BlogProjectmanagementStoriesGrodan’s story on building a strong project organization

August 4, 2021by Eric van der Zwan


“Grodan is here to change the
world with precision growing!”

The success of Grodan as the inventor of stone wool substrate and the supplier of innovative, customer-oriented cultivation solutions for the horticultural sector is largely due to the company’s focus at the needs of propagators and growers. The combination of the company’s innovative capacity and customer-oriented attitude ensures that the products and services Grodan develops are always up-to-date and guarantee the best possible cultivation performance. By offering customers the added-value they need for efficient operations in a fiercely competitive market, Grodan positions itself as their natural, professional partner: reliable, inspirational, and innovative.



1. Structuring the way-of-work

Despite Grodan’s leading position in stone wool substrates the organization they felt the urgency to optimize their project organization.  The lack on control of the outcome caused budget and planning overruns. Important warning signs that should not be ignored. It was about time Grodan’s changed the way they operated projects. Together with the management team Global HR Business Partner Rob Thissen formed a strategy to build a profitable and reliable project organization.

After review it showed that projectmanagers made a best effort to deliver their projects. The problem was they all ran projects in their own way, reinventing the same wheel over and over again. It caused a serious leak of resources. Endles slide decks were being produced for progress updates and no excel planning was ever the same. An incontrollable situation that needed a structured standard.

Strategy sessions were being organized to build a way-of-work that provided a strong fundament for projects. With the condition that everyone involved would work alongside the same guidelines. A clear focus that demanded commitment and consistency throughout the organization. Following the practical nature of Grodan’s organization the new way-of-work had to be user friendly, easy to implement and understandable for various levels of experience.

“Unifying our way-of-work
saved us a lot of resources”

One thing they learned along the way is to tailor the way-of-work to the way they run projects, and not the other way around. It just had to be a common standard that suits the nature of organization. Based on simple triggers for budget mandates, approvals and changes, Grodan defined a project approach using four easy processes. Its ‘monopoly board’ was to visualize the main processes and underlying steps. It centered the complete way-of-work into one clear overview, tacking out a high load of organizational slack.

Are you are battling with an unstructured project way-of-work? Send us a message for a strategy call.


2. Defining clear roles & responsibilities

An important trigger for the project optimization was the unclarity of project roles within the community. Too many times people had an opinion, but not a mandate. It made Projectmanagement meetings and Steering Group dangerously inefficient. Before synchronizing projectmanagement roles an inventory was made of ‘who-is-doing-what’. Using the raci-model as a blueprint to structure and connect roles to the purpose of the projects.

Another challenge was ad-hoc steering once everyday hectic took over. Good decisions are rarely made without solid contemplation. A MT-member who was appointed as the executive. The senior supplier and senior user were represented by people from the field. They have the local back-up to take decisions and keep their word if it comes to it. The corporate controller was assigned to the role of project assurance. Performing financial health checks on a regular basis.

It was made formal that the projectmanager reported to the Steering Group, but was never a part of the decision making. Drawing a clear line between governance and operations enabled people to take upon their roles. It made it clear ‘who-is-doing-what’ and what is expected of the community and the Steering Groups.


When everyone has an opinion
it is key to focus on committed roles.

Roles are often a sensitive topic within organizations. Historically they are formed and shaped to the organizations nature. However, committing them to the promise and purpose will open up new perspectives. When defining clear roles and responsibilities it is key what is expected, and even more important, how people can add value to the outcome of the projects.

How to define clear roles and responsibilities within a project community?

  1. Clear expectations between Projectmanagers and Steering Groups
  2. Formal agreed roles described in project plans 
  3. Tailor to suit the organizational needs in term of impact and purpose 

The aim was never to just follow the book of Projectmanagement. Grodan’s operational organization was in the center of it all. Leading the structuring for project roles and responsibilities. Based on their managerial needs and operational outlook roles were formalized to suit the organizations purpose. Implement sustainable change! The change of expectations towards project roles demanded ongoing management support to get and keep everybody on board. Once it became an embedded routine throughout the organization, Grodan was ready for the next move.


3. Train and engage the project community

Within projectmanagement there might be the tendency of a ‘us and them’ culture. Simply because governing projects is a completely different dynamic than managing projects. For that exact same reason it is highly recommendable to focus on engagement. Investing time in on-boarding people onto the change, especially when there is no time! Grodan took the conversation about the ‘why and what’ very serious.

In terms of training Grodan’s ambition was to upgrade and equalize the level of maturity. Many people within the community had different levels of knowledge and experience. Too many times people were figuring out what to do and how to do it. An intensive training academy was setup to ensure the same level of knowledge throughout the organization. To organize single trainings was not going to make the circle round. Therefore the project academy was suitable for all project roles:

  1. Online projectmanagement video training
  2. Theme based training sessions (business case etc.)
  3. Steering Group training and guidance

Being a very operational organization, Grodan’s demand was to focus on the practical application of knowledge. Endless theories would cause a loss of commitment and engagement. To keep people interested every training would interpret projectmanagement theory into Grodan’s way-of-work and actual live casus. Making it very tangible how to implement new gained knowledge and insight. It definitely made the trainings relevant and immediately contributed to the project’s performance.

The strategy of the training academy was to build a knowledge foundation through online training. Then, after completion invite people into real-life training sessions to train and guide them on the practical application. Basically show them how to do it in their own projects. The academy was essential for the succes of the project optimization.


4. Invest in effective decision making

Another cultural issue was the bad habit of backdoor politics. People, by good intent, saying one thing in the boardroom and agreeing onto another on the hallway. It blurred the view of expectations and led to many unexpected scope changes in the projects. People often underestimate the consequence of informal decisions. Its impact is always bigger than expected and more expensive to control.

This was not just about the Projectmanager trying to enhance decision making. It was about a shared responsibility within the board. Steering Group members were now expected to hold each other responsible for formal decision making. A cultural switch that took commitment and consistency. For the higher cause of delivering projects according to mutual expectations.

  1. More successful projects with clear deliverables
  2. Higher span of control throughout the execution
  3. Less changes and budget/planning overruns

Grodan started to train and guide the Steering Groups. Learning them how to enhance progressive decision making. Ineffective long board session of more than 2 hours needed to be downsized into short meetings of one hour. Transforming them from discussions groups into enabling decision making units. Another key insight was to change the dynamic of the meetings. Previously, projectmanagers would present what they did, rather than where they stand and how they feel the project should move forward. To tackle the issue it became mandatory to send in all documents a week before the meeting. Giving SG members time to determine the rightful focus and challenge the Projectmanagers on it suggested strategies.

TIP: Implementing management by exception will bring focus to decision making. Saving time and budgets.


5. Focus on continuous improvement

Embedded change never happens overnight. Taking time to identify a root cause analysis will increase the impact of successful turnarounds. In the case of Grodan the cause was circumstantial. The company is recognized as a leader within the field of stone wool substrates. They run quite a number of cross organizational projects with a team of professionals. While everyone was making a best effort, resources were still leaking.

An important learning for Grodan’s management team was that circumstantial fixes are not enough. Its results are temporarily and will vanish once priorities shift. The solution was a long term strategy that focussed on the combination of a cultural change together with process optimizations. The transformation became a success. The desired end state was cut down into simple steps. It was accessible for people to join in and make a differents for their project and the organization.


“Practice what you preach. It’s that simple!”


Creating a momentum has the risk of another momentum taking over. Therefore Grodan choose to integrate new-ways-of-thinking into new-ways-of-working. Meaning that everything that changed had to be implementable in everyday operations. The solution integration was not done at the end of the implementation but directly from the beginning. It enabled people to become a part of the change and to make it their own.

Grodan’s implementation approach:

  1. Analyse
  2. Identify
  3. Focus
  4. Implement

The implementation of Grodan’s project maturity upgrade took over 5 years. Together we implemented the optimization step by step and adapted to their operational needs. Using output and outcome as our compass. Including both Steering Groups and Projectmanagers teams turned out to be very beneficial. We consistently onboarded new people to the way-of-work and encouraged them to work within the structured guidelines. Another key-success factor to this optimization was, and still is, honesty. Everybody who was involved was assured of a safe environment that invited people to speak up. That did not always end up with the easiest conversations, yet it was the right conversation to have.

Today, Grodan made a big jump forward. Their people are trained in projectmanagement knowledge and skills. Steering Groups know how to execute decisive actions. There is a clear way-of-work that works for everybody who is involved in projects. Projects are more likely to be delivered within time, budget, scope and quality. Ready to make this world a more sustainable place!


We help to deliver results

If you ready to move forward on building a strong project organization, let’s arrange a strategy call.


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