Created by the staff, for the staff

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“From this the SLIM programme evolved,” confirms Rombouts. (‘Slim’ means ‘smart’ in Dutch). “It was an internal initiative, driven by and entirely developed by a few members of the KBC staff; no consultancy was used and all the tools were devised by personnel from the company. It was felt that change had to come from within and be natural and organic and that the staff themselves were the best placed to take a critical and honest look at the situation and come up with real, practical and radical answers.”

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Sofie Blockx has been with the company for six years; she too was part of the SLIM team for a year, and is now responsible for its successor – PEARL, standing for Performance, Empowerment, Accountability, Responsiveness, Local embeddedness She too was convinced that the change had to be initiated and owned from within. “It would have sent the wrong signal to staff if we had had to bring consultants in to tell us how to change. We know the business, we know what is needed, and we know what we are capable of. There are lots of very talented and experienced people in KBC – they just needed a different environment and an opportunity to express themselves.”

“If you take people away from their everyday environment and pressures and challenge them to think a little broader and question some of the habits they have acquired, it is amazing what can emerge,” Blockx confirms. “For example, there is a culture of over-meticulous recording at KBC. So we decided to do the exact opposite and had meetings with no minutes produced and no formal documents, so showing that things could still run smoothly without them.”

Rombouts agrees and adds, “The financial crisis just served to reinforce some of the company’s habits, for example just as the world became more complex so did our systems for dealing with it. The result was often very slow processes leading to eventual inertia when it came to making decisions. We needed to break through this and fast track some elements by simplifying and introducing some more common sense approaches instead of bureaucracy and process.”

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