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Agility, purpose, digitization - let's get some meat on the buzzwords

Putting a first layer of meat to the buzzwords of our time

A kaleidoscope of colorful speakers, topics and messages resonated through the Trinitatis Church in Cologne during the 4th #digital #leadership #summit, held on June 26th. The day’s backbone was structured around #digitization and its’ effects on #organization & #collaboration; leadership; and #talent development.

Manifold buzzwords of our time melted into a familiar song about #agility, user experience (#UX), #newwork, #purpose, #millennials, or #autonomy… Yet, many of these terms were enriched by promising real-life evidence and user stories, which put some tangible meat to the bone of the word and provided proof of how these abstract concepts are invigorated by concrete application.

Highlights spanned from agile production, purpose-driven innovation to pick-and-choose agility

My personal highlight was the best practice case from e.Go – one of the most digital #production facilities in Germany. Dr. Casimir Ortlieb (CEO of e.Go Digital GmbH) demonstrated how simplifying something as complex, regulated and technical, as a production process can turn into something user-centric and agile.

e.Go designs and produces concepts of #mobility. With their maxim “simplification-as-a-service” the team around Prof. Dr. Schuh addresses the current longing for simple solutions (see e.Go Mobile & e.Go Life).

Casimir offered an integrated and cross-functional perspective on production – in which user experience is one of the key success factors, accounting for higher product quality. Agility implies moving away from the traditional, consecutive and process-oriented routine towards a parallel, simultaneous and object-oriented approach; which requires a different mindset and courage to try out. Real-time data as well as one single dataset and source –accessible and used across functions – are (visionary) requirements for the new approach to function successfully.

I loved the implicit invitation extended to engineers to step out of their comfort zone and emerge into “fail fast and early”.

Claudia Willvonseder (VP IKEA Switzerland) impressed with her unpretentious, clear and matter-of-factly communication style. For years, #IKEA has lived up to their founder’s vision of “creating a better life for many people”. By today, IKEA has transformed Ingvar Kamprad’s original vision into acorporate purpose. Not just a phrase but a “strategic model” -as Claudia states it- proving that purpose, people and profits do go together.

Following Simon Sinek’s concept, IKEA has detailed the Golden Circle using “a better everyday life for the many people” as its’ central WHY. Those of us who are familiar with the structure of a WHY statement miss the “impact” part of it. “A better everyday life for the many people” could be considered as contribution to society. So what is the impact of this contribution?

Nonetheless, IKEA demonstrates how corporate purpose can be consistently used and ruthlessly applied to derive values, guiding principles (HOW) as well as define products and services (WHAT).

IKEA lives and decides by the unique formula that purpose-driven insights backed up by data, paired with creativity equals loved products (p-d insights + data x creativity = love2). Customer #proximity and #connection being key drivers to gaining those insights. Thank you, Claudia, for providing a prime example of integrating purpose as a key element of strategic business decisions and actions.

Level Up (Deutsche Telekom’s initiative to promote and enhance agile leadership) provides a compass towards agility and purpose-driven leadership. The compass entails six main levers for agile transformation. Instead of tackling all areas at once, departments may decide which area is most fitting to start living “agile”. I very much liked how their 6 leadership principles unite the ambiguities and dilemmas of every day leadership life and invite leaders to reflect on the balance and situational need of transparency vs. trust; pause vs. acceleration; degree’s of freedom vs. monitored iteration.

Katharina Krentz’s (New Work Consultant at Bosch Group) energy, drive and passion for Working Out Load (#WOL) blew the audience away during a hot afternoon low. Enthusiastically, she provided evidence-based benefits #Bosch continues to recognize since starting the initiative in 2015. To my very personal surprise (and joy), Bosch even applies WOL circles in the production environment uniting blue- and white-collar employees to break down structural silos and jointly work towards achieving personal goals.

Digital leadership summit #4 without controversy

The dynamics of the day were pleasant and unanimous. Both, audience and speakers could have benefited from diverse, maybe even clashing opinions and moderator-led controversial debate. The breadth of topics offered enough opportunity for pro’s and con’s and room for discussion. Let’s go there next year.

In a nutshell

If you did not make it to the summit, here is what you need to know:

- There is no such thing as one common understanding or one clear definition of digital leadership. It may mean different things to different people and companies. And that’s great.

- Along the value chain user experience (UX) is a pivoting factor for product success. UX has the power to unite teams cross-functionally synchronizing technical development and practical application

- Purpose, people and profits do go together. Not only Larry Fink says so, but Claudia Willvonseder, too.

- Agile leadership is not black and white. It’s a grey continuum between opposites – and that might feel uncomfortable to some of us.

- WOL is not some sort of intellectual pastime. It is a useful tool to overcome functional and structural silos and get some work done.


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