Agile / Self-Org goes Mainstream in Traditional German Manufacturing Industry!

Rosho, the Business Monk, has a new assignment within the German traditional engineering manufacturing industry!

We all read about software development becoming agile, and I think this is no news, even though I can see a lot of misunderstandings and improvement-worth practice.

What is new, in revenge, is to see Agile / Self-Org transformations within the very traditional German engineering and manufacturing industry.

As a former “Maschinenbauer” and craftsman, Organ Builder to be precise, I was delighted to secure an agile/self-org transformation coaching assignment within the most German of all industries: mechanical manufacturing. This extraordinary company is facing the same multiple threats than the German industry and reacts incredibly: they decided to become agile and self-organised as a whole, involving 12000 people!

Here is the Story!

The traditional hardware industry faces challenges with multiple evolutions: integrating electronics, then digital and platforms, on one side, Global Warming and global competition on the other side. Then there is this new generation of workers who are not that easy-going with the traditional vertical power hierarchies and demand purposeful, work-life-balanced jobs.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that entropy becomes higher while systems become more complex over time, and all of us can see how organisations are struggling and try to “optimise” towards absurdity. Many have not seen that we can’t solve the problems with the same mindset that has created them and that a complete cultural shift is necessary to avoid disruption.

A top-down agile/self-org transformation is a fantastic experience for all these engineers and product developers. The first official assignment not only supported but initiated by top management! Over the last years, until now, I worked as a submarine, without a mandate, result-driven only. How refreshing to see strategic transformations as a reaction to threats of disruption!

How it was Planned

The company has designed 20+ agile teams in product development, in a matrix organisation, imploding the vertical power hierarchy and has decided to implement all the changes in a big bang, with a start date. People have changed buildings, floors, seats to reflect the new organisation.

Ten internal and external coaches presented themselves to the teams during a kick-off meeting, and sprint zero started immediately. Planning sessions, daily stand-ups, rules of collaboration and best practice were introduced, effect immediate.

The Major challenges

In an initial Start-Stop-Continue Starfish collective exercise, one of the major pain points was a lack of strategic digital platform, resulting in too many tools. The matrix organisation has to find a new way of coordinating efficiency, as teams have increased in number but decreased in size. The overall efficiency could suffer from many changes at the same time. The entropy increases when changes are fast.

How do we Measure the Success?

We are still tuning our KPI, but we decided already to use the meta-KPI of Organisational Entropy Quotient (Sq) to follow up graphically the progress and pace of change. We currently translate the input from the first sprint retrospectives and Starfish sessions into metrics. The transition teams plan surveys, and we follow up closely the sprint retros to fine-tune over time.

What’s next?

The deadlines and milestones of the Master Development plan are set by commercial events like fairs and presentations. The goals in terms of climate efficiency, cost reduction, new technical features and last not least design are tough to handle in short time frames, the context in which the agile and self-organised ways of working are the most likely to succeed. We are all very excited to see what happens, and I will keep you posted!

Rosho, Berlin 25th August 2019

Join Rosho’s Meetup: meetup.com/Future_of_work_organisations Follow Rosho’s blog  al.guru/blog

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