On Monday, December 10, 2018, a press release announced that AF Plc., an engineering and design company with 11,000 employees, was joining forces with their former competitor Poyry Plc. with 5,500 employees scattered around the world with offices in 45 countries. The deal would see the creation of AFRY Plc., a leading European engineering, design, and advisory services company with an international presence in selected niches, serving clients across the infrastructure, energy, and industry sectors around the world. The general reactions since the merger remain largely positive, and AFRY has proven out to be a stable company caring for its customers and people, while showing solid returns and profitable growth.
During the year 2018 leading to the merger and since then, we at Leadx3m have had the opportunity to work with some the Poyry and now AFRY C-suite executives and directors both in Europe and the Americas. The unique timing of our initial collaboration allowed us to experience first hand how transforming a multinational, knowledge-intensive company is both culturally and operationally complex and slow. The comeback of the 60-year-old Poyry company was only possible after the new leadership and people on all levels rediscovered its entrepreneurial origins as a source of energy and belief in an “intrapreneurial” future. Eventually, the turnaround success was rewarded by eleven consequtive quartals of financial improvements, which paced the road to a much desired merger and creation of AFRY in a rapidly transforming industry with an increasingly global competitive landscape.
Our key takeaways include:
This is a validated example of a transformative strategy in action, where a creative and engaging leadership style can address immediate managerial concerns and define short- and midterm strategic actions to drive simplification and empowerment of the organization, strengthening the core of the business, and getting ready to scale up.
The anticipated change took considerably longer than originally intended, which sheds light on the shared complexity of understanding the underlying situation and designing, refining and implementing an improvement plan, especially in a global, competence-driven organization.
Emphasizing the company’s entrepreneurial legacy and core organizational values in all internal communications were key in building a foundation for cultural transformation. Challenges were identified transparently to build awareness, which was followed by trust-building activities. Management never diverged from the “10 Point Program” for strategic improvement.