Publicly-owned Innovasjon Norge (Innovation Norway) was formed to encourage investment and industrial development in Norway. Chief executive Anita Krohn Traaseth managed a cultural change from a traditional bureaucratic setup to one based on entrepreneurship. Much of this was at the individual mindset and philosophy level, Krohn Traaseth explains.
“When you work for the government and you work towards making industry and businesses more innovative there is a fundamental passion for the task,” she says. “However, the problems you face in the public sector when going from Level 3 to Level 4 are also about words. The semantics in Level 4 and 5 – enthusiasm, leadership, unlimited – are words that do not belong in an old, conservative, publicly-owned culture and they will be ridiculed.”
People therefore had to feel involved. Trust and transparency were also essential. So Krohn Traaseth launched monthly staff meetings that involve everyone, as well as one-to-one meetings throughout the organisation.
Patience was needed for this change. “I think when you are moving an organisation from Level 3 to Level 4 you cannot decide that it’s going to be successful. You have to learn by doing it and by taking it step by step.”
With this gradual, transparent approach Krohn Traaseth successfully persuaded the unions to become involved – even though the change resulted in some jobs being lost.
A more entrepreneurial Level 4 culture has now started to emerge: “The organisation has never delivered such great operational results in such a demanding change process,” says Krohn Traaseth.
Attraction and retention of talented people, especially the younger generation, has also been boosted. “[If we’re not doing it] we will lose our top talent, because they don’t want to work for companies who stay at Levels 1 or 2,” she says.
Key has been ceding control: “You have to accept that you cannot control everything. You have to let go of the traditional management skills and develop new ones. And no-one is born to do this. You have to learn it.”
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