One of the most interesting leadership issues is how you can grow a well-functioning, healthy company with a skilled and motivated workforce into a great company.
At PGGM we’ve been faced with a big challenge since 2008: pension funds have come under pressure as a result of the financial crisis. Alongside that, in 2008 PGGM broke away from the PFZW pension fund to become an independent pensions provider. An organizational change and an environmental change were forcing us to reposition ourselves. But how? PGGM has always been a stable and healthy organisation, accustomed to anticipating future situations. Every leading business has to ask itself how it can still be a top business in ten years’ time in a world that’s going through profound changes. At PGGM we had to avoid the risk of causing unnecessary damage to a well-functioning organisation.
We decided to stay true to ourselves, and make the change based on our own strengths. We deliberately linked a sense of urgency with the causes, and a sense of excitement predominated the approach to the change. We forced ourselves to answer fundamental questions about the course PGGM was taking. We cracked some hard nuts, and gained deeper personal awareness as a result.
So we set about tackling change from a basis of selfawareness, a basis of strength. It’s both a privilege and a responsibility to develop further from a healthy position, and not stand still. That sense of urgency has to live within every individual. The people who work at PGGM are highly motivated; they don’t need to be told that change is needed. They already say that to themselves.
In PGGM’s case, change from a position of strength means that through a vision creation process we’ve made explicit what we already knew implicitly: we are here to help people build a brighter future. We then used that higher goal to think about how we could create a better future for many more people. That was the basis for our strategy and our cultural change. In order to grow from a good organisation to a great organization we have transformed ourselves into a ‘one firm, one vision’ organization, and have combined the powers of our various business units.
The whole organization participated in that process: from junior employees to senior management. Now there is broad support for a clear and shared direction, and that is the greatest benefit we could have achieved as an organization.