Gaining company culture insights using Art as a Method

Ensto

SUMMARY

Ensto is an international technology company and a family business founded in 1958. The company designs and provides electrical solutions and expertise for electricity distribution networks. Ensto employs approx. 850 professionals across Europe and Asia, and generated a turnover of 250 million euros in 2020.

In 2020, Ensto also embarked on a new stage of growth by implementing a renewed business strategy. In the context of this transition, Ensto wanted to empower its leaders to steer the company culture and business in the right direction.

www.ensto.com

Services

  • Art as a Method
  • Company Culture Engagement
  • Culture Insights
  • Culture Transition
  • Collective Energy Mapping

CHALLENGE

As a family business, Ensto has a strong legacy that is closely connected to its founder, Ensio Miettinen. The spirit of Ensio and the values he instilled in the company from its early beginnings still live in the culture today, even though the company has undergone different changes throughout the decades.

Honoring a strong legacy in times of transition can be challenging. As people come and go and the business transforms, the company culture changes as well. There is a risk that valuable aspects of the culture are lost, while others, more urgent ones, take over. At the same time, there is a strong need and desire for renewal in order to help the business thrive when meeting future market demands.

There is a pressure for leaders to nurture both old and new aspects of the Ensto culture in a way that enables their teams to drive the company forward in the long run.

PROCESS

We started by identifying the most important elements of the existing culture at Ensto today. We used Art as a Method to reveal these elements through creative storytelling combined with a process of active reflection. Over 70 Ensto leaders participated in bringing to light key insights about the company culture.

The first step was to engage writer and dramaturg Riikka Ala-Harja to write a fictional short story inspired by Ensto’s company culture after an in-depth interview with Hannu Keinänen, CEO of Ensto.

Once the story was ready, it was interpreted by the leaders, who connected the story with key moments in the company history, with the “ways of doing things” at Ensto, as well as with attitudes and values that manifest in people’s behaviour during the day-to-day work.

Word cloud story interpretations

The leaders’ reflections were analysed and collected into a comprehensive Culture Insights Report – a valuable qualitative research on Ensto’s company culture.

During this process, we also facilitated interactive workshops to re-energise Ensto’s leaders and to support them and their teams in reaching their business goals through their work together.

OUTCOMES

Working with company culture is a constant endeavour. We support Ensto’s leaders in steering the culture through advisory and workshop interventions, and by co-designing creative assets that help nurture the desired winning culture at Ensto long-term.

Image credits: Unsplash

READ THE SHORT STORY

Lightning
Riikka Ala-Harja, translation by Emily Jeremiah

I turn off the engine and pick up the husky hat my mother knitted me from the front seat, though I never wear it in town.
I get out of the car. The huskies start barking in their enclosure.

Mum comes outside, walks over to the car and gives me a hug.

‘Nice you came,’ she says. She still doesn’t speak Kainuu dialect, though she’s lived here since I was born. ‘Tough journey?’

‘No – but six hours,’ I reply, slamming the car door shut.

‘I made coffee, come in.’

Dad is sitting hunched over a game of chess on the internet; he doesn’t even notice us.

‘Well, well,’ Mum says.

‘Nice you came,’ Dad says and shuffles into the kitchen.

‘Have you been missing California?’ Mum asks, sipping hot coffee.

‘Not really,’ I answer, though in reality I have. Colleagues, motorways, sun. Sometimes I’ve even missed the whimpering poodle upstairs.

But most of all I miss the flame. Something that burned inside me there. I can’t say where it came from. Perhaps it was to do with the people at work. I don’t miss the wildfires of Silicon Valley, but such a mighty flame as would burn away the old crust.

I decided to return to Finland before Mum and Dad died. But still I’ve only visited them once since I got back.

‘How’s the new job?’ asks Dad.

‘Ok, not bad.’

‘What are the people like?’ Mum quizzes further.

‘Fine.’

There are no problems with the people. Nothing wrong with anything: the pay, the general feel of things, the projects. I didn’t think it would be like how it is in Silicon Valley. Somehow, I just can’t get enthusiastic about anything. Finland is familiar, but still different, after ten years. Perhaps I can never achieve the same as in Silicon Valley. Was it a mistake to leave?

The dogs start barking again.

‘Thunder?’ I ask.

‘Yes, sounds like Elvira’s car,’ Dad says.

Thunder was Thunder even as a child. My best childhood friend, the neighbour Elvira Thunder who rides Mum and Dad’s team of dogs for tourists. Everyone loves it – the tourists, the huskies and my parents. I’ve always called her Thunder, though everyone else calls her by her first name.

Thunder stands in the middle of the yard and pours food into the bowls. The huskies eat hungrily, jostle one another.

‘Oh, hi,’ says Thunder. ‘Nice to see you. Shame I had that driving gig in Kuusamo in October, I didn’t get to see you then.’

The dogs feast on food at her feet, then lap up water, a mighty, vigorous pack, nine huskies and Thunder.

‘How are you?’ I ask.

‘Fine. I like this work. The Indians yesterday were really pleased with their ride. And there were French people the other day, who just shrieked as they were being driven,’ Thunder explains. ‘Are you coming for a ride?’

I shook my head. I’m not up to it, it’s cold.

‘Oh, come on.’

‘Nah.’

‘Come, come.’

I’m fed up with Thunder going on about it. I’m not going into the snowy forest, that’s for sure.

‘Have to check Kid. Come and help.’

‘Why does he have to be checked?’

‘To see if he can take Mist’s place. Mist is getting to retirement age.’ Thunder grins.

‘Oh, right.’

‘Time passes really quickly, Lightning.’

No one had called me Lightning for ten years, or since the last time I saw Thunder. Thunder came up with the name. We were

Lightning and Thunder, Thunder and Lightning.

‘Let’s go, Lightning.’

I want to be lightning again, striking and quick. Couldn’t I go up a gear, speed myself up? Was I already ready to retire? At thirty-five?

‘I’m going to rest. Tough drive.’

‘In a large, warm car,’ Thunder says and laughs.

If you don’t put on hiking gear and go to the forest you’re immediately branded a soft lazybones, for God’s sake.

‘Come, come.’

‘I don’t feel like it.’

Mum and Dad come outside suddenly, holding reindeer hides.

‘Kid is so inexperienced he hasn’t yet learnt how to ride as part of a team. If only he were to start to understand today,’ Thunder says.

‘Run as precisely and firmly as possible,’ Dad adds.

‘Get on with the others,’ Mum fills in. ‘Make sure they’re all running as fast.’

‘Then everything would work out,’ Das went on. ‘The same rhythm.’

It annoys me, the way they keep on.

‘Mist is too pleased with herself,’ Thunder goes on. ‘She isn’t inspired by the others.’

This display of expertise is really beginning to get on my nerves.

When I left here for sixth-form college in a big town, sixteen-year-old Thunder offered Mum and Dad her litter’s strongest husky. When I was in second year, I lived in the town as travelling had become too tiring. Then they took a new dog from the following litter. When I was in the third year, they took a third husky. When I got top marks, they got seven more huskies.

Suddenly there were ten young, daredevil dogs here. The huskies and Thunder took my place. When I graduated from the best technical college in the country, I was offered work in Silicon Valley. Right after my move, Mum and Dad set up the sleigh-ride business and employed Thunder. For ten years in California I cursed how often there were power cuts in the technology centre of the world, whereas in the backwoods, the husky farm, there were never more than a few a year. I came back to Finland last autumn to see Mum and Dad more often. Thunder practically lived at ours, presumably going to hers to sleep but otherwise driving people in the forest and fields, looking after dogs, I guess looking after Dad and Mum a bit.

I didn’t come at Christmas, I wanted to be on my own. Anyway, I’ve come for New Year. Mum and Dad assured me over the phone that Christmas wasn’t important to them and that they were busy with their customers.

I saw on Thunder’s Instagram that she was at Mum and Dad’s for Christmas Eve, eating porridge. It’s good she was there.

Thunder takes the reins from Dad. The dogs start to jump and bark like mad.

‘Which one is Kid?’

Thunder points to a beautiful, lively husky.

Then Thunder harnesses the pair at the front.

‘Then evenly matched pairs,’ explains Thunder. ‘They keep up the pace of the pack.’

‘The leads and ropes look good,’ Mum says, throwing the reindeer hide into the sledge.

Thunder puts the reins on each husky in turn and leads them on a strap to their own place in the team. The dogs bark impatiently, desperate to get out into the countryside.

Dad passes me overalls.

‘Put them on and go,’ he says, smiling.

I look at Dad’s old, thick overalls. I look at the snowy field and forest. The impatient dogs and Thunder.

I start pulling on the overalls over my jeans and jump into the sledge.

‘Do you want to steer?’ asks Thunder.

‘Not till we’re in the forest,’ I answer.

I don’t want Mum and Dad to see my steering, I don’t want them to see how good Thunder is and how clumsy Lightning is.

Thunder gives the order, the huskies set off, pulling.

In Silicon Valley we carried out projects together, large and small. I wanted the others to see how well I held my end up. We developed a lot of things, together, as a team. Everyone was encouraging and supportive, but not in a sick-making way, though it was the USA. The team had moved to Silicon Valley from all over the world. We were often successful, maybe that’s what gave rise to that spirit.

And now I’m on a snowy field. Kid pulls, Magic alongside him, just behind Plum, the leader.

‘Is he doing ok?’ I shout to Thunder.

‘Well enough. But I’m still not sure if Kid can take Mist’s place.’

We speed along the edge of the field, then move to the forest boundary.

‘Do you want to steer now?’ asks Thunder.

I nod. Thunder stops the team, we swap places, and now I give the command to set off. I haven’t ridden much, but enough for it to go all right. The huskies obey. The forest is white, beautiful. The dogs run, snow swirls up under the runners. Thunder observes.

Suddenly she starts smiling.

‘What?’ I ask.

‘Can you see? Kid is beginning to pull perfectly.’

‘Oh yes, true.’

‘He’s keeping in line, not doing too much but not too little either. Enjoying running with the others. Wants to drive alongside, behind, together. Just perfect,’ Thunder shouts into my ear.

I try to keep the pace consistent, not breakneck but not too slow either. We are Thunder and Lightning, we are a high-speed duo, a top-notch pair on the snowy field.

The snow swirls up, the team runs fast, beautifully and evenly.

I feel good for the first time since I came back to Finland. Ardent. Right. Nice. Enthusiastic. Christmas is over, the New Year is starting tomorrow, but now here, at this pace, with these dogs, there is charge, power, current in the forest. Such goodness as I have craved. I ride. I can. We all can. Eager, even, good speed.

When we get back, I just smile. Thunder smiles back. We immediately give the dogs something to drink.

Mum and Dad come to the enclosure, coats undone.

‘How was Kid?’ Mum asks.

‘Ready to ride,’ Thunder says. ‘He got it. The whole team was in harmony.’

‘Great,’ says Dad.

‘Or Kid started running properly once we changed driver,’ Thunder reports. ‘Plainly Lightning knows how to be with Kid better than I do.’

‘It didn’t go badly with you,’ I say. ‘Thunder did the groundwork.’

‘But Kid is now ready to ride?’ Mum asks.

‘Yes,’ Thunder nods.

At least Thunder can’t call me indolent any more, someone who just sits in a warm car.

‘He’s brave,’ says Mum.

‘And hungry,’ says Dad, laughing as he looks at Kid devouring food.

‘And he likes the forest more then the enclosure,’ Mum puts in.

‘He likes when his legs are pumping away along with the others,’ I say, smiling.