Prior to Western Union, I studied Biology because it was one of the top 5 careers in Costa Rica with the highest unemployment rate at the time. Unfortunately, I was unemployed so I applied for a job with Western Union. I had intended on staying at WU until finding another role in Biology, but over time, the company trained me, developed me and gave me opportunities for growth; the great working environment was hard to match.
During my time at Western Union, I had the opportunity to participate in a Cross-Functional Team (XFT). To be included was not easy. Managers of the different participant teams nominated two people for the team and three as back ups. I was initially chosen as a back up. I was determined to show my interest, engagement and desire of being part of the team. During training I participated actively as if I was a full team member. One of the members of the Know Your Customer team chosen by the manager was not going to be able to participate because of schedule conflicts, and due to my committement, I was selected to be an active member of the team! I can not describe my feelings of pride and happiness. My hard work paid off and was noticed and recognized. I was told: “you have shown that you want to be here more than anybody else, it is what the team needs and we have no doubt that you will be an important contributor.”
The XFT provided me with knowledge, skills, tools, and leadership skills that I learned from only the best. Nicole Zimmermann led the XFT and was always motivating us, trusting in our work. She was there, laughing with us, talking to us, as one more member of the team. This created a family, not a team, and it was the first time I lived this type of teamwork experience. The advice I received, the conversations and just observing how, when, and why she led us became a constant leadership lesson. During the middle of the pilot, I applied to be a KYC (‘Know Your Customer’) Team leader and earned the position.
As the KYC Lead, I was able to apply what I had learned in my experience with the XFT. Over 2 years I managed several ‘families’ (as they were more than just teams); many of us are still in touch. The advice and tips I gave to my team I learned and received from Nicole, and the XFT team. The experience with Nicole and the XFT created a mindset of constant change, lean management thinking and ensuring that I was applying what I had learned such as process reviews, analysis, and updates with lean techniques like Product Service Systems (PSS) for continuous improvement.
Today, Western Union is reinventing itself as a company. COVID-19 has caused us to reevaluate ourselves as a company and how we work as teams and individuals in our strengths and areas of improvement. The base of our success as a company and for me as a leader today is the WU Way and the lean principles and techniques I learned.
Each technique I learned during the XFT brings value to today’s experience with this pandemic. Huddles are the main team tool for engagement, recognition and understanding the day-to-day goal and focus of the activities. Discussing the team’s mood, makes it easier to know as a leader who needs more support. Today, people experience different emotions that affect work, motivation, engagement, and performance; this is where one-on-one sessions become crucial for everyone. Discussing how people feel and understanding their day to day struggles at work and home, is important today for each team member. Knowing your team at a personal level, having open communication, setting up expectations and treating everyone with respect makes the team a family that will support each other in the good times and the bad. Today, my team supports each other and motivates me even when our moods change.
Problem solving and root cause analysis are two lean principles used to look for constant improvement of our customers’ journeys. Both lean techniques were introduced to me during the XFT experience and today, they are the foundation of my team and what we do daily for the sake of our customers, finding and eliminating waste. As part of the Global Complaints Resolution and Root Cause Analysis team, we work towards being FIT as a company through lean principles, for our success as a team and as a company.