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 (Fig. 1).
Fulfilling this mission rests upon these brands being able to discover and leverage synergies successfully. For the high potentials of the first-line management, the new Management Excellence programme 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 programme 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 (Fig. 2).
The Cross-Brand programme team found their winning combination of content and design in two partner organisations 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, 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 vision of the programme, the objectives it should achieve and how those would benefit TRATON.
The emergence of a results-focused, blended solution
As the programme team worked together on the programme 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 to bring about desired results (Fig. 3).
With the impact map in place, the programme team set out a 10-month journey that would provide participants with the necessary knowledge and skills, safe practice opportunities and guidance to use these skills in their work to bring about desired outcomes. As the programme team refined and developed the learning journey, a three-layer approach emerged (Fig. 4).
The ‘learning’ layer was modelled on the design thinking principle of convergent and divergent 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 ‘behavioural change’ layer was the link between learning and impact. The centrepiece of this layer was the ‘Application Challenges’, which provided participants with a choice of concrete ways to use the skills they had practised during the ‘lab’. Each participant was required to identify, carry out and report back on the three most relevant and valuable challenges 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, programme 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 woven into the very fabric of each participant’s job role. To support the efficient delivery of this complex design, the programme 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 programme success.
The pivot to virtual
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, the Learning and Development community was forced to reappraise training delivery methods and delivery channels. For some organisations, the answer was to put training on hold. For TRATON and the Management Excellence programme, 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 programme content (films, articles, case studies) as well as a two-way communication channel to broadcast programme updates as the pandemic developed. In addition, online check-in sessions had already been built-in as part of the original programme 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 programme identified extremely high levels of training transfer in the targeted behaviours, not just single application try-outs but multiple application attempts. In particular, the behaviours of “Establishing an open error culture” and “Using elements of a good decision to combine rationality and debiasing” saw a high degree of transfer by every participant. Nearly 90% of participants agreed that although they may have been practising some of these behaviours before attending Management Excellence, they had not been doing so in such a conscious, deliberate, or proficient way as after attending the programme.
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 the decision-making process, increased cross-brand collaboration and increased initiative taking in the team – all examples of outcomes the programme set out to achieve.
Reflections and lessons learned
The programme 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 well as a common goal for the whole programme. Once this trust was established, it led to fewer misunderstandings, faster resolution of programme adjustments and better programme 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 programme.
Use weekly pulse meetings to build a strong culture and keep the programme on track. At first, the primary function of the weekly ‘pulse’ meetings with the programme team was to keep the programme and the participants on track. However, as the programme progressed, these meetings also became important opportunities for maintaining a ‘sense of team’.
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