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ING Bank: Creating an Agile Organisation

By Julian Birkinshaw, Scott Duncan


Set in 2016, this case describes ING Bank’s implementation of a radical new way of working using agile principles. ING’s agile way of working has been written up in Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review and McKinsey Quarterly. This case provides a detailed account of how the new structure was developed and implemented. The case describes the process of change in ING Bank, from the aftermath of the global financial crisis to 2016. It provides background information on two change initiatives (Tango and Less is More) that simplified and rationalised the bank’s activities, then it provides a detailed account of the major transformation that became known as RIO (“Redesign into Omnichannel”). It focuses on the choices made by Bart Schlatmann, COO of the Netherlands business, and his team – to pursue an omnichannel strategy (i.e. where all channels to market are linked together and managed seamlessly) and to build an organisation to support this strategy that drew inspiration from digital companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. The subsequent restructuring into “agile” teams was a groundbreaking move for a company in the rather conservative banking industry. The case provides lots of detail on how this new model works in practice. After 12 months 3,000 staff had embraced the culture of agile methodology. At the end of the case, Schlatmann had to consider two main questions: (1) How to balance the autonomy of tribes with alignment to the company’s strategic objective; and (2) How to roll out agile to other parts of the ING.

Learning objectives

  1. Understand the concept of ‘agile working’ and what the pros and cons of this organising model are.
  2. Explain how agile really works in practice – what it feels like to be part of a self-organising team, how bottom-up team activities are aligned to top-down demands.
  3. Gain insight into a change process in a large established firm, especially focusing on the incremental steps that need to be taken before a more radical move is possible.
  4. Provide insight into the challenges facing established banks in a contemporary setting, as they try to get to grips with the digital revolution.


Publication Date: September 2016
LBS Case Code: CS-18-016
Subjects: , , , ,
Pages: 23
Format: pdf