Case Study

Energy Company Breaks Through with Innovative Cross-Functional Work Model

Situation: Despite its size, past roster of successes, and excellence in science and engineering, this multinational energy company found itself often beaten in the market by smaller, more nimble competitors. An internal group, appointed by the president of the firm, was assigned to innovate the way the company worked, with the goal of getting to better deals faster. Their aim was to combine data and insights around science, financials, and stakeholder relationships in a faster, more reliable fashion. General concepts were taught, and a top-down roll-out of this team’s ideas occurred.

The Catch: After a year, the company admitted that the new way of working was not working. They called upon Third Angle to consult and analyze the situation, explaining why the conventional roll-out was not working. Additionally, the president asked Third Angle to partner with the project team to innovate and infuse a revised approach into the company. The goals were: gain traction quickly and deliver breakthrough results for high-stakes projects throughout the business.

Innovative Actions: Third Angle took an in-depth look at the processes currently in use and the respective results. We then interviewed a variety of formal and informal leaders about their process, the perceived goals, and the overall culture of the company.  Next, using our NEWCO™ Mapping tool and technique, we synthesized all data, perspectives, goals, and culture responses, and hit upon an insight that caused even the president to exclaim, “That’s it!”  

The insight led to the principle, “Let them teach each other.” This principle served as the foundation for all subsequent innovations. With the innovation project team, we developed a core set of tools and knowledge to teach the company’s project groups, in real time, applying them to their toughest challenges. Then, having learned and applied the method taught and coached by Third Angle, the project team members taught others in their networks as a natural approach to their work, collaboration, and leadership.

Growth & Value: First and foremost, multiple projects arrived at breakthrough results, delivering multi-millions of dollars in new value, while learning and applying the new work model. Over the course of our work together, Third Angle helped reduce the initial resistance to process and cultural innovation, collaborating, networking, and combining knowledge.

For example, one project that had been stalled for a year due to a stand-off with the head of an international government discovered, through Third Angle’s guidance, a new influencer. They implemented the insight in two weeks, saving 17 million dollars, with billions of upside potential. They also developed a new level of trust and working relationships with the country in question. 

The company learned new methods for designing and gaining adoption of innovation (especially where business, science/technology, and humans come together) that are still in use today.

Mini-Lessons Learned:  Innovation, and its adoption, can be centralized or rolled through a company by project (or function) in a fractal fashion. The first approach primarily focuses on the innovation itself (e.g., a new product, process, technology), tools, learning in theory, marketing, and communication. The fractal approach focuses on the co-evolution of the innovation with the environment in which it is entering. It gives rise to faster application and adoption, within the culture. It upholds the core of the innovation while adapting aspects to work with the uniqueness of the situation and the project in question. A combined approach may be the most effective and enduring. Knowing which will work best requires an honest assessment and analysis before launching.