Case Study: How a leadership team improved their ability to perform

ColoplastHQ

Coloplast

Coloplast is a global medical device company, developing products and services that make life easier for people with very personal and private medical conditions. The business includes Ostomy Care, Continence Care, Wound & Skin Care and Interventional Urology.

Innovation and high performance

Hanne Everland, Vice President R&D Technology, is leading a large organisation of scientists and other specialists responsible for implementing mature technologies in new products as well as identifying and developing new technologies for future products.

For the organisation to remain successful, it is essential for Hanne Everland and her leadership team, to create the conditions that enable the organisation to sustain its ability to innovate and deliver on the product development projects that are so critical to Coloplast.

Lack of uninterrupted focus time

Leading a division of highly educated people, curious to challenge current solutions to develop even better products that can make life easier for people, is demanding. As a leader, time to strategize, plan and lead, is critical to sustain and improve the organisation’s ability to perform.

However, in a global organisation, cooperating with partners worldwide, and managing a broad portfolio of projects, finding uninterrupted time to focus and concentrate on planning and preparation, is a challenge.

Operational responsibilities and urgent requests can easily take up all the time, leaving no time for the things that are important but not urgent. All too often, preparation for important meetings, for example, took place at times of low energy, which hampers productivity and increases stress.

Hanne Everland realised that increasing the quality of the time each leader spends planning, strategizing, and doing focused work, would not only advance their strategic objectives but have a positive ripple effect on the whole organisation.

Knowing how much her team loves data while demanding empirical evidence, Hanne Everland engaged FOCUSWRX to help the extended leadership team establish a different way of working.

Fragmented workdays challenge the ability to perform

Time is a limited resource – time for things that are important but not urgent even more so. Nevertheless, working on the things that will help the organisation succeed in the future is crucial for leaders.

However, allocating more time for strategic work alone will not enable leaders to utilise their time optimally. Quality time to do cognitively demanding work requires the ability to focus and concentrate. Workdays that are fragmented by lots of meetings, urgent requests and changing priorities inhibits this ability. At the same time, it is the norm for leaders in most large organisations.

The ability to achieve the most critical business objectives can be enhanced, by enabling leaders to have the time, energy and attention the objectives need. The challenge is to align it – time without both energy and attention will not work. Aligning it requires a change in behaviour to manage your time, energy and attention deliberately.

Enhancing the ability to achieve critical business objectives

The objective was to create more high-performance sweet spots – times during which the leaders can apply the right level of energy and quality of attention to working on a well understood critical priority. We call them FOCUSWRX Sweet Spots.

Using a combination of workshops, 1:1 coaching and the FOCUSWRX application, FOCUSWRX helped the team make the changes in behaviour that enabled more FOCUSWRX Sweet Spots.

Clarifying objectives and making them actionable

During the first workshop, we clarified the objectives and how the team was currently working on achieving them. FOCUSWRX provides a framework for identifying the work activities for your critical business objectives that improve your ability to execute the work.

FOCUSWRX high performance sweetspot

The framework made it easier for the team to translate their objectives into concrete, committed work activities.

Using physiological data to enhance brain performance

Skills such as complex problem solving, critical thinking and managing others, use your brain’s executive functions (problem-solving, planning, communication, decision making, learning, and self-control).

The brain uses a lot of energy when utilising the executive functions. Hence when you are low on energy, you are physiologically inhibited from fully utilising the essential competencies for leaders and knowledge-workers in general. Since energy is a limited resource, knowing what you are using it on helps you understand what to change to invest it right. However, having done close to a thousand physiological measurements, our experience is that most people are unaware of the impact their behaviour and work environment has on their energy level.

Hanne Everland’s extended leadership team uses the FOCUSWRX application to increase their self-awareness. The application analyses data from Garmin wearables and discovers what drains and gains energy. We quantify energy by measuring a person’s stress reactions (physiological activation) and recovery (physiological rest) over time. Drainers and gainers are very individual. Each leader wore a Garmin device, which increased their awareness of their energy curve.

 

FOCUSWRX Dashboard
The team engaged in an “energy challenge” to increase their energy level. Using concrete recommendations for how to get more energy, each leader experimented with behaviours around sleep and recovery breaks and used data to understand what worked for them.
Up until the Covid-19 lock-down, the team increased its average energy level by 10%. Seven weeks into the Covid-19 lock-down, the increase was 25%.

Working in a way that utilises time and energy most effectively

By understanding his or her typical energy curve, and the work activities that will achieve the critical business objective, each leader had the insights to create their FOCUSWRX Sweet Spots.

The FOCUSWRX framework categorises knowledge-work into five different Work Modes: Focus, Collaboration, Reactive, Repetitive and Recharge. Each Work Mode requires different levels of energy and quality of attention. As the primary objective was to increase the quality of the time each leader spends planning, strategising, and doing focused work, the team prioritised Focus Mode.

Focusing your attention requires a lot of energy. When you are low on energy, focusing is much harder; you get more easily distracted and tend to become much more reactive. Hence the Sweet Spots needed to be at times with high energy. For some of the leaders that were in the morning, others around mid-day and late in the afternoon.

Working in the way you function best not only improves productivity but wellbeing too. Being true to your energy curve and deliberately planning your Sweet Spots pays off, especially when the ability to innovate is critical.

To further enhance the ability to focus attention, the team started using “do not disturb” lights, which helped other people know when they were in Focus Mode and should not be disturbed.

Embedding new behaviour into daily practice takes time, especially in a busy workday. FOCUSWRX supported the team in turning the new behaviours into habits, through monthly 1:1 coaching sessions and facilitated sessions for the team.

Productivity and job satisfaction improved

Collectively the team gained more than 50 hours of dedicated quality focus time a week.

Being deliberate around creating these FOCUSWRX Sweet Spots improved productivity and enabled the team to advance their critical objectives.

Deliberately scheduling focus time when energy is high, creating policies around disturbances, and being clear on how to utilise that time optimally, improved productivity and job satisfaction. As one leader put it: “My primary gain has been better quality in my focus time and thus greater job satisfaction. It means more to me that I can immerse myself effectively than I thought. It has given me more energy”.

The Covid-19 lock-down created valuable learnings as well. If your conditions permit, working from home can make it easier to create Sweet Spots.

Awareness of which important meetings required more energy, caused several leaders, to shift those meetings to times where they had more energy, which improved their effectiveness. One leader, who also had responsibilities as a scientist, organised his entire schedule around his energy curve, to work on the most cognitively demanding activities when his energy is high. As a result, his productivity improved significantly.

When you are deliberate and disciplined around creating high-performance Sweet Spots, you improve your feeling of being in control. It enables you to react to emergencies more constructively.

As Hanne Everland said, this project has made a positive difference for a lot of people.