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Duncan Oyevaar on Business Savvy Teams: "Employees who take ownership contribute to the overarching organizational goal"

How to have employees use their knowledge and experience to contribute significantly to the overarching organizational goal? And how to make sure they thoroughly understand this goal, so they can act on it? These questions formed the foundation for OpenBook.Works' Business Savvy Teams.

"We developed this program for companies that want employees to take more ownership," says founding partner Duncan Oyevaar. "We don't focus on creating self-managing teams. Rather, we ensure that people understand, speak, and write in the language of the business. This also means that they understand the financial part. Margins, profit, cash flow: we make sure they have a rough grasp of such terms, so they can make a well-founded contribution."


Duncan Oyevaar

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"An individual's experience can be valuable to the organization"

Business Savvy Teams is a unique concept. How was the idea born? "When I worked in the energy sector, I noticed that companies often didn't fully leverage their employees' experiences and expertise," says Duncan. "I really considered that a missed opportunity. An individual’s life consists of much more than the 40 hours a week they spend in the office. They go through a lot in their personal lives, and some of these things can be valuable to the organization."

At one point, Duncan worked as a temporary project director. He made every possible effort to better leverage the potential in the company. But as it turned out, that wasn't enough. "The minute we left, motivation dropped," he explains. "So I asked, 'What's going on?' And the answer was, 'You guys aren't here.' That means you're an external motivator, while you really want to create an intrinsic drive. I had gotten to know the 'on-the-floor people' who carried out the actual work. They knew much better than the managers how everything worked. I thought to myself, why is this knowledge not being used? That was very frustrating to me."

Duncan had an aha moment when he read an article about open-book management in the New York Times. This method is built on the idea that you provide employees with the right information, which enables them to properly perform their jobs and understand the organization at the overarching level. And they're free to use this information as they see fit. "I was very excited about it. And I wondered, Has anyone in Europe yet implemented this?"

"LearningStone breathes more life into our program"

Duncan turned out to be a trailblazer in this field. He obtained a license for Europe and started developing the idea with his team. But today, they operate in a much wider area. "Before the pandemic, we were everywhere," Duncan explains. "From Hong Kong to Riyadh and from San Francisco to Slovakia. But the Covid-19 crisis forced us to adopt a different approach."

Duncan had been planning on creating a learning platform for a while. But during the pandemic, he took the time to put his money where his mouth was. "I was looking for a platform where everyone can come together. When I found LearningStone, I believed it would take our growth to the next level. It facilitates our sales process because we can show people something tangible. Moreover, the blended learning environment allows us to provide our customers with greater added value. And what's really important is that we can help more customers."

Customers are very enthusiastic about LearningStone — not in the least because Duncan has leveraged many features. "We show the steps in our program very nicely in the blended learning environment. And our website is directly linked to our LearningStone site. That's the 'exterior' of our SavvyCademy, where we explain a lot of things. When customers log in, they get to see the entire program."

Duncan has incorporated creative elements into this program. He shares an example: "Teams set themselves a goal which is in line with the overarching organizational goal, and they want to have achieved it in 100 days. They create their own scoreboard, which shows how they aim to meet this goal. Then, they keep track of progress. We see the most creative scoreboards, which are posted on the bulletin board. This motivates and inspires employees to keep at it."

According to Duncan, the learning environment encourages interaction and increases engagement. He explains, "Employees communicate more with each other and with management. The latter is now better aware of what's going on and acts as a sponsor for the team. That's great for the customer, the teams, and us. Needless to say, we're very happy with LearningStone. It helps us work more efficiently and breathes more life into our program. I definitely recommend this solution."

"We train our customers in such a way that they can continue without our help"

What happens after customers complete the one-year program, which consists of three 100-day Business Challenges? "We train our customers in such a way that they can continue without our help," says Duncan. "For we believe they are and should be able to do this independently. Only then, our approach is truly sustainable. They can, however, continue to use LearningStone as a 'maintenance package,' which includes the recurring Business Savvy Culture Scan. With the latter, we measure progress towards a Business Savvy Culture. We developed this Scan with the University of Amsterdam. That's how we maintain connections with our customers!"

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