The Pioneers, a grassroots approach at Enedis

Written by Sarah Spitz, on 09 April 2019

If everyone values managerial and social innovation, the "how" remains a challenging adventure. Imposing it is counterproductive, waiting for it hoping is a vague bet. At the HRDTS (Human Resources Transformation Health-Safety Directorate) of Enedis, we have chosen to enable it by becoming sponsors of managers from ten voluntary regions: the Pioneers approach was born from this common impulse between HRDTS and Regions two years ago. Placing managers at the heart of it was our response...

That being said, how can we combine the strength of a hierarchical national company (which ensures the country's electrical safety 24/7 in all weather conditions) with the creativity of local initiatives close to customers and stakeholders in the energy transition?

We are convinced that work methods must evolve to develop, encourage entrepreneurial spirit, and obtain the commitment of as many people as possible within Enedis. For this, there is no ready-made method but rather trust in the teams, who know better than anyone how to achieve it. The pioneers are voluntary units that wish to experiment with new ways of working for the overall and sustainable performance of Enedis.

Each pioneering unit progresses with its own story, its context. The journey is important, and this also implies that one may stray... or that one may find a new path. Gathered three times a year during meetings, regions share their experiences and sources of inspiration (learning organization, agile and empowering management, effectuation principles...) and conduct learning expeditions. An internal internet platform has just been launched to showcase these experiences and inspire managers who wish to embark on pioneering regions or others.

The future is nothing more than the present to put in order. You do not have to predict it, but to allow it. - Antoine de Saint Exupéry

The experiments conducted by the pioneering regions are all different. Some are carried out at the scale of the entire region, others in operational teams of 10 to 50 people. These innovations are led by employees, front-line managers, and some by members of the executive committee and executives. Here are some examples: recruitment by employees, design of workspaces by employees, self-organized manager seminars, employee-led "by employees for employees" days, annual interviews replaced by real-time feedback or 360° evaluations, practice debriefs based on filmed projects, autonomy in work locations and schedules for project connection managers...

All these experiments have liberated human initiative and ensured that everyone, regardless of their role in the company, is a source of proposal, action, and initiative and feels confident enough to embark on initiatives and contribute to the company's success. The positive outcomes are measured by employee and manager engagement, operational results, and the ability to adapt and evolve internal operations in service of customers.

What particular role do the leaders of these pioneering regions play?

Ten leaders of pioneering regions have responded to the call to promote management that promotes initiative and autonomy. Ten managers who did not wait for a national directive to experiment with their teams new organizational, work, and management methods. Ten managers who, far from following trends, are more interested in what is happening in their teams than in making the company's executive committee aware of the stunning nature of their brilliant initiatives.

What is the role of the national HRDTS?

It is a dedicated national team that supports local initiatives initiated by these 10 Regions without ever interfering with the nature, objective, deadline, costs, or resources allocated to the initiative being implemented. In simple terms: even if the initiative seems risky, after explaining the reasons to the concerned Unit, the national team does everything to help with implementation. The basis of this support: helping to go beyond the national coherence framework, if the initiative requires it. This can be done under two conditions: the first is to be informed in advance of the initiative. The second condition is that the initiative is reversible.

For example, a team wishing to use a quad bike to transport equipment to construction sites in rural areas (rather than carrying it on foot) was allowed to experiment with it even if the vehicle was not part of the approved vehicles for reasons of past accidents.

These pioneering units are resolutely autonomous: each one self-finances the operations it wishes to carry out, without resorting to any additional subsidies for the experiments conducted. Each Unit is also evaluated on the same criteria as Units that are not pioneering.