It is thrilling for us in edge that we have reached this far: We were challenged to reinvent our organization, to be bolder and to deliver high contribution to the growth of businesses around the world.
Our journey has been transformational: to our products, our business model and ourselves – we have faced the very challenges we support our clients in!
But let’s start from the beginning. After extensive market research on performance related challenges across the startup ecosystem in Emerging Markets, we envisioned bringing innovative organizational management approaches to the space of fast-growing enterprises. We have prototyped a series of performance management solutions, leading to two achievements:
- First working on our own people-related systems, we implemented the best of holacracy, the idea of Flow, peer-coaching and others in order to build an agile organization that’s ready for growth. By developing and experimenting with these new methodologies for areas as internal debate, harnessing conflict, decision making, defining roles and accountabilities and coaching, we got away from traditional models with top-down solutions, strict titles and Job Descriptions. While the journey continues, we are now more responsive and agile, and we make decisions as public agreements using consent, much faster than consensus with higher buy-in than the good-old managerial decisions.
- We now find ourselves prepared to offer to implement those methodologies in our customers. It is an intense process which allows every business to take advantage of state-of-the-art methods to manage themselves towards a new performance level. Together with edge, over a dozen businesses have already started their journey towards more healthy, sustainable and effective ways of team performance.
Leveraging diversity for better results
We are a diverse team, with 7 nationalities based on 4 continents with careers ranging from 4 years to 30 years. We have tech geeks, business people, marketers, psychologists, and even physicists. Let alone individual’s personalities and what drives them!
We know that only diversity creates a winning team, but we are confronted with its potential for clashes and conflict regularly. You probably know exactly what we’re talking about!
Achieving results in a diverse team isn’t “straightforward” but solving this solution is one of the biggest levers for organizational performance!
Dealing with our own diversity, we developed a talent diagnostic product, called “Who is on board?” for example. It’s because we recognize how deeply connected a human’s intrinsic motivators and drivers are with the type of work they easily excel at and that the way individuals take decisions and communicate is a lot based on personality, too! The question of management then becomes how to leverage individuals strengths and align everyone’s personal energies.
Our tool allows individuals to bring themselves in fully and recognize how to best utilize others, too. We want our clients to be able to profit from this and reducing energy and time loss in their teams (well, actually no business should allow that to happen!).
The theory behind this is equally insightful and simple: when it comes to human resources management, traditional practice deals with only one of human development dimensions: behavioral. By neglecting the strength of leveraging also social-emotional and cognitive dimensions, companies are wasting, roughly speaking, ⅔ of the potential of their crew!
Teams of over 15 companies have now understood “who is on board” and have used this for sometimes drastic changes in the way people work together: Restructuring sales approaches and teams, reallocating management tasks between the execs and reviewing meeting flows and other structures to allow every individual to contribute highly.
We have learned how to gently support individuals to embrace their profiles, curiously explore with their peers and take an active role in the transformation of their professional lives.
One CEO told us: “I see a shift in team engagement and gained clarity on what the team needs from me!“
In 2015 we aim for higher reach and learning. Every week we speak to organizations looking to improve their results and explore how our solutions may contribute.
Just get in touch for your first consultative meeting, exploring your current situation and pinning down ways to improve team and thus company performance. We tailor our methodologies and develop our product portfolio further to meet your needs, no matter how complex things may feel like.
Looking back at 2014 is a very proud moment in edge’s ten-year history.
In just one year we achieved the transformation from a grant-based talent development and placement organization towards an organization delivering crucial support in unblocking business performance – and we’re well on track to profitability!
Today we want to share some of our successes and learnings from our journey.
Where are we in December?
We had enthusiastic and constructive conversations with dozens of small and growing businesses in seven countries. CEOs, COOs and HR decision makers told us the value of spending time to discuss people performance in an analytical manner.
One of our key products are diagnostics products, giving clear information on how well the team is set up to achieve performance. Especially in Latin America where we have rolled out diagnostics earlier in the year we have since started follow-up engagements to address some of the identified opportunities and threats.
The top management of two companies have found it most helpful to cover talent related management topics in regular sessions over a full quarter, in turn allowing them to feel safe while applying new approaches supporting the growth of the company.
We are very grateful to be a trusted partner in a transition moment of a CEO role in one of our clients.
Our bestseller has been the RightHire product in various facets: Some companies value our expertise in creating a clear role profile, others ask for support in building attractive employer branding or the best tactics in targeting talent. Beyond traditional hiring products we’re excited to have implemented personality and team mapping thus setting the new team members up for long-term performance.
We are having honest conversations with investors and grant-making foundations around diagnosing the human capital in start-ups and building a pilot to de-risk investment decisions for early 2015.
Being able to contribute beyond work with individual clients and shaping opinion and trends is very close to our heart. edge is now invited on panels at events in the SME space. We have partnered with 3 accelerators on trainings of their business cohorts. We are becoming a go-to partner for international foundations where they need support on the ground around understanding human capacity and making conversations work.
How did we get here?
- We stayed curious about our business model. After our market research in Quarter 1 we were about to close in on a new product suite and business model. Only by staying curious were we able to go as far as we have gone. “Would we deliver scalable online services or tailored one-on-one consulting?” – “How do you compare with other HR players?” Like any other start-up we received advice and dooming predictions from all sides. It was sometimes uncomfortable and scary to go for meetings without a product suite. Sometimes we would create “tentative product sheets” and a month later contradict ourselves.
- We truly trusted the team. Having the full team contribute to strategy and question each other on whether we’re on the right path has definitely helped in creating the products. Even more crucial was the mindset shift in management: In edge everybody has permission to approach any client, all can spend money on research, sales and delivery and everyone is asked to innovate and deliver all of our products. We are eliminating titles and micro-management and instead the team members support each other to focus their energy on where they are most likely to add value to edge.
- We let the customer decide: The deepest assumption of our products is that the client knows himself best. All our services evolve around providing data to the management teams, offering options and facilitating conversations. We don’t provide simplifying answers in a transactional manner, but rather enable every person in the client business to take better decisions and deliver real business value. This in turn means that all product development decisions are truly based on the users’ responses and needs – and not on our idea of what we believe.
There’s more to share and even more to learn moving forward. If you like what you read, please join us on our journey in 2015!
We in edge are on a road of transformation. Transforming edge into edge2.0. edge2.0 means a new internal way of working, a new external way of working, and a completely new portfolio of products and services. edge2.0 enables business results through people performance – from long-running small companies to start-ups, from standard businesses through to impact businesses.
We have hit a few bumps in the road. And like any good leader, I saw clearly what I needed to do and did it.
What was I thinking …
I lead therefore I am a leader
I have the clearest vision. I see the future. I’m responsible for the success of the whole. I have more experience. They follow my lead. Because their success depends on my leading successfully.
I’m knowledgeable and powerful.
And yet …
I’m a leader therefore I follow
Together they know far more than I do. Together they see far more than I see. Each has a different perspective. Each has a different way of interpreting what happens. I follow their lead. Because my success depends on my following them successfully.
I’m ignorant and humble.
Follow me, I’m right behind you
Leading is working within paradox and contradiction. Especially the contradiction between leading and following. Standing behind in support and leading from the front. Between pride and humility. Between what I know and what I do not know.
I find it easy to see what’s happening. To know what needs doing. And to make sure it gets done.
We hit a bump on our road. The steering wobbled. I corrected what needed correcting.
Or did I? Over the past few weeks I discovered differences between what was really happening (including all the hidden things generating what I saw happening) and what I actually saw happening. I discovered where I would have been better following first.
But it takes a certain environment for people to feel comfortable contradicting me. Challenging me. Making me follow them. It takes an environment of humility and curiosity, filled with my questioning silence. Not my answers, dictates and direction.
A difficult environment to create. And triply difficult to create across cultures.
Difficult, because it flies against most cultures’ concept of respect and social cohesion. When I’m following I am, in that moment, in some sense, in a lower status role. Standing humbly in my ignorance. Accepting help. And a strong leader cannot be allowed to do that in most cultures …
It means asking open questions in word, tone and body language. Genuinely. Frequently. Standing in curiosity towards them and all they are doing. Vulnerable to being hurt. Open to being helped. Enabling them in that context to have higher status than me, to be stronger and wiser.
Hard for all.
I’m a leader therefore I follow.
I’m a follower therefore I lead.
If you want to know more about how to lead the real complexity of your business, not an over-simplified cartoon version, contact us.
After 6 months of interviewing 80 impact businesses, 25 investors/accelerators, 20 Human Resources experts and 100 talented young professionals across 4 markets, we are more convinced than ever that better talent management could help promising businesses to really take off.
Key difficulties edge uncovered through the market research include:
- Recruitment – a lot of businesses think that people management begins and ends with recruitment. While this is undeniably a crucial part of the job, subsequently leaving the promising new hires to their own devices sets up the relationships to fail.
- Mismatched expectations (“Why was I hired?”/”Why isn’t this person helping me more?”) – new hires may be sold on a vision of changing the world, at scale – but left in the back office (which, by the way, may be falling to pieces) without much contact with BoP customers or even upper management.
Furthermore, CEOs and other members of the management team may have unrealistic expectations about the extent to which new hires will automatically share their passion for the work. Often, this needs to be cultivated through exposure, conversations, shared (yet clear) responsibilities… which brings us to;
- Internal communication – members of Generation Y in particular crave feedback in real time. Yet often managers are so hard-pressed for keeping the business afloat, or delivering products on time, that they put this off indefinitely, or provide only vague direction. The mere thought of implementing a regular performance evaluation system, especially one that includes customized coaching, may understandably make them groan. But not having one makes their staff groan…or worse, leave.
It reminds us a bit of the football world cup: Putting great players in a team is not all that makes a well-oiled winning team. Following this comparison, in the start-up space most teams are already signed up for the world cup, while still looking for players, defining their game strategies and searching for a new training ground at the same time while fundraising for flights. Sounds familiar?
From our interviews, we have seen that a variety of factors stop management teams from improving their people performance on their own.
- Awareness – management may not even realize that the way they are managing their people is contributing to substandard performance. Their focus is so firmly on sales, product development, raising investment, or other more tangible goals that they can’t see the forest for the trees. (Well, they don’t have TIME to see it!)
- Cost – the business is already bootstrapped. Management may fear that investors won’t approve of spending money on improvements that they don’t know how to correlate to increasing revenues, profit or other business outputs. However, when speaking with the most sophisticated investors, we have encountered a great deal of interest in providing portfolio companies with tools for better people performance.
- Know-how – they’ve never done it before and don’t have the time to invest in figuring it out. They are anxious for someone else to come in and just do it for them.
What are we going to do about it?
Now that we’ve learnt so much from all of you about your expectations and disappointments with people performance, we’re even hungrier to help you find solutions! We’ve developed a variety of product prototypes in response to your needs and will be testing them in assorted markets throughout the coming months.
We aim to design all of them to be both affordable and empowering to management teams, so that as many businesses as possible can benefit from their outcomes for as long as possible.
We’ll be seeking your feedback on these prototypes along the process, and please do drop us a line if you have any new feedback for us.