About the Courage to Keep Organizational Structures Agile

“I learned the value of investing time in managing my organization’s structure, as this has a direct impact on all staff and the company’s future”, says Wesley Meier, founder of EOS International and a member of empowering people. Network (epNetwork). Inspired by epNetwork’s workshop on organizational development in 2017, Wesley and his team have been working intensively on internal structures in recent months. Together, they have successfully established an agile system.

Founded in 2008, EOS International is located in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, where fifty percent of the rural population lives below the national poverty line. The company empowers rural families in Central America with access to clean water and opportunities to generate income through simple technology solutions and education. Currently, Wesley’s team consists of 20 people, whereof 15 work in Nicaragua and 5 are located across the Unites States. In November 2017, the annual empowering people. Workshop took place in Amsterdam and Wesley decided to participate to see what he could learn.

Learning alongside peers

At the workshop, 50 like-minded social entrepreneurs and epNetwork members from North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe met for four days to make themselves familiar with decision-making models, future-oriented leadership approaches, and tools for organizational development. “It was amazing to share examples with other companies on how we all are working on our own projects and organizations in various countries of operations. I found Holacracy, a customizable self management practice, to be a helpful and interesting model as it matches our organization’s needs and leadership structures.”, Wesley says.

Wesley (left) working on his organization’s processes together with other workshop participants from all over the world.

According to this concept, employees do not fill a job function, but rather hold several roles according to their skills and time-availability. Authority is distributed to teams while roles and decisions are made locally. There are transparent rules that are valid and visible for all company members, even the CEOs. “Due to heavy workload in the past I have not put much effort into optimizing the company’s organizational structure. From this workshop, I learned about the various components of Holacracy, using data to drive decisions, and why it was appropriate for EOS to integrate. This organizational model has helped us streamline several components of our work”, Wesley adds.

Trust and tranparency as the keys to success

Creating roles was not completely new to him, however, Wesley was excited to learn new strategies to map out employee activities and removing overlaping responsibilities. “I actually started conversations with the team while I was still in Amsterdam. Upon my return, we went through each team member and separated roles from functions which we felt in the past had confused us”, Wesley explains. “We identified several bottlenecks and overlap in responsibilities. For example, our Nicaraguan administration coordinator was responsible for consolidating all monthly installation, impact, accounting and quality analysis reports from several other employees. We reassigned the reports to come directly from the coordinator in each department allowing the reports to arrive on time and streamline the process. We set up clear formats and metrics to ensure the reports were accurate and small. This new process saved precious time from the administration team.”

Their system is based on clear expectations and goals for each person, and a traffic light system to track and evaluate on a quarterly basis. Via dashboards, they constantly get informed about each other’s progress and have the chance to readjust roles. This method helped EOS transfer leadership and witness good results in a short amount of time. “To sum up, the combination of trust in each other’s skills and transparency in terms of performance and responsibility has been a key to success”, Wesley explains.

A personal advice to overcome challenges

Organizational needs vary on many things and there is no one right way. The biggest challenge for EOS is managing the remote teams based across Nicaragua and in the U.S. This means, all information and analytics have to be seemless. Since they restructured themselves according to the tiral-and-error-method, it often involves quite some effort to create a distinct system across national and international boarders. To keep their system up to date, Wesley intends to revisist it routinely. The company eventually implemented the redefined roles shortly after the beginning of 2018.

Together, Wesley and his team have successfully established suitable structures.

“EOS is fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Siemens Stiftung and learn about different organizational models, and identify the optimum one for our team. I personally believe that investment into learning about optimial organizational structures can make a big difference to the company’s productivity. Every organization needs to review the most suitable model and make evaluations by being critical. By making conscious decisions, team leaders can empower their teams”, Wesley concludes.

About Wesley Meier

Wesley Meier is the co-founder and CEO of EOS International. After graduating with a mechanical engineering degree from Iowa State University, Wes worked as an Agriculture Specialist with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, where he also co-founded EOS. Prior to stepping up as CEO of EOS, Wes initiated a west african manufacturing facility which fabricated agricultural processing equipment in Senegal, managed manufacturing partnerships in China, and lead a human-centered design innovation lab in Malawi using several public and private partners. Wes is currently a Global Shaper, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, serves as a board member of the Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN), and sits on the Advisory Council of the United States Global Leadership Coalition.

About EOS International

EOS (Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability) International is a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers rural communities in Central America with access to clean water and opportunities to generate income through simple technology solutions and education. EOS believes in market-based solutions and through strong community partnerships and investment from technology beneficiaries, EOS has created a comprehensive solution to providing safe water solutions including water quality analysis services, water purifier implementations, and chlorine tablet distribution services to rural commmunities. EOS also identifies rural women entrepreneurs and provide them with tools, training and access to credit to start their own business and pull themselves and their family out of poverty. EOS then re-visits the communities to provide continued support, monitoring and evaluation and is currently serving over 400,000 people throughout Central America.

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