After a pause imposed by the coronavirus-related lockdown, the L-DIH Talks are back again, now as a series of webinars that will run weekly until the beginning of June. The session on 23 April focused on agile organisations. “When you innovate, it is very difficult to predict the results,” said Sylvain Chery, co-founder and director of Agile Partner. “Businesses need to build capabilities to experiment and learn what works for them.” He put forward five key points to successfully achieve this:

  • Companies should build cross-functional, creative delivery teams whose members have different skillsets and the ability to think outside the box;
  • the teams should be enabled to select the right digital tools and technologies;
  • customers should be included so that the teams can understand their true needs;
  • teams should be autonomous and empowered to explore new things; and
  • iteration is crucial. Companies should not wait to go to market until their product is perfect, but try it out as early as possible to get feedback and improve step by step.

Flexible teams

Flexible structures with flexible teams are needed, but this is not always easy to achieve in large organisations that have already existed for some time. However, it is not impossible. Martin Akar, manager of MHP Management und IT-Beratung GmbH – a subsidiary of Porsche MHP – shared the example of “Audi Denkwerkstatt”, an agile structure set up by Audi to contribute to the company’s future viability as a premium mobility provider. While the core organisation of Audi is a highly structured and stable car manufacturer, the role of the Denkwerkstatt is to function as a highly flexible digital ecosystem that defines and explores new ideas and concepts.

Agile teams should have a clear mandate and focus on work that is of high relevance to the core organisation.

Located in Berlin – a hotspot for mobility innovation – it consists of a permanent team of 9 that invites members of the core organisation to join them for 6-month periods. “Instead of forcing the agile methodology on the whole organisation, the opportunity of being part of the Denkwerkstatt is seen as a privilege,” Mr Akar pointed out. “When the employees return after their spell in Berlin, they become ambassadors for the new approach that they have learnt.” He underlined that both the stable core organisation and the digital ecosystem are needed, and neither is superior to the other. “However, the agile teams should have a clear mandate and focus on work that is of high relevance to the core organisation.”

Agile learning to drive business performance

Agile teams are crucial for companies to be able to adapt and survive in a socio-economic environment that has become quite unstable and unpredictable. A key factor is agile learning, argued Sylvain Cottong, co-founder of The HOW Institute. “Scalable learning is replacing scalable efficiency as the single most important parameter for organisational performance and resilience,” he said. The ability to learn faster than competitors has become an essential success factor.

“It has been proven that on-the-job learning is more efficient than formal learning,” said Mr Cottong. “Agile learning can have different formats, both digital and non-digital. Learners can define individual curricula that meet their needs and then learn autonomously.”

Adapting to innovation: the case of Guala Closures

The L-DIH Talk was concluded by Piero Cavigliasso, Group Innovation Technology Director of Guala Closures Group, a world market leader in the production of aluminium and “non-refillable” bottle closures. A few years ago, the company started to develop a completely new concept of closures, namely connected caps containing a chip that links them to a digital platform via radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. Using their mobile phones, clients can authenticate their bottles and get advice on optimal storing and consumption. This also allows producers to obtain data from their clients. “Introducing this new technology also opened the door for introducing new business models based on digital marketing, consumer engagement, tracking and tracing,” explained Mr Cavigliasso.

This great new opportunity also brought challenges. “We made a big effort to develop the Internet of Things platform to which the smart caps should be connected with support from external consultants, but this was new and outside our core competence. In the end, we found that outsourcing was a much better solution and actually became shareholders in a start-up specialised in this field.”

Introducing this new technology also opened the door for introducing new business models.

The second major challenge was the dialogue with the clients regarding this radical innovation. “Our sales force had serious difficulties in explaining the new products to clients, and we also realised that we were interacting with the wrong contacts on the client side,” says Mr Cavigliasso. “The first time I had a meeting with a client’s digital acceleration manager instead of the usual purchase manager, everything changed! Once we started to talk with the right people, who understood what value our product could bring to their organisation, we were able to start working efficiently. In less than 18 months, we could start producing large volumes of connected caps and bottling with them at our clients’ premises.”

He underlined that introducing such a new mindset in an organisation takes time. “We are organising training for all our sales representatives to help them go out of their comfort zone and sell this completely new product. We have also had to employ new people with the rights skills, on both the sales and the R&D side,” Mr Cavigliasso concluded.

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