Regaining control from unions

Regaining control from unions, Chemical production company, Antwerp, workforce of 250.

  • Tense social climate and repeated social crises have totally ruined the working atmosphere
  • Employees are demotivated by recurring internal problems
  • Absenteeism is increasing month after month
  • Investment budgets are severely limited by the crisis
  • Still, the factory must be run more efficiently to stay competitive
  • The challenge: demonstrate to employees, but also to management that they can change/improve a lot themselves
  • Management needs to “take back” the factory to avoid downsizing


Listening sessions at all levels (individual) and in group for the teams to get to the bottom of a number of trouble spots from the recent SD Works survey (no duplication of effort)

Action points formulated around the following themes:

1.Sustainable trust of directors/management/employees

2.Increase future-oriented leadership N-1, N-2, N-3

3.Productive time management with efficiency improvements and coordination arrangements

4.Develop more efficient work organisation for 2 sub-activities

5.Develop stimulating communication, coordination and consultation throughout the company

6.Cascade inspiring and motivating strategy throughout the plant

7.Renewed dialogue with the social partner: move on from the past, make new agreements in consultation


  • Step-by-step plan over 3 years
  • Year 1: focus on strengthening trust by making better use of the N-3s
  • Organisational structure redesigned and responsibilities clearly defined.
  • Initiative to start with a fixed monthly communication
  • Monthly consultation of management and N-3s started, to keep a finger on the pulse and to be able to work with a more anticipatory approach
  • Tackling absenteeism with a clear policy Addressed recurring disruptions with a major budget impact to free up existing resources for investments


  • After six months, positive signs of “peace process” were already detectable in terms of industrial relations.
  • A whole series of problems have been addressed that were previously swept under the rug or concealed.
  • Many actions have led to “quick wins” in terms of cost savings and have made more room for investments that boost competitiveness.
  • A number of trouble spots in terms of inadequate management have been addressed and permanently resolved.
  • For the first time in 30 years, the 3-yearly shutdown was carried out on time and within budget
  • The factory has learnt that a lot of intrinsic added value can be tapped into to remain competitive.

Creating new future

Creating new future, Travel agency, 30 people in Brussels.

  • CEO and CFO are fired (breach of shareholder’s trust)
  • New CEO is appointed but the team in Brussels refuses to accept it and threatens with a split
  • A split-off would mean the end of the office


  • Atmosphere is very hostile to change.
  • CEO and CFO have “agitated” the people against the shareholder and had already started organising a split-off in secret.
  • New CEO is very professional, has been working in the group for a long time but in a different travel segment. Employees are reluctant to accept him because he allegedly has no experience in their luxury segment. In fact, they would like to run the office themselves.
  • Employees have drawn up a document with their requirements for the recruitment of a new CEO. Many requirements are unrealistic.


  • Proposal: not a “frontal” attack but involving employees in the “new” project, building the travel agency of the future.
  • As a result, gradually gaining the confidence of the employees in the new CEO.
  • At the same time, using the expertise and talents of employees to take the business to an even higher level of customer loyalty.
  • Harvard methodology used to determine the company’s vision and mission together with employees.
  • Based on this, draw up a strategic plan for 3 years.
  • Involve all employees in the implementation of the plan.


  • Created a very strong shared vision and mission, which employees and shareholder support 100%
  • Trust in the CEO has grown.
  • Willingness to work on the future can be seen in the daily improvements (work organisation, follow-up of customers, etc.).
  • Shareholder agrees to give employees shares.
  • A crisis has been avoided.
  • Survival is assured.
  • Implementation of the strategic plan: using SEAM for this as well is currently being considered.

Risk Management

Managing risks, Energy Production & Energy Trading.

  • The ERM exercise has shown that a pandemic is a substantial risk for which insufficient business contingency is foreseen.
  • The potential impact is insufficiently clear and no plans have been drawn up for this specific scenario.
  • Planning for a pandemic requires a specific approach.
  • A pandemic is not geographically limited, and can occur in waves that last for several months and affect all suppliers and customers at the same time.


  • Work sessions with all business units, both intra-business and inter-business, to analyze the strategic and tactical business impact.
  • Based on a risk analysis, a contingency strategy and budget vision is proposed.
  • Specific Business Continuity Plans (BCP) must be drawn up for each production unit (PU), for the head office (HQ) and for the IT service (ICT).


  • The BCPs of the PU’s, HQ and ICT each require a specific approach. Workgroups are set up with a BCP downer at board level each time.
  • A gap analysis indicates that ICT facilities need to be reviewed to take into account maximum homeworking and the strict regulations for certain activities.
  • Proposals and restrictions are fed back to BCP-owners.
  • Strategic outsourcing partners are involved in the exercise.
  • For necessary on-site activities, protocols are developed, together with H&S management, to protect employees at work.
  • A general BCP document is drawn up, with sub-plans for the different services.
  • After approval, the plans are tested (table top & live testing).


  • The BCP Pandemic has been approved by the management and works council.
  • The Pandemic BCP is embedded in the daily operation of the organization, with annual exercises. Responsibilities to keep the plan up to date are indicated.
  • The plans were successfully put into operation during the Covid-19 pandemic, 10 years after they were initially elaborated.

Risk analysis of major ERP investment

Risk analysis of major ERP investment.

  • The management team decided to replace outdated Core-IT systems with an ERP system.
  • The project is technically complex and a heavy financial investment.
  • When the financial results of the company disappoint, the CEO asks for an evaluation of the investment and a risk analysis of the project plan.
    • 3 countries are involved.
    • The management team does not support the project roadmap.
    • Feasibility of the project, both technically and financially, is key.


    • Several work sessions with the management show that the company has no experience with complex projects.
    • Square Circle is appointed to make an evaluation of the investment and the proposed implementation roadmap.


    • Preparation of three alternative implementation roadmaps, together with the project team.
    • Interviews with project stakeholders to identify business risk appetite and high level project risks.
    • Review of the budgets, together with the project team and the CFO.
    • Based on critical uncertainties in the budgeting exercises, a Palissde @Risk Monte Carlo model is drawn up for project cost and project planning.
    • The results of the analysis are presented.


    • Preparation of three alternative implementation roadmaps, together with the project team.
    • The ERP Implementation will be implemented in phases, instead of the initially approved “Big Bang” approach.
    • Contingency Plan is an integral part of the revised plan.
    • The revised project cost and the Value @ Risk have been validated by the CFO and are within the risk appetite of the company.
    • The project team and the leadership team support the revised plan.

      Risk Management in FinTech start-up

      Risk Management in a FinTech startup (13 employees).

      • A FinTech start-up offers a portal for investors and small businesses looking for start-up and growth capital.
      • The FinTech start-up itself is looking for investors and partners, but these require proper risk reporting
      • Partnerships with banks require professional risk reporting that not only identifies financial portfolio risks, but also operational risks.
      • Sound risk management strengthens the image.


      • Several work sessions with the partners show that the company does not have a systematic approach to identify and manage risks.
      • It is decided to implement “Enterprise Risk Management” in a systematic way, with knowledge transfer to the FinTech employees


      • Through workshops, both internal and external risks were identified in different domains
      • The risk appetite was determined.
      • The risks were analyzed and included in a fully elaborated risk register with heatmap.
      • A specific approach was developed for each type of risk.
      • (risk management framework)
      • Risk Owners are indicated.
      • Relevant Key Risk Indicators have been chosen as the basis for reporting.
      • The ICT risks have been identified (according to the ISO 27001 and ISO 27032 standards).


      • This approach ensured greater transparency of the risks throughout the organization, which facilitated rapid remediation.
      • The systematic approach was incorporated into the daily way of working and formed the basis for subsequent compliance audits.
      • A maturity model was drawn up, with a plan to reach the target level within three years.