The TRATON GROUP brings together four of the world’s leading truck brands – MAN, Scania, Volkswagen Caminhões e Ônibus and, most recently, Navistar. These four brands are now united in the mission to become the global champion of the transportation services industry and to transform transportation together.
Fulfilling this mission rests upon these brands being able to successfully discover and leverage synergies. For the high potentials of the first line management the new Management Excellence program was developed to enable these brand managers to drive business success through intrapreneurship, a disruptive mindset and critical data consumption.
Building the Partnership
Two things were clear for the TRATON Cross-Brand program team from the outset; they wanted cutting-edge content that equipped the TRATON brand managers with the latest skills, tools and approaches for enabling cross-brand intrapreneurship and critical data consumption. Second, they would need a cutting-edge learning design that would support and guide learners to apply what they had learned in impactful ways.
The Cross-Brand program team found their winning combination of content and design in two partner organizations that offered the best of both worlds. The German business school, ESMT Berlin, brought world class faculty to the table and the Swedish training company, Mindset, offered 20 years’ experience driving application from learning.
The collaboration process started with a series of full day workshops – there were meetings at TRATON in Munich, at ESMT in Berlin and Mindset in Stockholm. Taking the time to host these full-day in-person events was key to building a foundation of trust. Much of the discussion at these first workshops was concerned with developing a shared vison of the program, the objectives it should achieve and how those would benefit TRATON.
The Emergence of a Results-Focused, Blended Solution
As the program team worked together on the program design one of the first documents to be produced was the ‘Impact Map’; a four-column document that described how what was learned would be used on-the-job in order to bring about desired results.
With the impact map in place, the program team set out a 10-month journey that would provide participants with necessary knowledge and skills, safe practice opportunities and guidance to use these skills in their work to bring about desired outcomes. As the program team continued to refine and develop the learning journey a three-layer approach emerged.
The ‘learning’ layer was modeled on the design thinking principle of converging and diverging thinking. Before each of the synchronous interventions (‘labs’), participants were provided with a series of assignments designed to build a common knowledge foundation (converging). The ‘labs’ then introduced multiple concepts and provided a safe environment to share perspectives and try out new skills under the watchful guidance of the ESMT Berlin faculty (diverging).
The ‘behavioral change’ layer was the link between learning and impact. The centerpiece of this layer was the ‘Application Challenges’ which provided participants with a choice of concrete ways to use the skills they had practiced during the ‘lab’. Each participant was required to identify, carry out and report back on the 3 most relevant and valuable challenges for them in their role.
The third and final layer was the ‘support’ layer. If the participants were to really make the transition from learning to sustained application, they would need feedback, encouragement and support to keep them committed to this journey. This layer leveraged multiple relationships – faculty, program peers, team members and supervisors – to provide the support, feedback and accountability needed.
The three-layer design paradigm created a seamless and cohesive 10-month journey that was woven into the very fabric of each participant’s job role. To support the efficient delivery of this complex design the program team used the Promote® online learning platform as the vehicle to distribute learning nuggets (case studies, videos, knowledge packs etc), support social learning, create participant accountability and get real-time information on program success.
The pivot to virtual
When the corona pandemic hit in March 2020 the Learning and Development community was forced to reappraise training delivery methods and delivery channels. For some organizations the answer was to put training on hold. For TRATON and the Management Excellence program, that notion was briefly entertained but quickly abandoned – the show would go on!
As we examined our pre-requisites, we discovered we had a good head-start for making the transition to a virtual learning journey. The online learning platform, Promote® provided a perfect means for distributing program content (films, articles, case studies) as well as a two-way communication channel to broadcast program updates as the pandemic developed. In addition, online check-in sessions had already been built-in as part of the original program design. These sessions were painlessly re-purposed as virtual classes.
The virtual classes themselves took everyone (participants and faculty alike) on a steep learning curve. However, by rapidly employing participant feedback, break-out rooms, chat pods and Mentimeter polls soon became standard tools for delivering engaging virtual sessions.
Participant data gathered both during and at the end of the program identified extremely high levels of training transfer in the targeted behaviors; and not just single application try-outs but multiple application attempts. In particular, the behaviors of ‘Establishing and open error culture’ and ‘Using elements of a good decision to combine rationality and debiasing’ saw high degrees of transfer by every single participant. And nearly 90 % of the participants agreed that although they may have been practicing some of these behaviors before attending Management Excellence, they had not been doing so in such a conscious, deliberate or proficient way as after attending the program.
Some of the key results reported by the majority of the participants were improved business-driven decisions, improved open error culture, increased team involvement in decision-making process, increased cross-brand collaboration and Increased initiative taking in the team – all examples of outcomes the program set out to achieve.
Reflections and Lessons Learned
The program team, are extremely proud of their accomplishments from Management Excellence and the recognition of its success in the form of the EFMD Excellence in Practice Award. We end this article with a summary of the key lessons learned that we hope will be helpful to readers:
Invest time to build trust at the front end: The initial workshops hosted by each of the partners were critical for building trust and respect for each partner’s strengths as a well as a common goal for the whole program. Once this trust was established, it led to less misunderstandings, faster resolution of program adjustments and better program results.
Use virtual classes to deliver Just in time learning: Virtual classes can be a useful way of breaking content down into smaller bite-size chunks delivered on a just-in-time basis – an advantage for the busy managers that make up the target audience of this program.
Use weekly pulse meetings to build a strong culture and keep the program on track: At first, the primary function of the weekly ‘pulse’ meetings with the program team was to keep the program and the participants on track. However, as the program progressed these meetings also became important opportunities for maintaining a ‘sense of team’.
Edward Boon, Performance expert