From Employees To Rebels: Here's How It's Done.

Pim de Morree
Written by Pim de Morree November 22, 2018

“Actions speak louder than words”. And as the words in our blog posts and presentations can be loud at times, our actions have to speak even louder. So, here we share some of those actions, and their results.

Take, for example, our work at Vermeer, a company dedicated to being more progressive.

The challenge

Let’s be damn clear about one thing. Writing and speaking about making work more fun is a lot easier than actually putting it into practice. We’ve learned this from our past consulting projects. It’s challenging and tough, but when successful, extremely rewarding.

Luckily, we enjoy a challenge. We love to put our vision, ideas, and knowledge to the test. So, to increase awareness of that part of our work, let’s look at one organization we’ve supported over recent months.

Vermeer Corporation

Vermeer Corporationis a manufacturer of industrial and agricultural equipment. They distribute their products from facilities in Pella, Iowa, United States and several other locations worldwide.

Vermeer employs nearly 3,000 co-workers. Vermeer EMEA, who we work with, has 50 employees in the beautiful province of Zeeland (Netherlands).

The process

The aim of our collaboration is "to boost entrepreneurship and innovation, and make work more fun".

Vote for change

Many say people are reluctant to change. We believe that to be utter nonsense. Of course, if you *force* people to change, they will resist. However, if people are inspired to change, reluctance can disappear in a puff of smoke. Or, as the well-known quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery goes:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
Click to tweet

At Vermeer, we challenged ourselves as we do with most of our clients: We put our project to the vote. If *less* than 75% of the employees voted “YES”, the project would be cancelled. If *more* than 75% voted “YES”, we would support Vermeer over the long term. No inspiration, no project. It’s that simple.

We were eager to support them, and we worked hard to get a large “YES” vote. We shared our radical vision of progressive workplaces via case studies, best practices, and transformation stories from organizations we’ve visited around the world.

It worked. When it was time to vote, over 95% voted in favor of the collaboration between Vermeer and the Corporate Rebels. We now had another cool project, and a perfect starting point—an inspired group of employees!

Vermeer pictures

Design experiments

We believe change happens through ruthless experimentation, plus rigorous trial and error. Try something. Evaluate. Adapt as you go. At Vermeer, we organized workshops to design experiments. As input to those sessions, employees shared their ideas and frustrations through our survey.

During the workshops we shared in-depth insights into how progressive workplaces solve the issues that Vermeer’s employees were struggling with. The outcome? Ten tangible experiments employees were to conduct over a period of two months—all with clear measures to assess the results.

A few examples:

  • Increase decision-making power at the front-line by giving technicians authority to order parts within a certain budget.
  • Increase the focus on putting talents to work by discovering and mapping people’s talents.
  • Focus on improving communication, trust and interdepartmental relations by getting to know each other better via activities and lunches.
  • Increase transparency by (1) making management meetings open to anyone and (2) sharing the outcomes.
  • Increase a sense of pride by creating a showroom to showcase latest products to dealers.

Run the experiments

During the experimentation phase, we supported teams remotely and onsite. Every other week we visited to coach, challenge, and support.

The teams did the great majority of the work. We supported from the sidelines by offering expertise on specific topics, and our experience in running experiments.

532 1140x0

Sharing the results

After the first 8-week cycle we organized an event to share progress and learn from other experiments.

Employees proudly took the stage to share their impressive results. Here are some:

  • Trust levels, atmosphere, ease of interaction and comfort with constructive feedback improved. In short, 92% are in favor of continuing this experiment.
  • 80% of learned about new talents of their colleagues, and 93% believe it is useful to know of these talents. The next step is to apply them.
  • Meeting interactions increased, say 80% of employees.

Beyond these results, many expressed excitement about the process so far: “I am glad that Vermeer and the Corporate Rebels gave me the opportunity to vent the thoughts and ideas I have had on my mind for several years. My opinion matters and that is a GOOD feeling. I feel a whole lot more valuable to Vermeer. Thanks rebels!”

Overall, 9 experiments have made significant progress, and one has been postponed.

We believe change happens through ruthless experimentation, plus rigorous trial and error. Try something. Evaluate. Adapt as you go.
Click to tweet

The collaboration continues

The collaboration continues. In coming months, we’ll train a group of employees to become the internal Vermeer Rebels. They will take up our role. We aim for Vermeer to be self-sustaining as quickly as possible.

Written by Pim de Morree
Pim de Morree
As co-founder of Corporate Rebels I focus on: researching, writing, speaking, and building our company.
Read more
May 20, 2023
Lessons from Semco: Productive Relationships with Labor Unions in the Era of Worldwide Strikes
Christian Wandeler Written by Christian Wandeler
In December 2022, Time magazine announced that 2023 would be the year of the union strikes. So far, this prediction has proven true. People…
Read more
May 17, 2023
How Citizenship is at the Heart of Self-Governance
Diederick Janse Written by Diederick Janse
I’ve been a passionate practitioner of self-governance for over 15 years. I define it as distributing authority and accountability so…
Read more
Apr 15, 2023
From Quiet to Conscious Quitting: Should You Stay or Should You Go?
Marc-Peter Pijper Written by Marc-Peter Pijper
Are my twin 9-year-old daughters old enough for an iPhone? Their argument is that literally EVERYONE in their class already has one, but I…
Read more
Mar 18, 2023
F*ck It, I Need a Break! Why Rest and Recovery are Key to Success
Luke Kyte Written by Luke Kyte
The average person in the EU works for 36 years. That’s a helluva long time. And for many people, they have to navigate the trials and…
Read more
Dec 17, 2022
Let’s Fire All The Micromanagers
Joost Minnaar Written by Joost Minnaar
Micromanagers are by far the least popular managers. Nobody wants to report to one. Nobody wants to be one. The funny thing about…
Read more
Dec 07, 2022
Change the Mindset of Employees with These Three Simple Steps
Joost Minnaar Written by Joost Minnaar
The leader of a large manufacturing company recently complained to me, "I want our people to change their mindset, but they do not change."…
Read more
Read all articles

Download: Free Guide

Unlock our in-depth guide on trends, tools, and best practices from over 150 pioneering organizations.

Subscribe below and receive it directly in your inbox.

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.