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Case Study on Agility

VUCA SCARES THE ECONOMY

The transformation from a hierarchically traditional company into an agile organization

Situation: 

The owners are a little perplexed. The numbers are still matching up, but the rigid structures are becoming increasingly unsustainable. Tenders are lost because the team does not react flexibly enough and no one accepts responsibility. If the employees don't receive direction, they won´t know what to do.

The team is also becoming increasingly frustrated. No one gives clear directions, the employees feel disorientated, are extremely unmotivated and blame "the management" for this condition. However, the respective leadership executive feels unfocused as well, and is increasingly put under pressure because he or she can no longer meet the requirements. The matrix structure is of no help here, because access to resources is shared and other colleagues "inter-govern" the team.

This theme continued to prevail in the results of the last employee survey, despite the fact that the company was once a great place to work. In the past, employees were motivated and proud to work for the company. This was evident from the very top down to the production staff.

A lot has happened in the past: Strategy development programs, mission statement development, the introduction of Lean in production, management development programs and process optimization in all variants. But none of this had a positive impact on the employees. A lot of change in structures and processes, but little implementation in everyday working life.

A change through succession planning has just taken place at the management level. The young heirs have taken over, think in a modern manner and are frustrated because they thought everyone would be relieved to leave the old hierarchical culture behind them. They have decided to help implement this change.

A CHANGE OF THINKING MUST TAKE PLACE

"We used to be told what we have to do, now we're doing whatever we think and if it goes wrong, we┬┤re in trouble."

Challenge:
  • How do we change the mindset of the employees and managers towards continuous improvement, learning environments and personal responsibility?
  • Not all employees will be able to be a part of this change.
  • How do we ensure that important subject matter experts do not leave the company?
  • Current business cannot suffer from this. How do we make sure that we don't get too occupied with ourselves, but maintain our focus on the customer?
  • There is no pressure to change in the form of numbers.
  • The purpose and benefit of the change are unclear. There have already been various initiatives and unfortunately, they have been completely unsuccessful. There is a great danger that a new attempt will be perceived as "just something new, yet again".
What is the goal of this family-owned manufacturing company?
  • Keeping up with the times and empowering employees to be satisfied and productive in a VUCA world.
  • Good figures and a great market position - securing the company's future.
  • To be able to deal with customer inquiries in a reasonable time/to make processes run smoother.
  • The creativity of the employees should be encouraged, their inventive spirits awakened.

AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE NEED FOR CHANGE IS PRODUCED

First of all, it is important to understand why we are going through a transition phase.

1. Solution: Alignment workshop with the top management team with the goal of clarification:
• Take inventory; What measures have been taken so far and what was the result?
• Why do we have to do something? Why do we have to become agile and what exactly is it?

2. Large group event on the subject of VUCA and agility.
Topics of the event:
• What is VUCA and Agility?
• Where are we currently and where do we want to go?
• How can we tackle this together?
• Opportunities and risks
• What does this mean for my stable work environment?

3. Evaluation of the results and development of concrete first steps in a follow-up to the event.

4. Prioritizing initiatives according to customer focus, benefits and feasibility.

5. A central success factor in this process was the establishment of an Agile coach pool. Interested and suitable employees were trained to become Agile coaches who have the future task of supporting the various areas in implementing Agile processes and initiatives and of supporting them with both words and actions.

6. Establishing an Agile project team to develop new patents as a beacon and test project. The first two project members to be selected are those who are dedicated to the task with their heart and soul and have experience with Agile processes. Contrary to the usual procedure of advertising jobs according to competence profiles, the purpose and the goal of the project is advertised. Irrespective of the competence profile, anyone who wants to create added value to this project can apply.

7. Introduction of Scrum and other Agile methods.

8. Cross-hierarchy cooperation was encouraged and "practiced" through dialogue interventions.

9. Establishment of a supervision team for Agile coaches to support each other and keep an eye on the progress of the process.


Impact:
  • Understanding of the need for change
  • Adjustment of the image of agility
  • Employee involvement and a resulting higher commitment
  • Self-responsibility can be tested and experienced at the large group event through formats such as open space etc.
  • Appreciation and encouragement for agile thinking people. The project team provides them with a "natural habitat" in which they can live according to their strengths and values within the still unchanged culture, instead of getting frustrated, because cultural change does not happen as quickly as they would like.
  • Effective development processes - A new culture of innovation
  • Continuous improvement through Agile coaches who advise each other. 
  • The impetus for cultural change is provided by structural impulses, according to the motto: Culture follows structure.

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