Case Study

Simplify@Scale: Agile leadership at Rabobank

27 pages
June 2022
Reference: IMD-7-2396

Rabobank had become one of the agile frontrunners in Europe’s banking industry. As the company entered the next phase of its transformation, known as Simplify@Scale, it needed to take stock, not only of its success in implementing agile processes but also of the quality of the leadership that had emerged across the organization. With agile structures largely in place across the bank’s global operations, the company began to focus on developing a new organizational culture and an agile brand of leadership. Beyond delivering speed and flexibility in a disrupted and increasingly digital landscape, agile at Rabobank had been a vehicle for strengthening the values of accountability, transparency and craftsmanship in its workforce. Importantly, the agile organizational redesign had flattened the hierarchy and shifted decision making towards the frontline. This resulted in a management landscape in which – rather than dictating – leaders were expected to empower and enable teams to make their own decisions and come up with their own solutions. For most, this required a continuous process of developing awareness of and proficiency in several new modes and styles of leadership. At the same time, leaders had to dispel the notion that agile was about working in a free-flowing, wholly spontaneous fashion. Their task was to enforce a disciplined set of team rituals and coordination mechanisms – the Rabobank “heartbeat.” Meanwhile, continuous scaling of agile structures and processes within the bank produced some unforeseen challenges, particularly in the areas of setting priorities and allocating resources. These underscored the competing dynamics of leadership agility: Leaders as subjects as well as objects of power and influence, who both initiate and absorb change while concurrently thinking and doing.

Learning Objective
  • Understanding skills and behaviors that managers need to adapt to an agile style of leadership
  • Unleashing personal potential and leadership in employees and teams, while reinforcing a shared purpose, values and incentives
  • Identifying viable, transferrable ways of addressing the challenges of embracing leadership agility
  • Capturing and operationalizing insight into issues and demands of agile leadership
  • Anticipating and addressing unexpected outcomes in a large-scale change program.     
Agility, Leadership Competence, Organizational Transformation, Culture Change, Star Model
Europe, Netherlands
Rabobank, Finance and Insurance, Financial Services
Field Research
© 2022
Available Languages
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