When Kaisa Ala-Laurila started as the CEO of A-lehdet in 2017, she launched a cultural transformation to overhaul and improve the company’s culture. As one step on this journey, A-lehdet deployed Microsoft Teams with the help of Sulava.
The full utilization of Microsoft Teams’ features and capabilities is one of the key factors in the magazine publisher’s path towards modern work. The Culture Journey project has also included comprehensive training for managers and a review and clarification of the company’s shared values.
A-lehdet strives to develop a culture revolving around appreciation, renewal, cooperation, productivity and transparency. The vision also encompasses a reimagining of the concepts of work and free time, freeing the business from dependence on specific devices or locations, and equal access to information.
The journey began with a needs analysis
Prior to the deployment of Teams, A-lehdet used different tools for different purposes: some people used Slack, while many relied on Skype for Business. The first phase was a purely technical deployment of Teams and other Microsoft products in the organization comprising of 432 in-house users and 100 external partners.
“We quickly realized that clear frameworks, rules and instructions for the use of Teams were needed. Planning the tool’s deployment with Sulava gave us the optimal support on our Culture Journey”, says Terhi Hauskamaa, CMO of A-lehdet, who was closely involved in the project. ”Our organization includes a variety of users, so identifying their needs was crucial. We got fantastic support from Sulava in this process.”
The playbook of modern work mapped the way
Sulava and A-lehdet held four role-based workshops at the start of the project to determine user needs, the bottlenecks and concrete challenges in the organization’s everyday work. The management of A-lehdet was fully committed to the process from the start. Managers took part in the workshops and moved the whole project forward by their example.
As a product of the workshops and planning phase, a dedicated Teams deployment section was opened in the company’s intranet with answers to frequently asked questions, practical instructions and training materials.
The Playbook of Modern Work written by Sulava was crucial to the Teams deployment, compiling all the essentials of the project from goals and instructions to the elements of modern work. The playbook written for A-lehdet was structured around three key topics:
1. Mobile work
Freeing work from the office was one of the changes sought by A-lehdet’s Culture Journey. It’s a huge leap, both mentally and physically, since everyone is responsible for their own working hours. The publishing house wanted to create a flexible culture and improve the atmosphere at work. As one step towards this goal, the employees were provided with the modern tools needed to work away from the office.
2. Communications and cooperation
The objective was to use the full capabilities of Teams in all internal communications and interaction between teams. The flow of information and transparency of communications were ensured by providing a clear structure for A-lehdet’s Teams implementation, in which the information and features are easy to find. This topic included some essential considerations, such as the management of received information (notifications), which had been a challenge for many employees in the past. Previously private Teams groups were also opened to break team silos.
3. Calendar and meeting practices
This section of the playbook discussed how to open previously private calendars to give everyone better access to information in the spirit of modern work. For meetings, the key target was to spend less time in them. There are other ways to move things forward than spending hours sitting in meetings.
”We have taken the lessons of the playbook and training sessions to heart, judging by the sharp growth in the use of mobile devices in our work”, Hauskamaa says.
Culture agents assemble
A team of culture agents recruited through the intranet contributed to the timely and efficient completion of the deployment project by leading by example. These 23 heralds of modern work served as messengers, helped people with problems and reminded everyone to keep using Teams.
After the project, the culture agents have been a great help to maintenance and support, and they have already sunk their teeth into a future project concerning the company’s office spaces.
”The culture agent team represents a diverse cross-section of our organization. We wanted people from all functions to work as agents: from editorial teams, marketing, sales, finance, customer service and the photo department. The team included a good mix of men and women with careers of different lengths. A fantastic group of people that was invaluable for the project”, Hauskamaa says.
Sulava’s agile model ensured efficiency
A-lehdet’s Teams deployment was a quick and efficient project. It was started after the summer holidays in 2019, and the main phases of the project were completed in the autumn. The last training sessions were held in January 2020. Hauskamaa was very pleased with Sulava’s clear and flexible template for the project.
”Sulava’s experts sparred us over the overall implementation, and we adapted the model to our cultural vision. Sulava was also extremely agile during the project’s implementation, and we were able to continuously steer the project into the direction we wanted”, says Hauskamaa.
Next up: the modern office
According to Hauskamaa, Teams has received a predominantly warm welcome at A-lehdet. One of the key early insights during the process was that the project should be deployed one office at a time. That let us focus on the working habits and needs of a single team at a time.
”Transitioning to an open culture of sharing can be challenging for some people. When everyone’s calendar is open, you can start feeling uncertain about your own contribution”, Hauskamaa says.
The next stage in A-lehdet’s Culture Journey focuses on the company’s offices. The Modern Office project seeks to bring the publisher’s offices up to date with the organization’s new culture and meeting practices.
A-lehdet Group is a conglomerate focusing on media content, digital commerce and growth marketing. A-lehdet Group consists of media company A-lehdet Oy; Finnish Design Shop Oy, the leading e-commerce platform for Nordic design; and growth-marketing pioneer Genero. The story of this family business, which now employs approximately 500 people, began in Helsinki in 1933 with the founding of the Apu magazine.
Author: Juhani Lassila
Published March 2020