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The BMW journey to an
agile culture of collaboration
Markets and environmental conditions are
changing so quickly today that companies
with traditional structures are no longer able
to respond effectively. The consequence:
Internal structures and processes can no
longer keep up with external complexity
Companies often focus on their internal processes to
create order. As a result, routines are established over
the years and enterprises become more sluggish, losing
sight of their customers as well as their requirements
and needs. They no longer primarily focus on
the value-creation process, but are rather characterized
by silo thinking and inefficient processes, which
inevitably leads to an increase in complexity. Agile
companies, in contrast, strive for change in their organizational
structures. They want to free themselves
from unnecessary, paralyzing structures and processes
in order to adapt more quickly to new markets and
environments. Agile companies want to revive their
original founding mentality. They are able to recognize
changes at an early stage and adapt accordingly, using
the most effective and efficient form of organization.
With this spirit, a change program was established
in 2018 in a department at BMW and Staufen AG was
awarded with the project "EG-5 goes agile."
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What is BMW EG-5?
The Forschungs- und Innovationszentrum (FIZ) in Munich
has been the center of BMW Group's worldwide
research and development network since 1986. The
department EG-5 "Product Lifecycle" is situated in the
FIZ and is part of overall vehicle development. EG-5's
mission statement is: We ensure sustainability and
reliability in the vehicle lifecycle and thereby form the
foundation for a premium customer experience. The
area of responsibility covers the topics of operational
stability, corrosion resistance, product sustainability
and materials and their integration into all series. In
the department, 200 employees work on nearly 65
simultaneous projects. The department comprises 4
sub-departments and 13 teams.
Initiating and driving
Material selection, consulting,
specification and approval for
series development projects
EG-5 Vehicle life cycle
We ensure sustainability and reliability.
We thereby form the foundation of our customers'
BMW premium experience.
Operational stability testing
& test rig development
General responsibility for corrosion
resistance and water-induced
overall vehicle stress
Overall responsibility for product
sustainability, indoor air quality
and evaporative emissions
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Design & safeguarding
of operational stability
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Where did we come from?
Among BMW employees, the department EG-5 was not considered very
attractive for ambitious and talented employees who were looking for more
There were fewer interactions between employees within EG-5 than with
external process partners. Instead of increasing the department's potential,
it increased silo thinking and heterogeneity.
The result was a lack of communication, transparency and adaptability. A
survey of employees showed that a high workload combined with failure to
achieve goals led to a high level of dissatisfaction. In addition, the requirements
of related areas increased.
outdated, not very
Problems with adhering
The dynamics of product innovations, shortening of development cycles as
well as increasing complexity and numerous unpredictabilities made changing
to agile working methods and structure absolutely necessary.
We need to change the way we
think to prepare for a flexible,
collaborative and rapidly changing
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Where were we headed?
One of EG-5's main goals was to increase customer focus
– BMW internal departments in product development
– and improve customer satisfaction. This also
included improving their own adaptability to dynamically
changing environmental and customer requirements.
Work processes should become more effective,
efficient and faster. Freed up capacities should
offer employees more freedom to innovate and better
develop their own potential. The focus should always
be on meaningful and motivating work that is appreciated
by employees, generates satisfaction and is fun.
Improvement in efficiency
More innovative strength
Desired jobs (meaningful
work, promotion of interaction)
Increase in intrinsic
What were the
EG-5 wanted to re-orient itself towards the value stream
and customers, strengthen its self-organization and
promote end-to-end communication and interaction to
break down silos. Therefore, EG-5 decided to transform
itself into an agile and learning organizational unit that
enables a good culture with practiced values.
Value stream orientation
Learning organization /
Having fun at work
The project with Staufen AG was based on existing
structures, such as a matrix organization and Integration
Module Managers (IMM). By strengthening the
IMM role and introducing cross-departmental teams,
the first step towards better collaboration was taken.
Support from top management, manager training
and early involvement of employees through various
workshops also prepared the department in the best
possible way for the planned change.
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How did we proceed?
The transformation to an agile culture of collaboration resembles
an organizational learning journey in which an organization gradually
acquires new knowledge and skills.
Change in mindset and attitude
Organizational agility (anchoring)
After the managers of EG-5 developed and defined the project
goals and the procedure together with consultants from
Staufen AG, implementation began.
The path to an agile
culture of collaboration
Improved performance and agility
Cultural change by working
on mindset and attitude
Organizational agility through
agile organizational structures
of agile work
Methodical agility through
agile Shop Floor Management
4 / 2018 6 / 2018
12 / 2018
6 / 2019
12 / 2019 Time
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BestPractice visit and
strengthening the leadership model
It was first important to generate enthusiasm, courage and drive with regard
to the upcoming changes. According to the motto "Learn from the best"
Staufen AG organized a BestPractice visit for the EG-5 executives to see agile
work in practice, thereby making it more tangible. These impressions helped
sharpen the target image regarding agile working at EG-5 and develop a new
understanding of leadership and cooperation as well as to record it in a joint
leadership mission statement, which among other things understands leadership
as servant leadership (leadership as support instead of command
In the next step, all employees were brought up to speed by a large-scale
information event and integrated into the transformation process.
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In order to demystify agility, it was initially
crucial to make agile work tangible in daily
work through new methods, changed behavior
and leadership styles. It was therefore
necessary to establish an integrated com-
and in the line
munication system at EG-5 that coordinated
and linked the cooperation between projects
and departments (line). This uncovered
weaknesses and strengthened the matrix
organization. "Performance U" formed the
basis for the networked work, which provid-
ed transparency and commitment through
boards and activity / task control. In addition,
the first agile methods, including Scrum,
were introduced for handling creative work
and CIP topics in order to deal with complex
issues quickly and efficiently and achieve
on team level
Through support and coaching from Staufen
consultants, significant changes in leadership
behavior and in the mindset of managers and
employees were quickly noticed.
Agile methods enable an even workload in
the team. At the same time, they allow each
individual to take responsibility and develop
his or her own personal potential.
Classical hierarchical thinking lost its importance.
Team spirit and self-organization gained
the upper hand. EG-5 was now working in an
agile manner in the matrix organization with
focus on customers and their requirements.
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Working on mindset
Attitude and mindset are more important than any method. Without changing
the way people think and their attitudes, any method – even an agile
method – will never develop its full benefit. A tool for creating transparency
with regards to improvement can quickly become a tool for controlling if the
corresponding attitude behind it does not match. For this reason, one of the
most decisive factors was working on and with people in addition to introducing
agile methods. Team development, management training and largegroup
formats such as open-space events made it possible to work on these
topics. The company has always relied on the willingness of its employees to
For me, agile work is a completely new
way of working, offering greater flexibility,
higher efficiency and faster response times.
The next logical step after learning agile ways of working through new methods
and a change in mindset and attitude is sustainably anchoring this in a
new organizational structure. The aim of being able to serve customer needs
even faster, more flexibly and in a more targeted manner required reorganization
into more self-organized teams.
Using a structured phase plan, the requirements for the organization were
recorded, design criteria derived, various design options compared and finally
one was selected and planned in detailed. EG-5 opted for an agile circle organization
in which employees work in partially self-organized teams with defined
roles. Accordingly, the traditional matrix structure was supplemented by an
agile circular structure.
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Looking in the rearview mirror
The distinct silo thinking initially hindered the change process.
Many employees and also managers found it hard to come to
terms with a positive error culture, which sees errors as opportunities
and goes hand in hand with a very high level of transparency.
Some managers also had problems with delegating
responsibility and decisions to corresponding employees in
the value stream. The hierarchical mindset had to be broken
down to make room for a new agile and learning organization.
Agile work promotes the authenticity
of all employees in their professional
environment. The meaning of the term
"work" is documented and practiced
differently. It is a new philosophy.
The consultants from Staufen AG met
with the highly motivated department
at BMW. Many multipliers of the project
already had a distinctive agile mindset.
Right from the start, the change process
had many supporters as well as the
full support from top management. The
strong involvement of all employees and
managers contributed to a cooperative
change process and resulted in impressively
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What did we achieve?
The "EG-5 goes agile" project has led to a high degree of commitment
and reliability in collaborations, created a self-determined
and thus motivating environment for employees, improved
leadership performance and leadership behavior, and reduced
throughput times in work processes, thereby increasing task
throughput with the same resources.
Direction of value
Today, EG-5 can react faster, more flexibly and in a more adaptable
manner to requirements. The entire organization has
learn ed to change. And it will continue to do so. Because agile
work means much more than just introducing agile meth ods.
It changes mindsets and attitudes, first among those involved
and then throughout the company.
The transformation project won the BMW Performance Next
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Barbara Schweickert is Head of Department at BMW-AG for Integration,
Concepts and Methods. The transformation project "EG-5 goes agile" was
initiated and co-initiated by her.
What motivated you to steer the course towards agility?
At BMW AG, we gave off the impression of being a
very old, outdated and hierarchical area. We wanted
to change this.
What measures did you take to change this?
Our goal was not only to work more efficiently and
cost-effectively, but also to create more freedom and
give employees time to innovate. We wanted to develop
a different, better culture. Our goal was to move away
from a traditional matrix hierarchy and towards a circular
model. In the future more focus should be placed
on bottom-up, self-initiated and interdisciplinary work.
What have you achieved?
Much has changed. We save on budgets, work more
efficiently and deliver more on time. At the same time,
we sense that a cultural change is taking place.
What are the factors of success for this type of project?
Executives must stand behind it, otherwise there is no
use in starting such a transformation. External support
is also important. You cannot do it on your own.
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Inside every company there is an even better one.
With this conviction, Staufen AG has been advising and qualifying
companies and employees for more than 25 years.
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seminar participants every year
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