Partena, the healthy reflex

2016 – Partena is a health insurance/social security fund in Belgium. At the end of 2014 after a merger the organisation embarked on a project renewing the organisation of this office network.

Kaat Goorts wrote an article about this best practice in the magazine of Flandres Synergy, which is summarized below.

The workplace innovation
October 2014 Partena started a project Innovative Work Organisation with Flandres Synergy. Hierarchical layers were removed and decisions were laid further down in the organisation. They gradually started to work in autonomous teams.

Drivers and approach
Following a merger in 2013 the organisation was in crisis: it had become more layered and less agile; there were long lead times and the service in general needed improvement. Those were the reasons to start the project Innovative Work Organisation.
The first step was a reduction of the number of hierarchical layers and an adjustment of the working processes in the remaining layers. Management tasks were reinvested in ‘star roles’ .
The second step intended to redesign the existing geographical grouping of the work so that teams could be formed with a whole task. But that was not easy. Therefore they began retraining the eight office managers to team leaders.
The third step was a gradual start of teams. Two pilot teams were established in February 2015 and from May on every week a new team started. In total there are 10 teams now. The first issue where a new team had to deal with, turned out to be the resource management: ‘how many people in which roles are needed to achieve our objectives?’.

Now the teams decide when, who, where will work and how they will plan their appointments. They, themselves are responsible for achieving their goals.
Nowadays the goals are met.
The employee engagement has increased enormously. There is more mutual confidence and the capabilities of employees are better used. More and more the team leaders are seeing competencies coming up in the teams.

Lessons learned
Working with pilot teams to begin with, has many advantages. One is that the dissemination of information throughout the organization about how it feels to work in an autonomous group slowly but surely being taken over by peers.
Starting with the resource planning is difficult. However you have all the right issues on the table, right at the start.
Even now the teams are working autonomously improvement is still needed, particularly in the area of the new leadership. That is finding the right solutions to the dilemmas ‘intervention versus let go’  or  ‘control versus trust’.


Goorts, Kaat. ‘ De gezonde reflex.’ In: Flandres Synergy, GePROJECTeerd/Goede praktijken, 2016, pp. 10 – 13. The article is attached.