Leadership and organizational development at Aarhus Vand

By: Kristian Dahl, Thor Molly-Søholm and Claus Elmholdt. Torsten Conrad, Stephanie Bäckström, Rasmus Engelbrecht and Rasmus T. Grøn, and Andreas F. Møller.
LEAD was tasked with setting the direction for Aarhus Water's 2025 strategy for the water company of the future, which has local roots in Business Region Aarhus and global ambitions. The strategy contained four cross-cutting principles and three focus areas, where the foundation of the strategy house consisted of two parts: an excellent basic service and a purpose-driven organization, where the purpose-driven organization was about strengthening the organization through the development of culture and leadership.
aarhus water

Strategic focus areas for Aarhus Vand

Aarhus Vand Strategy 2025

Aarhus Water's business strategy towards 2025 builds on their Strategy 2020, which over more than 10 years has developed the company into one of the country's absolute leaders. Building on this creates even better opportunities to shape the water company of the future.

Strategy 2025 is based on the premise that the global water sector faces some very big challenges - and opportunities - in the coming years. A wide range of factors - especially climate change, with water shortages in some places and too much water in others - could turn the market upside down.

At the same time, Aarhus Vand is facing some very large investments in the coming years. This applies in particular to the establishment of a new resource plant - Aarhus ReWater - which will replace Marselisborg, Åby and Viby Wastewater Treatment Plants in 2028.

In developing the strategy, we have therefore explored four long-term scenarios that have helped us navigate a complex market that can develop in very different directions.

Read more about Aarhus Vand Strategy 2025:

Process for implementation: Strategy 2025

The process involved an analysis and mapping to identify and qualify the direction and gap between the current and desired future state of the competencies and culture needed to deliver Strategy 2025 in Aarhus Vand.

The development activities and working method were to ensure that the work is needs-driven (pull-thinking) and practice-oriented to create development pressure close to the business and everyday life through concrete development activities, each of which contains a full learning loop with problem analysis, goal setting, development activities and anchoring.

Evaluation and anchoring must ensure which development activities create impact and behavioral changes in order to implement strategy 2025 in Aarhus Vand. In practice, this means that managers and employees continuously work with concrete actions in everyday life that bring them one step closer to implementing strategy 2025 and creating valuable results in Aarhus Vand.

Principles for implementing Strategy 2025

Principle 1 - Agile organization and culture

The terms "direction, coordination and commitment" indicate that Aarhus Vand is familiar with the DAC mindset's processual leadership understanding, which is central to massaging into the culture, behavior and mindset to succeed in an increasingly complex and changing world. 

The next evolutionary step for Aarhus Vand was to move from understanding the DAC mindset and agile working principles, organizational and leadership practices to really massaging it into behaviour, mindset and culture. In practice, this principle is expressed in the process of implementing Strategy 2025, where we emphasize the creation of learning journeys based on practical pull thinking that supports the transformation process in the everyday lives of leaders and employees. In the agile organization, purpose is the meaningful direction that binds the organization together seamlessly in coordination and commitment across pillars, silos, disciplines and roles as a leader or employee. It is management's job to set the team, but also to let go of (some of) the control and, through leadership, show a direction that enables action. 

Principle 2 - Sustainable development

Sustainable development is a key guiding principle in Strategy 2025, which, based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, is written into Aarhus Vand's Code of Conduct. The next step for Aarhus Vand was to support managers and employees in working with and creating a cultural transformation in the organization's mindset and behaviour from an industrial mindset and associated behaviour (short-term economic growth, efficiency and competition) to a sustainable mindset and behaviour (the world is understood as an ecological, interdependent whole, and a growth concept where economic bottom lines are considered alongside social and climatic bottom lines). 

Principle 3 - Digital transformation

Leading digital transformation was a key leadership competency for the success of Strategy 2025. Digitalization has major implications for all aspects of the core business, which is why it is no longer something that can be left to the IT department alone. Digital transformation is a management task, and management must be equipped to drive digital transformation and to act and perform in a time of new opportunities, new expectations and new challenges. This requires the development of a digital mindset and skills to drive digital innovation. Digitalization transforms both the core business and the relationship with customers and employees, and therefore it is proposed that the management and organizational development efforts in Aarhus Vand equip managers and employees with the skills and courage to actively co-create this future instead of becoming passive victims of the development. 

About Aarhus Vand

Aarhus Water is one of the most fundamental sources of health for people, cities, nature and the sea. The need for clean water is universal - everywhere, at all times. Clean water is a scarce resource today, but if managed properly, it holds infinite potential to create a future of well-being and life - globally and locally.

Aarhus Water's history began at the well on Store Torv in Aarhus, where the city's water source was contaminated by sewage, causing a deadly cholera outbreak. The disaster prompted the founding of Aarhus Water Supply in 1872, paving the way to future-proof the possibility of healthy living.

Since then, Aarhus Vand has shaped a sustainable water cycle in Aarhus that today inspires on an international scale. With the cycle at the centre, we are rethinking the way we realize the potential of water for the benefit of the climate and for all of us.

Through ingenuity and community engagement, Aarhus Vand works every day to deliver innovative solutions that future-proof a balanced water cycle as the framework for healthy living and diversity in nature. Aarhus Vand creates health through clean water - for people and the planet.

Contact us to learn more about what we can do for your business

Are you facing an organizational change? Do you need strategic advice or a leadership development program?

Contact us and together we will tailor a process that develops the exact competencies and structures that strengthen and future-proof your organization.

Claus Elmholdt,

Professional Director and Founder

Phone: +45 26 14 51 57

Email: ce@lead.eu

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