Solve complex cross-functional challenges in joint sprints

Rasmus Thy Grøn and Nicole Baandrup Nielsen, Partners in Lead

How Kalundborg Municipality created engagement and activated untapped potential

It is rare that there is time to utilize all the resources and knowledge that exists across the organization for development in a busy workday. Cross-functional collaboration on strategically important issues provides the opportunity to build shared knowledge and bridge the organization's collective knowledge, which strengthens both cross-functional collaboration and the ability to perform the core task.

They have experienced this - and reaped the benefits - in Kalundborg municipality, where we have used sprint-inspired working methods.

"It has been exciting to experience how to think about management in areas other than my own. Because other people's decisions affect what I work with on a daily basis, and therefore together we can create results that benefit the municipality and its citizens."
- Rune Frimann Larsen, Team Leader in Property and Waste

Focused sprints as an effective method

Typically, we spread our time thinly over a long period of time, but what happens if we instead meet in person and work across disciplines, areas and management levels?

The experience from Kalundborg is that it creates cross-functional knowledge, great commitment and time to develop the solutions that are lost in day-to-day operations. Read below to find out how we approached it and what the result was.

"The fact that the course has been for the entire management team and across levels and areas has meant that we have gotten to know each other better across the board... It has created a great sense of community around being a manager in Kalundborg Municipality."
- Lone Himmelstrup, Head of Roads, Property and Waste

Bootcamps as a focal point

One of the key elements of Kalundborg Municipality's ambitious leadership development program "Leadership together - together with the citizens" is a bootcamp where the municipality's leaders gather for intensive working days focusing on a number of strategic themes selected by the executive board. Across organizational levels and areas, managers work to create initiatives to solve complex challenges that cannot be solved by managers alone or in day-to-day operations. In other words, through joint development sessions in the form of short, intensive work processes, solutions are developed to deal with complex and challenging issues. This continues the development work for long-term solutions based on the managers' experience and knowledge.

It's about much more than restrictive legislation and rigid rules

In the initial work on the complex issues, considerations about the legislative and organizational barriers that seem to be the reason why solutions to these problems have not already been developed.

However, through a shared and curious exploration of the issues, it became clear that the barriers were not, as first assumed, solely about rigid rules and regulations. They were just as much about culture and mindset. The liberating and energizing part of this realization was that culture and mindset is something organizations can change themselves.

"It has been super interesting to work with. Among other things, we have worked with: What kind of internal rules do we have? What kind of barriers are we looking at when we talk about successfully solving the challenges of citizens on the edge of the labor market?"

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Cross-collaboration is the key to solving complex problems

The focus of the work thus shifted from a focus on "the hopeless battle against rules and legislation" to a focus on the key ingredient in being able to handle the complex issues, namely the realization that "only together can we succeed even better in the future". The focus was thus on how, through strengthened interdisciplinary knowledge and work processes, new solutions and workflows can be invented that can strengthen value creation for citizens. The cross-disciplinary nature of the issues helped to glue the organization and its resources together to solve a specific challenge, resulting in strong shared commitment.

One of the methods introduced to the work of finding new solutions was the user and citizen journey method, which is about seeing yourself through the eyes of the "citizens". A method that always provides food for thought. As one manager exclaimed, "How come we don't already do this in all our work? What's holding us back?"

One of the strengths of the user and citizen journey method is that it simultaneously ignites the professional drive of managers and employees and creates a picture of what needs to be strengthened together. In other words, it's not about who is responsible for what, but about how we can work together to make it even better.

Relationship building and experience sharing

Another benefit of the interdisciplinary, intensive working method, where managers gathered across the entire municipality to develop future solutions, was that the managers built stronger relationships with important internal partners, greater understanding of each other's realities and challenges, and finally, that knowledge and experiences that exist in the organization are shared, thus building common knowledge. As one manager pointed out after a presentation by a colleague, "This is completely new knowledge for me, and I can really use it to strengthen my work in my own unit going forward". Not only is experience and knowledge from the organization activated in a long-term development perspective, but relationships are also built and knowledge is exchanged, which strengthens everyday task solving.

"After the program, we experience how we as leaders have begun to use each other much more in everyday life, how we invite each other into our leadership space and challenge the way we are used to exercising leadership."
- Jan Lysgaard Thomsen, Municipal Director

Engagement and development focus

It's amazing the energy and commitment it can create to "set people free" to go into development mode around meaningful cross-cutting issues. As one of the managers said "It's a gift that we get time to get out of operational mode. Operations eats the development focus for breakfast, so it's great to have time to come together across the board and create new solutions". Working on the key issues in a focused work process thus helped to put development on the agenda and create enormous commitment among managers to solve and anticipate the municipality's complex challenges. At the same time, the bootcamp format provided a framework where daily operations were sufficiently distanced to focus on shared learning and development. Finally, it gave energy and commitment to the managers to work on creating solutions to complex and strategically important issues with great significance for the entire municipality, which can only be solved together.

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Activating the knowledge and resources of the entire organization

The way of working, where people were forced into development mode, meant that much of the knowledge and resources that are "hidden" in different parts of the organization on a daily basis were activated and made into a common foundation. By coming together around concrete and meaningful challenges, the untapped potential and resources that already exist in the organization were activated to the benefit of both the solution of the strategically important issues and the daily work of the leaders.

Overall, the intensive work format brings the organization together around complex cross-cutting issues:

High level of engagement by working on specific strategic challenges
Much-needed time for development work that is typically eaten up by operations
Tremendous cross-functional knowledge and strong relationship building that strengthens collaboration and problem solving

Activating the organization's untapped potential and building shared knowledge that can be used for both development and day-to-day operations
Breaking down organizational barriers and building greater understanding of others' day-to-day work

We hope that the case study from Kalundborg Municipality gives you the courage to experiment with new cross-functional collaboration constellations when working with complex cross-functional issues in your organization. This creates value for citizens as well as cohesion and development in the management chain.

"One of the ambitions of the development process in Kalundborg Municipality is to become better at collaborating across the board for the benefit of citizens and civil society. This requires that we are both inspired by new knowledge and theory and at the same time manage to translate it into our daily work. Therefore, one of the focal points of the process is that we gather the entire management chain around four key themes so that we can jointly develop new solutions based on all the knowledge and experience that already exists in the organization."
- Jan Lysgaard Thomsen, Municipal Director

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