Building a car agile:
Consulting an agile organisation in the automotive industry
Agile product & organisational development. Case of a car manufacturer in the context of Neuwaldegg’s consulting for agile organisations.
A German car manufacturer has recognised itself that autonomous driving is a game changer for the entire industry and will turn existing business models upside down. In the future, cars will have to have an electric drive, drive autonomously, be connected and be available on-demand. The traditional car manufacturer must therefore radically transform itself into a mobility service provider. There are already a few start-ups with semi-autonomous vans on the market that are attracting all the media attention. It was therefore clear that the German car manufacturer would have to develop its own solution quickly in order to not get left behind. As the company has little technological expertise in autonomous technology and customer requirements are still unclear, it decided to try an agile approach.
A completely new mobility solution
The aim is to design a completely new mobility solution for the transport of goods and people and to bring it quickly to market, in order to learn and not get left behind by the competition.
First agile baby steps
For the first phase, a cross-functional team of ten employees and managers was put together to develop the initial concept for the new mobility solution on a joint project site. The team members are trained in agile working methods and work in a self-organised and non-hierarchical manner away from the line organisation. The new mobility solution concept is developed according to agile principles and with a strong customer focus in just four months. After successful completion of the concept design phase and acceptance of the results by the board of directors, six agile teams consisting of a total of 35 employees and managers are assembled for the next phase.
The team’s aim is to build real hardware prototypes based on the concept booklet and to undertake the first autonomous drives. The first customers are intensively involved in developing the prototypes. The customer requirements are collected in an agile backlog and each of the new mobility solution’s functions is strictly tested for its respective customer benefit. Paradigms cherished by engineers in the development of vehicles are constantly questioned and challenged as a result using agile principles and working methods. Special attention is paid to the cooperation between the agile organisational structure and the classic line organisation. Classic patterns (e.g.: hierarchy: “King beats Jack”) encounter new patterns of self-organisation and distributed authority at this sensitive interface.
Agile organisational structure
After just eight months of development time, the first vehicle was able to successfully complete an autonomous drive on the factory premises so the project can move on to the next phase, in which the new mobility solution can be used by customers. A completely agile organisational structure for approx. 250 employees and managers is being developed for this purpose, which works outside the line organisation. This was implemented using new agile methods of organisational development (change backlogs, transformation sprints, etc).
To the first autonomous driving prototype in one year
The first autonomous driving prototype was developed within just twelve months using agile working methods and organisational structures. It was important to work out a tailor-made approach to organisational development and to keep a respectful eye on the company’s 120-year history.