Being able to create added value in the complexity and dynamism of the digital world through innovative ideas and new concepts requires new structures and ways of working. At Audi Business Innovation (ABI), we rely on a flexible, self-organised system that is constantly being refined and adjusted to the current requirements of the organisation.
That is why, in 2016, we embarked on a journey of transformation which today you can read about in a management book: ‘The Loop Approach’. In doing so, we committed ourselves to the goal of changing from the inside out and of establishing a system that allows us exactly the flexibility we need to satisfy all external and internal requirements.
Culture and mindset
We know that personal attitude, individual behaviour, a common culture and lived structures are closely related and interact. That is why we try to optimise and alter our approach in these areas by focusing on people and, at the same time, bolstering our team spirit. By emphasising purpose and strengths, we ensure that every Audi Business Innovation employee (we’re known as ‘ABInauts’) can make a meaningful contribution and is highly self-motivated. Together, we keep on striving for improvement through a wide variety of feedback formats and often come up with new ideas and approaches in the process. In addition, the issue of being appreciative and respectful in our dealings with colleagues is taken very seriously at Audi Business Innovation and is therefore also an important part of our corporate culture.
Internationalisation & remote work
There are currently 18 different nationalities represented at Audi Business Innovation. To show full respect and appreciation to our international colleagues, we have also set ourselves the goal of continually making Audi Business Innovation more international – and that includes switching the language we use within the company to English. We consciously want to change the language as a cultural element to give all nationalities the opportunity to become part of the Audi Business Innovation community without language barriers. This goes hand-in-hand with our journey to becoming a ‘remote company light’ (i.e. partial remote-working), which has gathered pace even more in these times of coronavirus. Currently, all employees have the option of working remotely in Germany. And in the future, our collaboration will continue to take place flexibly at our physical and virtual workplaces. By doing this, we want to enable greater flexibility and, at the same time, minimise our ecological footprint. Our aim for the future is to work together beyond our border, without, of course, denying colleagues the option of using our flexdesk concept in our attractive offices in Munich city centre.
Diversity is another fundamental part of the culture at Audi Business Innovation. Ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation have no influence on remuneration or our dealings with each other.
We live a culture of fairness and equality and believe that diverse and mixed teams develop the best solutions and most innovative products.
Training and development
The issue of training and development is also of great importance at Audi Business Innovation. That’s why each employee is entitled to an annual budget and corresponding allocation of training days for external courses that contribute specifically towards the individual’s personal and/or professional development. There are also many courses available within the company to promote continuous further development at both the individual and team level. These range from constructive communication, individual coaching and facilitator training through to ‘purpose journeys’, strengths-coaching formats and the use of internal mediators for conflict resolution.
Organisation and team structures
The work at Audi Business Innovation is characterised by a self-organised, principles-based roles organisation, complemented by the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe framework) in the areas where it is useful and necessary. The working method and structure of the respective teams are based on how the team can currently best respond to customer requirements, and at the same time create the greatest value. Our teams are therefore in constant iteration and move around within the framework of the principles-based self-organisation with the individuality required in each case.
‘Agile teams’ is the term that fits all units at Audi Business Innovation. The teams in the area of product development close to the customer are very much geared to SAFe and the roles and processes incorporated in it. Within the framework, we work on the basis of agile working methods with Scrum or Kanban. But collaboration as a Circle is also nothing unusual in the Audi Business Innovation organisation. Corporate Services, by contrast, represent a balanced mix of what is needed at Audi Business Innovation. Here they increasingly resort to a ‘circle organisation’ which, however, is entirely oriented in its processes towards program increment (PI) planning, the core element of SAFe, in order to be able to provide maximum added value for the teams.
What exactly is a Circle?
Each circle has a clearly defined purpose. All the roles necessary to fulfil this purpose are part of the circle. One of the standard roles that can be found within or in cooperation with a circle is the circle guide, the protector of the purpose and the role which ensures that the team is able to function. This role has strong parallels with a traditional scrum master role. In addition, each circle has a circle sponsor who represents a link between team and company and is therefore available as a sparring partner, as well as ensuring alignment with the corporate strategy.
But how do we ensure that the scattered competencies in the agile teams exchange views and develop in the interests of the company? For this we have established two elements: the ‘Homebase’ and the ‘Community of Practice (CoP)’.
What are Homebases and CoPs?
Homebases and CoPs
Homebases (also known as ‘competence clusters’) represent the ‘home port’ of each ABInaut. Here colleagues with the same or similar skills meet and discuss their professional development. General knowledge sharing, training and expertise, and staffing are issues which find a place in a Homebase and are also discussed. Here it is about a medium to long-term perspective for the individuals and their skills. An example for a Homebase is that of the scrum master who can equally well cover the roles of release train engineer or solution train engineer since the roles work with similar competencies.
In contrast, Communities of Practice, CoPs for short, have the focus of a rather short-term case consultation. Here questions are asked, current challenges are discussed and solutions are shared. An example of this is the CoP for release train engineers as the challenges in this role and the collegial case consultation are to the fore.