DNB, Norway’s biggest bank, entered the 2020s in a strong position, having notched up its best-ever annual result. Its diverse workforce had made great strides in rolling out innovative services. To maintain this performance in an increasingly complex financial services market, DNB realized that it needed to foster stronger, internal collaboration to develop world-class, end-to-end consumer experiences and anticipate its customers’ needs. This meant working as ‘One DNB’.
At the heart of this new organizational culture was cross-functional collaboration and learning. DNB had identified three values to support execution. It sought to be:
- Curious: continuously learning from one’s experiences in order to gain new insights
- Bold: facing up to challenges with the conviction that the best ideas and solutions are within reach
- Responsible: listening to those who have insight. Proving capable of change. Creating value in a sustainable way.
While these values were lived by many leaders, they remained aspirational across functions. In a tech-driven bank, collaboration in cross-functional teams needed to become the bank’s driving force.
“As One DNB, we are stronger than the sum of our functions and business lines. To meet customer expectations, we already work as teams, not as individuals. Our next challenge is to tear down the walls between departments, business units and hierarchies,” said Kjerstin Braathen, CEO of DNB.
DNB recognized that collaboration can be tough to teach. Instead, it must be designed, experienced and absorbed. Working together with IMD, DNB came up with a 10-month action learning journey based around cross-functional shadowing for the company’s top 230 leaders. Given the size of the program, IMD created a process to ensure consistency across all 115 pairs and 40 small coaching groups. This involved pre-shadowing calls to set the ground rules and establish trust, the completion of a shadowing journal, individual and group coaching, and a debrief in cross-functional groups of six as well as with the participant’s team of direct reports.
The program was structured into four stages: ‘I’, ‘You’, ‘We’ and ‘One DNB’.
The ‘I’ stage
The aim of this stage was to raise self-awareness about individual leader’s strengths and weaknesses when it came to collaboration. Participants prepared written reflections on collaboration, had an individual coaching call with an IMD coach, a meeting with their line manager, and two virtual group sessions.
The ‘You’ stage
Each of the participants observed a peer from another department interact with their teams and customers, conduct meetings, solve problems, and innovate. Seeing each other in action helped participants learn about different departments’ priorities and gave valuable insight into working together.
The ‘We’ stage
To gain perspective from different parts of the organization, participants were formed into groups of three shadow pairs and held a debriefing session accompanied by an IMD coach. “To know that my own (business-related) challenge is mirrored in many other people’s challenges, but experienced from a different perspective, that creates huge value for the organization,” said Executive Coach Tim Sandock.
The ‘One DNB’ stage
The aim of this stage was to embed a culture of collaborative learning into the organization. They achieved this through the combined effect of 16 IMD coaches and 12 internal coaches among DNB’s leadership developers. Following a train-the-trainer sessions, each DNB coach facilitated conversations between the participant and his or her team of direct reports.
Participants learned on the job and gained insights from current problems facing each other’s teams. The program developed a renewed sense of empathy across business units and allowed them to better understand how their actions affected other parts of the organization.
Thanks to this new understanding of the bigger company picture:
- 91% said they collaborate better as a result of the shadowing
- 86% are using specific learning content in their day-to-day work
- 2/3 participants said the program contributed to a more effective end-to-end customer journey
“Partnering up with DNB and witnessing the impact was hugely rewarding and inspiring for our team,” said Ina Toegel, the program’s director and IMD Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change.