Humanizing Business62

Humanize Business from the Soul of Your Organization

Humanize Business from the Soul of Your Organization | Margarita Yonova-Popova and Alize Hofmeester

Alize Hofmeester, Margarita Yonova-Popova

April 22, 2022


The pandemic, uncertainty, virtual working brought about a reset on humanity. The great resignation started, or shall we call it the awakening of many people? Because what is more important: working from passion and purpose or just getting your money paid? Businesses need to press the reshuffle button, re-discover what their X-factor is, connect people to purpose and help them to grow and become the best they can be.

Margarita and Alize, have a passion in the invisible part of change - the part that makes or break your transformation. During this talk they will take you on a journey of transforming from the soul of your organization. A journey that is about people, interaction, mindset, leadership and sustainable growth. We do not push but we free up space for everyone, so they get the desire to be part of the network, doing meaningful work and deliver value to the larger eco-system.

About the Speakers

Margarita Yonova-Popova

In her role, Margarita has a strong focus on people, culture, and leadership. Her expertise is in the reshape and implementation of adaptive organizational cultures and structures through collective input (crowdsourcing) and agile methods.

Margarita is co-founder of the Agile Hub at Erste Group as a community of practice to support teams on their agile journey and to raise awareness about agile across the organization.

Margarita is a strong believer that behind every successful organization there are great people with strong capabilities, courage and innovative mind. Therefore, she sees her purpose as a People & Culture Transformation Lead in enabling a healthy organizational culture for people to grow, co-create and collaborate in a better way. As part of that, she is passionate to contribute to the evolution of the HR function towards agile practices and mindset.

Alize Hofmeester

Alize Hofmeester is a successful purpose driven entrepreneur, author of the book Purpose Driven People, speaker, and creator of the People Journey Circle© and Business Agility Scan©. As a passionate People & Change Executive, Alize helps organisations to stay relevant to their customers, by reshaping their future way of working and facilitating a fresh, new growth-mindset that leads to companywide flow and business agility.


Business Agility Conference 2022 - Photos

Alize and Margarita on stage presenting at Business Agility Conference 2022Margarita speaking on panel at Business Agility Conference 2022Alize speaking on stage at Business Agility Conference 2022Alize speaking on panel during Business Agility Conference 2022Alize and Margarita on Stage during panel at Business Agility Conference 2022

Video Transcript


Thank you.

So good morning.

Good morning.

Good morning.

How great it is to be here again, live together with you and also with you virtual well, welcome and happy that you are also with us.

Yesterday evening we went to the Moulin Rouge, and that was really awesome.And when we were there and listening to all those people and seeing the show and the entertainment, I thought, what a passion and what a vibe and what an energy. How cool would it be to have that in your organization?

Isn't it?

Okay, let's see what we can bring in our organization. I bring you back when you were between four and ten years old. What was your passion back then? What did you strive for? Did you play with Star Wars or did you think I'm a Prince or a Princess? Did you play music like the little girl or boy on the presentation?

When we were young, we were encouraged to do the things we like to do. When we were young, we had people around us who helped us when we fell down and said, okay, stand up again and do that over and over again. And then all of a sudden we go to school and we are in a system, a system of a teacher and a student in a hierarchy. And then we start working again in a system of a manager and of an employee. And the manager is telling you what to do and how to do.

Are you still connected with your purpose and with your passion? How does it look like in your organization? Are people bored? Maybe they are overwhelmed and super busy, right? Are they exhausted or are they rather experiencing a drive, an energy? Are they empowered to collaborate? And are they encouraged to co-create and to design the future from the heart? And if the answer is no, then stop dissing the human spirit, spark the X factor in your organization, and bring the soul all back again.

With our talk today, we will take you on a journey of transforming and humanizing business, a journey that goes beyond the visible side of change. That is about leaders and people. That is about elevating and mindset. We will share with you our experience with helping organizations in their evolution through leveraging the power of collective intelligence and continuous reflection.

My name is Alize Hofmeester, and I want to introduce myself by my purpose. My purpose is gather a team, set up the expedition, climb the mountains, and go beyond Horizons. It's not about discovering new landscapes, but it's about seeing things in a different way. This purpose is about team. It's about trust. It's about focus on the things that really matter. It's about sharing stories that we do today and yesterday and hopefully also the next days. It helped me make different decisions. 

So after being part of large transformations, I started my own company, Twinxter.  And with Twinxter, we help organizations like Erste Group and other companies to build a vibrant workplace in which people are able to create sustainable growth 

and my name is Margarita. I'm people and Culture Transformation lead of Erste Group Bank, which is one of the leading financial service providers in the Eastern part of the European Union, based in Austria, Vienna. I'm very happy to be here today with you. My strong belief is that behind every successful organization, there are great people with a lot of courage and innovative mind. And therefore, my personal purpose as an Agile HR and change professional is to create a healthy environment for our teams to collaborate and grow.

I'm also founder of the Agile Hub at Erste Group, which is our largest internal community with a purpose to build and share knowledge about Agile across our 45,000 employees. The Agile Hub supports my belief in collective intelligence and in communities grown bottom up.

While our financial industry has been massively disrupted, one thing hasn’t changed and that is banking is people. So everything we do, the people are our critical success factor.

Erste Group was founded more than 200 years ago with a strong purpose to build prosperity to the people in our region. And today, with our seven countries and more than 16 million customers, we are more than ever committed to do so, to bring financial prosperity to the people in our region and to support them.

Therefore, with many of our teams, we embarked on a journey towards more agile and modern way of working, so that we could collaborate better, so that we are closer to our customers and of course, drive change for a better future.

What changing is one thing we and maybe you saw the research of the Business Agility Institute. Companies who are on the way to an agile transformation also face challenges. We also did, isn't it one of the top five challenges? Is resistant to change, leadership, difficulty in scaling, silos, and having commitments?


And I pick on leadership quite a lot because we often underestimate the power of having an aligned leadership team, a team that stands together, a team that does not stand on the way, a team that doesn't just manage change, but that can lead change because this is what people need. They need a sparring partner They need someone who will help them empower them. Let the change flow rather than asking, and when is it going to be done?

In one of my last experiences, I often heard from leadership, we need to do this organizational change, but we need to be very clear, when are we done with that change and when are we delivering the first tangible results? So what this pushed us to do is of course, to sit down, make a PowerPoint, and on that PowerPoint, make a picture of our new operating model, which is supposed to deliver better business value.


And our leadership was very happy with that. Thank God we very soon came to our common sense, which we often forget home when we go to work. But we took it that day with us and we said, okay, stop with a PowerPoint, stop with operating model. We need to go a step back because it's not operating models that deliver value, it's people who deliver value.

So we parked this PowerPoint, we put it in the drawer steps back. We started working with our leaders differently so that they can create a purpose that can drive the motivation of our people and their inspiration. So we started to work from the people journey circle. The elements which you see in here are not really rocket science, is it?

But it is about the things that are behind it. And in the middle, you see the people and purpose. So that's where it all started. We do not talk about change because change is replacing things from one structure to another structure. But business agility goes beyond the structures, goes beyond the frameworks. It's about behavior, it's about mindset, it's about growth. And we started from the middle, from the people and the purpose.

So where did you start? Where did we start together? I often read in change books, start with leadership. Let me challenge that. Start with your change team because your leadership team will need someone to help them along the journey. So we started by investing time in preparing a transformation team, a team that has a good composition.

So we looked at what are the capabilities we need. We also invested time that this change team becomes a team because by the way, they are a normal team. So they need time to form and go through all phases. And we also invested time in clarifying what is the role of the transformation team and what is the role of the leadership team and what are the expectations between them.

This really helped us to kick off the journey in a good way. But transformation is not a goal in itself. We already heard that in the last days. And the transformation team is also not the owner of the transformation, but what you can do as facilitators of change, of this whole transformation.

Help the leadership to create the common goals, but starting to work to the future, you first need to know where you are today. What is your reality? Where are you? What are the strengths, the weaknesses, the challenges. The opportunities. In order for us to find where we are right now?

I will not surprise you, probably, but we used a very simple technique called SWOT analysis. So we invited our leaders to reflect what are our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And it worked amazing because it helped our leaders to realize, okay, we come from different business areas and environments, but we share similar problems. And by the way, our strengths combined create something powerful. So it helped us to create a common ground for a common future. And once you have that, you can imagine. 

Yuval Harari already said, in his book Sapiens, imagination is human's most unique trait. It brought us where we are today. It will bring us also to the future. So it's time to dream about our future. What are we aiming for?

We invited our leaders to dream about the future with using a technique by writing a LinkedIn post from the future. So we told them, Guys, you are in the future. Imagine you're down to write a post to your network. What do you want to write to your network in ten years from now? How does it feel? What do you see? What are you proud of? What has changed?

And this was also a very nice technique that helped us to bring our leaders in the future, align them on a story that they want to tell to their networks. What are they proud of? What is the organization that they wanted to build?

But building the purpose and building your SWOT analysis and building that LinkedIn post, how are you going to engage with your people? Our ancestors really had some beautiful things that they did in their tribe to engage the people in the tribe. They had bonfires and they gathered together and they share their stories, their knowledge, they transfer their knowledge because what can you eat? What can you not eat?

It was very clear that we need to create an aligned story that leadership can use to ignite our people, to inspire them about the change journey we are on. And we use for that the Pixar pitch.

I don't know, look it up on the internet. It's a very nice structure which starts with once upon a time and it tells the story about the journey. We ask our leaders, okay, tell how this once upon a time happens until finally we reach the future.

And having that story then allowed us to think about and what is the character that we want to play in that story? Are we the good one or the funny one or the bad one? How do we look like as an organization in the future? How do we behave? How do we act?

So we started building our organizational persona, someone with whom our people could relate and know and recognize for its actions. And this is all the invisible part. And now we come a bit in the visible area because it's all nice.

But when we put something on the wall or explaining the story. How are we going to execute for us to visualize our purpose, to visualize where we want to go? To keep track on that once upon a time story that brought us to the future, we decided to use the Obeya approach.

And yesterday in the morning we saw the nice video from iObeya about what Obeya is. For us. Obeya is really that large room, as we heard yesterday, that puts together all the relevant information that we need. Our leaders need, our people need, to prioritize to make decisions and to collaborate. So Obeya really helped us to keep track on what do we want to achieve and to work on the things that really matter and not only to ask ourselves, how successful are we in doing that? We cannot do that on our own.


You know how the saying goes. Alone, I go fast, but together we are faster, no better. We come further. That's how the saving goes. So, with everything you do and with everything we did in the organization, we used the collective intelligence of the crowd. It was not a top down approach, but we went from bottom up.


And this is what I'm personally very proud of because we did all of these things that I just mentioned to you, the SWAT, the persona, the story. We also invited our people. We didn't do that only with the leadership team behind closed doors somewhere. Definitely not. We invited in series of design sessions our people to also reflect on the very same questions we asked our leaders.

This helped our leaders tremendously because it helped them to be on the ground,to be well grounded on their ideas and to validate with our people. Are we really building a future that matters and makes a difference?

So to summarize a little bit, how far we have come in our journey and what are the benefits that we realized so far?

First of all, now we are in a situation where we understand and know our purpose and its value. We have a strong leadership team that goes together instead of asking and when is this operating model going to be in place? By when exactly? And last but not least, we have people who carry the change with them because we co-create the journey together. So they are not sitting and waiting when it is going to happen.

Is it all perfect? Of course not. There are still many people in our organization who ask, when are we seeing some tangible stuff? Because none of these three points is very tangible. But believe me, these three points are the main foundation for successful change and transformation going forward with these three points, we can walk with confidence and enthusiasm on the next steps.

And we also explained, don't be hard on yourself and give yourself a break because our brains are not built for this era. Oh yes, we can change everything. We got also used to the smartphone, et cetera. But go back to the early days when you start crawling, when you start walking, when you get up and down, there is a goat path that you created and that you walked and walked and walked till it became the highway which you see on this picture. And now we are moving to a different way of working and a different way of thinking, a different way of leading. So we cannot reset ourselves. We are not computers, but we can create new goat paths. So give yourself a break, grow your mind, and pave new paths.

Our call to action to you all and to you all virtual, spark the X factor, focus on leadership, use the collective intelligence of the crowd, connect people to purpose, and show. 

And last from my side would be, believe in your organization, believe in your people, and believe in yourself.

Thank you very much.

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