VTT Shifts Its Focus to Customer Needs: Dear Customer, How Can We Help?

Antti Vasara and Kirsi Nuotto from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd explain how a research-centered focus gave way to customer orientation. “We began to think about what the customer needs, and then how the need or problem can be solved.” The change was supported by a program tailored with Aalto EE.

Reetta Räty, 22.08.2018

As VTT set out to renew its strategy, in a nutshell the situation was this: The foundations were right. Its technical, scientific, and technological expertise were at the top of the game. The way things worked was to concentrate on conducting good research, and if someone of interested, selling it on. The change aimed to reshuffle this by first thinking about what customers and society need – and then to come up with ways to assist in the questions and challenges they had.  

The aim of the change is to be both research and service-oriented.”

Antti Vasara began as President and CEO in 2015. “We wanted to develop a way to work with customers. The aim is to be both research and service-oriented.”

Almost the entire leadership team was revamped in connection to the process. Changes were carried out on almost every level of management: people were reshuffled, recruited externally, and trained.

VTT has a key role in Finnish society: almost every Finnish company that centers on a technical invention has been a customer of VTT at some point in time. The same goes for all the ministries and other public administrative bodies. VTT is neither a university or a business as such, yet it has similarities with both. “VTT is a combination of different realms. Everything we do is based on research data, but as a company, we share features with business life”, Vasara explains. “Value is created for the research we conduct when someone takes it into use.”

Programs to support the change were jointly tailored for the leadership team and senior management. Kirsi Nuotto, VTT’s Senior Vice President, Human Resources, mentions that she had a strong sense that the program was “made for us”.

The goals of Aalto EE’s tailored programs are set according to customer needs.”

“Aalto EE has had our best interest at heart, we’ve been heard, and if anything needed adjusting or required more focus, it was fixed.” Nuotto found the program inspiring: “It brought us together. The leadership team feels that the program had an impact, we know each other better now, and are aware of the direction we want to take VTT and its leadership.”

The goals of Aalto EE’s tailored programs are set according to customer needs. The programs with VTT included e.g. the following modules: Transformational Leadership, Creating Customer Impact, and Driving Strategy Forward.

Vasara describes the situation with the fundamental questions what, how, and why. The program focused on the how. “It is not a question of focusing on the wrong things before. We needed a change to how we do things.”

Vasara and Nuotto both state that changes were quickly evident in the organization. People acted and talked differently than before: thinking about the customer’s problem or need comes first, which is then sought to be solved. “It is noticeable that people enjoy being able to solve others’ problems.”

Workshop days that were part of the program were preceded with pre-assignments. Participants from VTT were motivated to learn and discuss. Nuotto and Vasara were also pleased with the way VTT’s experts challenged lecturers. “The pre-assignments were completed meticulously, and a really good dialogue ensued.”

Today, meaningfulness of work is recognized as an important source of motivation.”

In Aalto EE programs, academic elements overlap with practical exercises. In connection to the program, VTT’s leadership team discussed its leadership principles. Antti Vasara lists the foundations: “Empathy and trust, encouraging to share and collaborate, and self-initiative – if something doesn’t work, it is addressed… These issues were bubbling under the surface for a long time, but with Aalto EE, we processed them into a suitable form for us.”

Participating in a program together brings people close to each other and supports commitment to a shared leadership culture. “At VTT, people are passionate about their work. They also want to develop in their work: how to improve communication, provide feedback, what type of leadership is in line with our strategy”, Nuotto illustrates.

Today, meaningfulness of work is recognized as an important source of motivation, and something that has been also discussed at VTT: “We have aimed to emphasize that a project is not meaningful in itself, but through it something meaningful is achieved.”

VTT & Aalto EE - Objectives of the Program

Transformational Leadership

Enhance a common leadership culture by identifying and activating leadership behaviors that will ensure the successful execution of VTT’s strategy and drive required transformation.

Focus on how to create the culture of excellence and on how to trigger continuous change and renewal.

Creating Customer Impact

To get a strategic view of customer relationships, how customers create value for themselves, and how solution-, opportunity-, and vision-driven services add to this process.

Driving Strategy Forward

To gain greater visibility into the different ways in which a market, a domain or a landscape can evolve, and to be prepared with the right moves.

To integrate scenario craft with strategy frameworks; to see uncertainty as opportunity and craft high-level portfolios of strategic options that have a better chance of yielding success.

With over 40 years’ experience, Aalto EE develops world-class solutions for its customers. Read more about Aalto EE's customized solutions.

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