The LEGO Group: Building the leadership playground
LEGO Group and IMD work together to devise a new strategy and develop a leadership culture for sustainable sales growth.
Niels Christiansen, LEGO Group CEO, began his tenure as CEO amid a painful and disruptive cost-cutting exercise that had resulted in 8% of the company’s approximately 19,000 employees being laid off. The LEGO Group was facing more competitive pressure and a tough retail dynamic. The operating environment was increasingly characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). Christiansen was brought in to develop a new strategy and return the company to sustainable growth.
The external pressures combined with internal challenges: Absorbing the restructuring; adapting to new leadership; and dealing with stagnation stemming from complacency, a weakened innovation drive and a lack of focus and discipline. Christiansen’s strategy stressed the importance of focusing on priorities and making decisions grounded in the LEGO Brand Framework and the LEGO Idea Paper – family-approved documents that guided the company.
To thrive in the new world, the LEGO Group needed to become more agile and responsive to customers, foster a more empowered workforce, decrease its hierarchy and distribute leadership responsibility more evenly. This was especially important given that new product launches accounted for about 60% of sales.
IMD committed to providing the necessary external expertise, creating a psychologically safe space for exploration, as well as structuring and guiding the workshops so that Working Group members could understand the challenge and develop an in-house solution. The LEGO Group committed to fully empowering the Working Group, choosing its members and supporting it throughout the workshops and the execution of the Leadership Playground.
Together, the partners committed to bringing the Leadership Playground to life, scaling it up and energizing the organization by integrating it into programs and workshops for the company’s top four layers.
This would help create a common language that supported the efforts of senior leaders – including the ELT – to deliver increased sales, mobilize the organization, and live and support the Leadership Playground with its values of focused, curious and brave.
The LEGO Group also committed to developing a middle-out approach to generate excitement and spread the new model throughout the company. IMD committed to helping shape this initiative.
Senior leaders gained fresh knowledge and insights and boosted their professional networks. Participants continued exploring widely using micro experiments to make data-based decisions. They empowered their teams and focused on delivering results. This transferred into long-term post-program impact.
The functional and strategic knowledge and the more clearly aligned culture defined by the Leadership Playground has equipped the senior leaders o deliver the strategy.