Why every company needs an X-team

When Namibia recorded its first cases of Covid-19 in March 2020, Lithon was perfectly positioned to meet the pandemic’s challenges head-on and seamlessly transitioned to remote work within a single weekend. And that’s largely thanks to the company’s strategic planning and its earlier deployment of an X-Team – a group of young employees tasked with assessing the Group’s hardware, software, and network systems. Here’s a look at the tremendous impact this team has had on the business.

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” – James Clear

“One of the keys to success for any business is to continuously learn and adapt. You have to be agile and ready for change,” says Lithon Holdings CEO Adriaan Grobler. Although Lithon has a 30-year strategy with a clearly defined destination, the business remains flexible and continues to map new routes to stay on track – which is how its X-Team came into being at the end of 2019.

During a strategic planning session, Lithon identified “Systems and Technology – Working Smarter Not Harder” as one of its key focus areas. And in line with this focus, it appointed a team of Millennial and Gen Z employees to review the business’s systems and tech capabilities – not only for the benefit of its staff members but also to serve its customers more effectively. The X-Team, as the group became known, was asked to explore the latest tech solutions in consulting and construction and present their recommendations to Lithon’s Exco.

An early win

The X-Team got to work in early 2020, and within weeks their findings began to inform the company’s ICT strategy. To enable Lithon to expand its team beyond Namibia and draw on international expertise, the entire organisation transitioned to Microsoft Teams, a single platform with centralised file access, video conferencing capabilities, and document storage. All systems were upgraded right before Covid-19 hit, and it took just one weekend for the entire company to move to full remote work.

Taking technology-focused strides

Over the past 2 years, Lithon has continued to implement the team’s recommendations. Not only has the business upgraded its hardware and replaced its servers, but it’s also started to roll out Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology on selected projects. BIM is a process that enables all parties (architects, engineers, electricians, etc.) to collaborate on a project simultaneously. The business is fully invested in the use of this technology and has recently appointed a designated staff member to facilitate its rollout within the Group.

Far-reaching business benefits

The introduction of the X-Team has brought tremendous value to the business in more ways than one, says Grobler. “The changes we’re implementing are making us more agile and competitive. Thanks to our new systems, we’re able to take on larger projects and provide an even better service to our clients,” he says. “And as a business invested in adapting to the latest technological advances, we’re also able to attract the best engineering talent.” 

Another strategic advantage is that the X-Team process has contributed to growing and developing the company’s young employees. “There’s been a mentorship and coaching aspect to the process,” says Grobler, who sat in on regular team meetings and provided guidance when needed. “It’s been a fantastic opportunity for our young team members to think strategically, take on leadership roles, and be actively involved in building the business.”  

Change management: a key to success

Lithon has taken the bold step of introducing new systems and technologies, but how has it approached getting critical company-wide buy-in? “Change management is key, and I believe this starts with good leadership,” says Grobler. Over the past few years, Lithon has focused on creating an environment for people to embrace new technology and ideas. There are open lines of communication, thanks to daily and weekly meetings across all business units. And it’s this open communication that Grobler believes will make all the difference when it comes to system adoption. “Effective communication is one of our biggest strengths, and we work hard to ensure that everyone in the company is always up to speed.”  

What’s next for the X-Team?

For Lithon, the X-Team is more of a strategic activation than an ongoing project. The team will regroup to provide strategic input and recommendations on an annual basis or as needed. And while its membership will remain fluid, it will always be populated by the youngest staff members in the company.

For Grobler, the inaugural X-Team has been a great success, and he’s excited about what future technological advances will mean for the Group as it expands into Africa and beyond. “We see where technology is heading, and we’re equipping ourselves for the future to ensure that our business is scalable,” he says.