It happened on a Friday afternoon in January. One of those January days when you barely get to see any light. The Christmas decorations had been put back in storage and spring still seemed miles away. However, at Humanitas DMH’s locations there was no reason for the January blues. For the first time in months, the atmosphere was completely relaxed. It was at 12 minutes past three when the culture change took place. At precisely that moment, 1,100 employees all became aware of the need to change their behaviour. Accezz was thanked for all its efforts and the proposed implementations became a fact of life. Director Frank Wolterink had 92 cakes delivered with the Accezz logo on it, and both clients and employees enjoyed the chocolate mousse filling together.
The culture clash between Accezz and Humanitas DMH
Of course, every director would like all the things outlined above to be true, but that really would be a fairy tale. At the beginning of the improvement process, there was a strong clash between the different philosophies and cultures of Accezz and Humanitas DMH. “Our organisational values and behaviour are based on a humanistic philosophy, resulting in a culture that regards change as subtle and which allows time for reconciliation and reflection. During the improvement process with Accezz, we entered into dialogue with ourselves and with each other, and every opinion and thought was given space. This is how we usually go about things with our clients as well. As we always seek to create harmony and consensus and develop improvement from within, Accezz spent more time with us than it tends to do with its other clients. When it comes to changing work processes and schedules, we like to approach things in our usual way,” explains Frank Wolterink.
Streamlining work processes? That’s a people business!
The Accezz method is analytical, rational and direct. Accezz invests a good deal of time in its clients during the initial analysis phase and the number of new insights can be huge. “We were provided with management information and figures that we had not seen presented in such a tangible manner before. Accezz made it clear that at one of the pilot locations only 52% of time was spent on clients! The remaining 48% was unaccounted for or simply lost due to looking up information, starting meetings too late, chitchat or insufficient structures,” says Wolterink.
Although the organisation was given important management information, doing something with it was an entirely different matter. It required employees to step outside their comfort zone, which was not an easy task. Wolterink: “We noted a difference between our human-oriented and philosophical nature and the result-oriented Accezz approach. During the improvement programme, we continuously had to harmonise with Accezz and coordinate our approaches. It helped that Accezz had carefully considered which consultants were best suited to work with our organisation. In the end, it is not about which agency you ask to conduct an efficiency programme but about the people.” At Humanitas DMH, consultants who adopt the most person-oriented approach tend to achieve the most: “Sharp suits who want you to bang you first on the table do not fit in with our organisation. So perhaps the run-up was a little longer than we all anticipated beforehand. But now that the first three months of 2017 are behind us, we can look back on the best first quarter we’ve ever had. Accezz certainly played a part in this.”
The magic of people
But the organisation is not quite where it wants to be just yet. Thankfully, however, there are teams which now organise their work differently. They have fully adopted a client-oriented approach when devising work schedules, instead of doing it the old (employee-oriented) way. “There is a middle category of employees that has had a lot of trouble with adopting the new work practices. Accezz has helped these people adjust their outlook, which will eventually yield good results. There is also a group for whom the penny has not yet dropped. For this category, implementation really is a bit of a fairy tale,” says Wolterink.
“Overall, we can say that at Humanitas DMH the magic is definitely in the people. Three and a half years ago, the organisation was on the brink of bankruptcy, which undermined our values. A situation like that has a deep impact on people,” explains Wolterink.
He concludes: “When you look and see where we stand now, especially how we offer clients tranquillity and independence after they may have already had 50 different care providers at other organisations, it becomes clear what sets our organisation apart. That magic feeling is something we want to hold on to. What have I done as a director to achieve this? Adopting a top-down approach doesn’t usually work too well, so aside from trying to set a good example each and every day, not that much.”