Defining leadership in the sustainable energy market
In just six months, energy giant Vattenfall had almost doubled its workforce in rapidly growing field of wind energy. The new recruits needed to be welcomed aboard. They also needed a rapid, thorough introduction to the future of the sector, as well as to Vattenfall’s overall corporate strategy. The aim of this leadership summit was to motivate senior management, so they in turn could pass on the Vattenfall vision to their own teams. Ideally, in this way the message would infuse the company, so everyone involved in the rapidly expanding sector could move ahead in sync.
Our chosen location was the Johannesbergs Slott in Rimbo in Sweden, once an aristocratic palace, set within Nordic forests and rolling fields. The stunning views of the remote location were tailor made to inspire thought about renewable energy. Here, the group of eighty Vattenfall executives gathered to discuss the company’s basic values and agree on a new set of goals. We wanted above all to avoid the usual Powerpoint snoozefests, instead looking to communicate strategic themes in a vivid, memorable way. Above all, we emphasized dialogue and discussion. Lecturing was banned, replaced with a variety of dialogue formats. To make ‘softer’ themes more easily relatable, all the main speakers referred to their own personal experiences, connecting these to their working lives and spelling out their own personal motivations. This made complex themes more concrete for everyone.
Top executives did not talk down from a distant podium: instead, we put together ‘fishbowl’ discussions, where speakers were placed among the larger group, with spontaneous interventions actively encouraged.
The overall corporate strategy includes several key basic principles, which top executives illustrated with practical, highly applicable exercises. Small-group workshop sessions included a variety of exercises, including one where groups built wind turbines in a race against the clock. Other sessions included three rounds of discussion on cooperation and planning, and lessons in successfully selling to client groups. The message was transmitted successfully: Vattenfall’s core values were already evident in the feedback given to the small groups, especially the absolute focus on customer satisfaction.
To accompany dessert at the first night’s dinner, the inspiranten team exhibited recent successes of Vattenfall’s wind energy division. Participants were invited to share their own views and to ask as many questions as possible about the company’s milestones and future plans.
On the second day, we introduced a different format – the ‘open marketplace’ – to show off successful company projects, initiatives and campaigns, some already up and running, others still in the planning phase. Those in charge of projects presented them to the group in the form of punchy elevator pitches.
In the course of twenty-four hours, executives absorbed Vattenfall’s complex corporate vision in a playful, communicative way. Throughout, every participant could always ask their own particular concerns and learn directly from the personal experience of colleagues. The feedback given to us by Vattenfall management was extremely positive: the time available had been productively used, with participants thoroughly prepared to pass on the company’s vision to their colleagues and subordinates.