or plus in an organization realizes that these are all invisible systems and not really knowing how your careers are developing

and you never know how you’re curious develop from the day you started your work life and where you are now. So you know this is just an example right you know it’s a it is already a

concern that was there in the existing system but now it be even more brought out in a

self-managed system so the good thing what we did was that you know I think there are

there are some significant challenges that you have if you are not converting the entire organization to a self-managed team because we are more like classified as a Teal dot in an

Orange world and it is our business unit that was converting. But there are so many strengths that have happened with also doing that and the strength is that for everywhere we don’t have an answer, we follow the existing process right.

So don’t change something until you are able to find a hack or an existing process really helped us to modify one element of the structure one

element of the process one element of the mindset behavior at a time and and we started where the tension was. The tension was in okay if you are if you’re not having a manager in the

traditional sense before then who is giving me feedback, who’s giving me you know some clarity of how am I performing on my day-to-day basis and that’s when we started the hacking of self-managed feedback first and then we did hiring in teams first and then we talked about budgets and teams you know so it’s you know we instead of saying you know everything is

is changed and we don’t know what everything is we said everything remains the same until we say that this is the new hack. And this is the new way of doing it and therefore it could it gave us the stability in operating in the existing models and the ability to change the new aspects as it came along based on the tension that was raised by the team and instead of it being a decision of me or Dominico to say change here, change there or whatever.

RICARDO: Okay so if I understand correctly even though holacracy had been rolled out

there may still have been certain processes or behaviors that were rather remaining hierarchical

and those changed as well but perhaps not from the very beginning. As you said certain things remained the same until then there was a tension or something that brought them to evolve.

VIVEK: Yeah and I can tell you this. You know holacracy and sociocracy both are systems of taking decentralized decision making. They don’t give any you know, they have no statement about what are some of these processes and how those processes should be run in decentral organization so actually you can use if it depends on how you want to use it, but you can actually use holacracy and sociocracy in a in a hierarchical organization without changing the structure also. Because it’s about how you’re taking decisions that is what the holacracy and sociocracy gives. And it tries to break down the traditional role of of a leader of a manager

into more decentralized roles which are able to balance each other when you look at a lead link or a facilitator or a secretary these are usually all roles that are rolled into one and I think by decentralizing them you are actually challenging uh so the facilitator is actually in my viewpoint

one of the most strongest roles that are there in holacracy and sociocracy to be able to ensure that you know avoiding the hippo syndrome. The highest paid person’s opinion syndrome right? So I think that is an important element. The other element that we really found was that we had to separate people leadership and functional leadership. Because that also is another thing that a lot of teams are curious because people want to lead but not necessarily on on both people side and functional side they are experts in certain areas and they would lead want to lead some functional areas and there are other people who are very passionate about

developing people, supporting people and growing people and would want to focus on the people’s side. 

So I think we had this mythical role of you know, a manager who is great at both the functional and the people side which we kind of broke down into two separate areas and then distributed the roles to work accordingly so I think that was also very helpful for us in making the


RICARDO: Thanks Vivek. I would like to take the question from Kate which is asking about what was the most challenging part of this initial part of the transformation? And I think until now you basically touched upon the three key elements of your transformation namely the structure, the processes, and the mindset. So can you share a little bit more about where you faced resistance or challenges?

VIVEK: I would say that you know I think the answer is probably maybe even known to many people on the call and even Kate probably is thinking the same thing usually the mindset and behavior is the hardest part to change. Starting with myself right you know I am also growing up in the traditional command and control ways of working and traditional hierarchical organizations

so for me also giving up control I can tell you command was easier to give up because you know that’s then you become into a value system that you’re not talking in terms of command anymore you’re talking in terms of more influencing your team and inspiring your team so 

that part is already kind of most leaders have it covered. But control in large organizations is the

the harder part of giving up for leaders is my viewpoint and I had the same problem. Because I was not you know, you’re trying to- you don’t know the way, the team does not know the way. To tell that I don’t know the way is scary. And then trying to then build as we go along is scary. You know trying to build up- you know build a plane as you fly is not an easy part of it. So I think that is an element. Then you are consciously understanding that we are all self-managed at home with our friends, with our family you know, we take big decisions like buying a house or you know, who we are getting married to or whatever right? There are significant personal decisions

we are taking but for whatever reason you know when we are at work we are more used to following whatever the protocols of that organization and for various good reasons. We have built up some sort of you know, system that avoids us the same kind of freedom of decision making. And I think that it is not something that people are used to when they suddenly: ‘okay now you have the freedom’ okay can I really do it? You know, is it really allowed are you just fooling with me? They can, you know, and will I get fired if I do the decision?

So there is a lot of inertia even in teams actually using that freedom when they are given that freedom. Another aspect I found interesting is really people topics like conflict resolution right? In the past they would just escalated to the managers especially if it’s two different people reporting to different managers they would escalate it to their managers and now when you’re saying the escalations come I said ‘That’s fine. Please, both of you go into that room. Here are your tools that you got trained on for conflict resolution, use the tools and come back with an answer.’ that is the best for the business. You know it’s not easy because they’re like ‘oh you know why don’t you decide for us yeah?’ if I decided for you then then it won’t be a self-managed team right? So I think that’s again theoretically understanding the tools of conflict resolutions, non-violent communication, feedback and actually giving and receiving feedback,

and actually resolving conflict in teams is the hardest part.

RICARDO: You know Vivek while you are speaking about this behavioral part and you know, and even before the interview I was reflecting that in a hierarchical setup, typically, you want to show yourself to the others as a successful person. This is typically what gets rewarded and what brings you to go up in the career ladder. And so that’s kind of rewarded, to show to the others that you know, what to do at all times if possible. Whereas in this new setup it’s a it’s a

different kinds of behavior which is actually a productive pathway into the individual and the team. You mentioned conflict resolution. The behavior that I understand is important is to immediately take out what’s not working. So also to have the capability to admit ‘I’m failing here’ or ‘I don’t know exactly how to work on this. Can you support me?’ so, I see the challenge and I’m curious to learn a little bit more about how you supported your teams to do this transitioning whether it was through internal coaching, external coaching or some other means.

VIVEK: We did provide the external coaching so as I was just saying right, so it was one of the things you know I said I could use hierarchy for certain things right I use a hierarchy that it was non-negotiable to have those coaching. So everybody in the team went through those coachings you know because they were a little bit uncomfortable right? But you know, I wanna work on this project and technology and customer and not be in a soft skills training on feedback or not be in a soft skills training or conflict resolution or communication. And we find that those were actually the most important skills. Not soft skills by any stretch of imagination because the the team is actually brilliant group of engineers and you know they are already great at the hard skills of the maths and the physics and the and the hydraulics and the technologies but but it’s on this aspect that that it’s traditionally in the domain of managers and HR and not in the domain of the end-to-end team and I think this is where we have to uh invest in the organization and the team and they really attended those sessions, had role plays, had you know practice sessions afterwards and so on and so forth and then every time you know there were issues that coming up that were linked to those things then we asked them to go back and use their trainings for

those elements. I think that was the way we did it. You know and I don’t think there is any perfect way to do it, you know, you have- everybody is on their own journey. Some people will love it, some people will be extremely uncomfortable and will be a little bit more slow in taking on but you know our first goal was to make sure that everybody had the same access to the tool sets that were, you know, to help them actually deal with it.

RICARDO: Nice. There is something else that you haven’t now expressly mentioned but you talked about it, and it is about transparency. And here I’m very curious because typically in a hierarchical setup, well knowledge to an extent is power. And in this new setup actually the effectiveness of the teams come if there is full transparency of information and good decisions can be made accordingly. So can you share a few words about how you have brought about transparency in your organization and how have people responded to that? 

VIVEK: I think we called it radical transparency. And I think that’s almost a necessity in such a kind of an organization right? So if you look at a traditional organization you know we say

that it’s kind of built for stability and you know making sure that you know we are able to

work with coordinated fashions across everybody areas and departments. And if you look at such a self-managed team it’s more uh driven towards speed and agility right? And when you want when- if the paradigm is knowledge is power then the paradigm here I would say is speed and learning is power so it’s- you have to then again change the mindset. 

If speed and speed is the key and the learning is the key then knowledge is almost a commodity in a knowledge world right? Because everybody you know, everybody has access to LinkedIn people are there on a call here like this on Living Room Conversations, they are attending virtual conferences of the best brains in the world and you know it is not like a few even 20 years back where knowledge was really that could be held back. Now you know people in the poorest of places in the world because of the access to internet and the mobile phones have the

access to you know, edX and education from Harvard and so on and so forth. So it’s you know, I think there’s a lot of that knowledge is becoming more and more commoditized so what you need to think about is speed and learning. How do you actually increase that in organizations and for that transparency is key. So we had to provide you know not be we made sure

that the budgets of the entire organization was available to the team. They could decide okay here you know ‘this is the money that we’ve got from the organization’ so I would say you know,

I would say the the organization above me was the owner and here are the owners of the company they have given us this amount of money to spend for this year. It’s up to us now how

to spend the money. You want to spend it on salaries? Do you want to spend it on projects? Do you want to spend on travel? This was before travel it was even on the table but and you want to spend it on learning and development? Let’s discuss and let’s distribute the things that we want to put on the table. And then you realize that the decisions that i would have taken or some of my managers would have taken are not any different from what the team would do with that kind of same kind of transparency.

Another example I can tell you is that during Corona period especially in 2020 you know because we’re still in the middle of it but when it started and in 2020 we had to look at expenses as the market was you know falling flat and the business was having challenges in the initial months like everybody, we also had to look at our spend and what were our discussions and while my peers were sitting in a corner with their financial controllers and making some calculations, I brought it to the team. ‘So guys this is the target: everybody we have to find

this much savings’ and it was actually one of our project managers who took the lead on behalf of the entire team and came up with a list and said ‘here is the list of savings that we commit to as a team away’ you know I was like ‘but are you sure? I don’t agree with those two three things that you put in there’ you know? And there’s like you know ‘we know the business better than you’ so it you know, this is where it matters because the details anyways the teams knows because you you as a leader you are not able to get into the same level of details that your team is and assuming that we are we are able to do that I think is the myth and I think that’s where the transparency is really a critical success factor for us. In running a self management.

RICARDO: Thanks Vivek. There is something you mentioned a little bit earlier and I don’t want to drop this because I feel this may be quite unique to your context and what you have done in your division. You mentioned about managers and you know you mentioned about the functional management as compared to the how can we call it; performance related management. And I know you have done something in this area I know you have basically split the two responsibilities and I think as mentioned the way you have done it may be quite unique to your

company. Would you like to share a couple of words on this?

VIVEK: Yeah so the way we did it was that we split the traditional manager role into two main areas; functional leadership and people leadership aspect. And then within those two areas also we further created sub roles. So on the functional leadership side we could use the holacracy and sociocracy roles of lead link facilitator secretary so that there is not a functional leader

again as a centralized leader like a project leader in the traditional context.

And it’s still distributed within the team that kind of function leadership. On the people leadership side we actually shared, created new roles where people could choose their own sparring partners so instead of having to go to the manager that they were reporting to you in the past they have freedom to choose the sparring partner of their own choice we trained the sparring partners who were actually volunteering to be sparring partners for others. So before we had like four to five managers who were doing the performance reviews and now we had 13 sparring partners who had volunteered to actually be sparring partners right? And then we put a lot of owners on the individual themselves because the ‘my development is my responsibility’ not ‘my

manager’s responsibility or somebody else’s responsibility’ so the owners on doing my own development was mine I had the availability of a sparring partner for advice recommendation and stuff and feedback we made it about 360 feedback. So we made it okay you know you

you get your feedback from the team that you are participating not the manager. Usually our experience has been that the direct manager might know best 50% of the work that you’re doing because you are mostly working in teams and and the manager is not usually involved in your day-to-day working in the teams. So the manager uh is usually getting second-hand information about your day-to-day or you know quarter to quarter performance in the team from your peers and not getting first-hand information. And we said ‘hey why not make that a 100% transparent peer-to-peer feedback?’ so that was another element of it. And then one of the key elements

that you can find in a lot of managerial positions is taking care of the team. Well-being of the team especially during Corona, are people doing okay? Are people you know, needing help? Are you know you usually have some events or some fun things that you’re doing as a team member? For having the team spirit. So for all of this we created well-being specialist roles where people could say you know volunteer to be well-being specialist and then they they signed up to provide stress coaching, connected with the company doctor, you know, these kind of stuff that can be done by the team member. Again is not it’s not something that the manager has to do by defining those goals. I think that’s kind of how we split it up by having sub roles within those functional leadership and people leadership.

RICARDO: Thank you Vivek. We have a question from Gaby and she’s asking about whether you had to let go of a team member and if yes, how did you do it? And maybe we can well if not you how in this context would it be decided that someone is not fit for the job and it needs to be let go of?

VIVEK: Yeah, so this was also part of the performance feedback stuff so what we have organized was that we put in you know, we have these teams as inter-circles and they are you know, there’s a hierarchy of purpose. But not of people. So you have those aspects. And then if there were the process that we defined was that if you are not happy with the performance of the team member and and this was discussed in the team then it was important that the team

lead brought it to the HR, the divisional you know, HR partner and to the business unit leaders attention that this is not enough that you know? Whatever they have done to improve themselves and stuff and then we have to take the dialogue with the individuals we set up this process in such a way that first the team had the chance to actually help the person remember always first and foremost always see if the person is in the right place for that person’s role right? So if a person is doing a role that is not what they are interested in, not what they are able to do, either from a competency angle or from a passion angle you need to address those things first right? So always when you- when I hear this ‘firing, firing, firing’ question, hold on. Find out first whether it’s a competency issue or it’s a passion issue. Because first you address the competency issue you know, have you provided the right tools for that person? Have they got the right skill sets for doing those roles because when you’re part of the hiring process you would evaluate some of these things but over time maybe some of those competencies have become obsolete and new competencies are required.

So you have to test the competency angle first then you need to take the passion angle. If the person is passionate about something else then you should be discussing ‘okay let’s you know, let’s talk about what you’re passionate about’ and maybe that is where we want to use that person instead of using the person in the role that has been defined and this is also the

freedom you get in a self-managed team because now all of them are e-steering leaders and

doesn’t matter if you know, if you are hired for this, that’s fine but now you are more passionate about something else. Let’s talk about that and if those two things are covered then there has to be more deeper reasons why there is not you know, a match. And what we have found is that

there were a few people who were like not wanting to work in the self-managed way of working right? It was not a competency issue, it’s not a passion issue. It was that if they simply were I know this is what they would want to work in a traditional organization the good thing was for us that you know we are such a big organization, Danfoss, we actually helped them find new roles within Danfoss so we didn’t lose anybody in Danfoss. We actually attracted more people 

from outside because of this so that’s how we handled some of the cases and that’s how I would advise to handle in such cases. Also firing is usually the last aspect when you are not able to you know, after the trainings, after the competency, after the passion test you say ‘okay then maybe we are not on the on the same path and the same journeys’ and then even there you should help put yourself in the shoes of that person and say ‘okay then, how do we help you find your next role either within or outside the company?’ 

RICARDO: And to be sure who would make that decision of telling someone ‘You have to go. You’re fired.’. Would it be the whole team deciding? 

VIVEK: That was one of the decisions I kept to myself so you know for me you know, I have no- in the four years I have not fired anybody. 


VIVEK: Right? So the worst game was to find some new jobs for them which was not firing in a Danfoss context right? So it was not something that I had, it was one of the accountabilities I kept with myself as a business unit leader.

RICARDO: Thank you Vivek for the clarification. We have another question from Marianna. And Marianna is asking ‘Vivek if you look back at the journey that you have done so far, is there anything else that you would do differently? Anything that you would change, if you could?’

VIVEK: I think that’s an extremely hard question. I have thought about that question before. My initial thought if you ask me a few months back, or maybe a year back I would have said ‘yeah I would have planned better, and maybe done some change management better, and trained more’ and all of that stuff. But even further down the timeline I realized that you know, if we come back again to thinking that we can plan our way out of everything and that’s not true. You know, it’s the Mike Tyson code, you have a plan until you’re punched in your face right? And that’s what Corona did to everybody. Just think of it right, that’s what Corona did to everybody. That you know, suddenly the entire world is running a work from home experiment for 18 months.

No governments, everybody’s aligned. There is no- there is not like there was a- you know, European union agreement and there was you know, US agreement, and a China agreement United Nations came together and decided that the work from home policy should be implemented. The employee what you call it you know, relations and the unions have to agree to all of that. It all happened in less than a month. Almost the entire globe went into work from home and has continued to work from home and still struggling to work with it but also being successful in many of these things. So I would say you can always look back if you have specific areas then maybe you can answer better but if they look back in my journey and say ‘what could have done better’ I don’t know. If I had taken one path maybe I would have disturbed the timeline as per you know, Doctor Strange on Marvel and then I might have some

other problems instead of the problems I ended up having. So in a VUCA World, you plan, do, check, act but make sure that the ‘plan’ and ‘do’ are not much bigger than the ‘check’ and ‘act’ part which is what I see usually. And if you do the iteration cycles fast enough I think that that is probably maybe one area. Keep your retrospectives often. And look at yourself more often and

ensure that you are checking at- keeping the check on what you’re doing often. Because you have to adjust on a faster-than-you-think basis.

RICARDO: Thanks. Nice answer. Vivek, we are already heading towards the end of this conversation and I would like to do a step back. So we have been narrowing it down to what you have done at Danfoss and I’m curious to ask you this: take the manager of a- manager in any kind of organization, hierarchical organization. I was thinking about the business case to go through all of this. Because again thinking about the behaviors that are rewarded in a pyramid,

well typically, whatever you want to do, whatever strategy ideas, you have, to give a plan to your

manager. And give timelines to your manager, and also give confidence that you know what you’re doing. And thinking about implementing self-organization, these three points are, to an extent, not really there in the sense that yes you know what you are doing. And you don’t really know how- what the ripple effect will be.

Yes, you have timelines and no you haven’t. Because once again humans are humans and it’s uncertain. And so what would be your message to a manager finding himself, inspired by all of this but then telling himself that why the hell should I, you know, put myself in such a situation?

VIVEK: Yeah, I think first and foremost don’t do it because somebody told you to do it right?

Big no no. Do it because you want to do it. Now if you are already there where you want to

do it then my advice would be all the plans that you submitted before now look at them.

Most of them did not work out as you submitted them.

So what’s wrong with giving another plan that was not gonna go according to what you submitted? So it’s again you know, how do you navigate in a world where still the you know more traditional ways of things are being practiced is that you have to provide the same level of information but that same level of information can be provided in a different way right? So I did

the budgets. But the budget was you know, the key elements of the budget was done by the team. So I am more a facilitator of that information towards the management and instead of me

sitting and deciding on that kind of stuff right?

So I think that’s where you have to kind of change the game in your mind that what is your role. Your role is a facilitator of problem solving to the team right? And therefore you are not the one who is solving the problems, your team is the one solving the problems. Your job is to take

stones away from their paths right? And give them whatever information, tools, access to help them. So you cannot change what the company or the organization or the world around you might be needing but you can change the way you actually deliver that. And I think that’s where you should focus your energy on. Because you cannot change what the organization needs. You know I- the expectation from us was to grow the business, and grow the profitability you

know, and if I had not, if the business unit had not done that then obviously that would have been a challenge to me, that you know, it doesn’t matter- self-management is not for the sake of

self-management. It was- that we have to deliver business and growth right? So that we have delivered those KPIs but how we do it is also in our hands. And I think that’s where we have to take the risk of trying something new because you have tried you know- that’s I- when a lot of people came to me like ‘but what if this fails?’ Plan B is there. I know very well 15 years of how to do to traditional hierarchical organizations, we’ll switch! If it starts to fail, switch. Go back. Plan B is there. The safety net is there. You know what are you worried about?

RICARDO: Vivek you have been implementing this transformation in the context of a company which is still hierarchical. And this address is one of the questions that we have in the chat from Ken, who was actually asking to hear a little bit more about how the dynamics here work.

So how is it to be a self-managed department in a hierarchical organization?

VIVEK: So I think first, it’s within the team. The team is uncomfortable because nobody else is doing it right? So that was the first thing that we tackled. How we helped the team to work with it. The next was to work with our close peers who were supporting us. So for example HR functions, or procurement functions, or IT functions, they are not reporting into the business unit. They are their own parallel support organizations from a central point of view.

So we have to engage with them. I think that’s the most important element. That if you don’t engage you will only build silos. You know you ask me about breaking silos and smile. Engagement is the critical element there, proactively engaged. Don’t wait for them to come

screaming at you for breaking whatever process or structure. Tell them upfront that ‘hey you know, we would like to try some new hacks’ you know, how ‘what are your ideas?’ Most of these departments themselves are looking for new ideas. They are not happy. They are all looking to be the best jobs in HR, best people in IT, best people in Finance. So they are all reading the same books that you are reading. They are not strangers to what is happening. So they also ‘okay let’s be curious and try out something new in HR. Let’s try something new in IT. Let’s try

and do something new in Finance’ And we say hey we are- we can be your pilots.

So you can then- the organization also sees ‘oh we see the corporate HR people coming and helping corporate, Finance people coming and helping corporate, IT people coming and helping’

so they also feel a little bit more relaxed that you know, it’s- we are not just being rebels for the sake of being rebels but there is also an acceptance in trying out some of these pilots outside.

I have had many other business unit leaders who don’t want to transform the entire business unit but want to try it in a smaller part of their business unit. So they were interested in trying to do our ways of working in some things. Performance management is now being more and more

taking ads as a peer-to-peer 360 feedback across Danfoss. One of the things that I’m very proud about is the sparring partners initiative actually now at a whole Danfoss level they have opened it up as you know mentoring program where everybody can sign up as to be volunteers and then it can be a volunteering basis, the sparring partner set up.

So you know when you see things like this happening then you realize that okay you will never get a hundred percent acceptance of whatever you’re doing but there is a spread of the elements that make sense for everybody else to use and I think that’s at least been my thought

process and and yeah I think that’s how we have broken those silos by proactively engaging and then hacking with them.

RICARDO: Thank you Vivek. I have questions popping up popping out in my mind while you

speak and I am aware we only have three minutes left. I’ll ask you one, okay? I’m not sure

it’s easy to tackle it in such a short time our audience within our audience here today we have I’m sure quite a few Agile coaches, transformation managers and I would be curious to hear

the role that they may have played in your transformation, or the role that you would you know- or where you would see them bringing the most value added in supporting such a change.

VIVEK: So I strongly believe that you know, these Agile coaches and transformation agents are very powerful in helping in the transformation. And we have used them also externally and internally. We have these transformation agents part of the the discussions I think the one

maybe, suggestion I would have is that please remember a lot of these change agents and transformations, after a lot of hard work, get frustrated because they feel that the organization

is not really listening or or not moving at the pace that they would like to or something similar.

You know I think it’s my suggestion to them at least, is that please put yourself in the business shoes or maybe even try a role. You know leave the transformational role and move to the business role and then from a business role point of view, do the transformation because the complexity of doing this with all these people I think that’s where the hard part is and and you know, it’s tough to be a transformation agent. But it’s also tough to be the one who is leading the transformation for others right? So maybe it helps to also a lot of these agents who say instead of being frustrated with the lack of change or the speed of change, let me try being the one responsible for the change and then giving it a go because then you will see you know, firsthand for yourself or on how it feels. I think that’s some of my thoughts.

RICARDO: Vivek, it has been a great pleasure to have you on our Living Room sofa today. Thank you so much for coming in and sharing your beautiful experience. Any final words that you have that you would like to share with our audience?

VIVEK: Oh no, I think thanks a lot for your time and for the audience’s time. And I think the only thing I would say is that you know, make this year about action. If you are a believer in a self-managed team, please move forward. And you know, act on it. I think almost all of you would have- are believers and reading about it. It’s time for action and if you need any

help on the actions, you know, feel free to reach out. I can help. Thanks a lot.

RICARDO: Thank you, Vivek. And I think you are suggesting on LinkedIn that people can even reach out to you if they want to learn more or need some support and I would like also to recommend this nice interview that you had with Lisa Gill to learn more about perhaps different questions on the transformation.

And on our hand I think we- I have to advertise a couple of events from the LIVEforward Institute. If they would kindly- super- be shown, so as you see here; we have coming up, a Semco style Institute Training. It’s about Agile Culture Essentials. And then we have another Living Room conversation coming up in February, beginning of February. And of course, Teal Around The World, March 3rd and 4th.

And with that, thank you to all of us who have been with us today. And hopefully see you at the next Living Room Conversation. Bye bye!


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