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Agile teamwork at Vorwerk

“We need to give new ideas space and time”

Innovative products often emerge today as the result of modern, agile teamwork. Having originally evolved in the software industry, agile methods challenge the roles, processes and plans of classic project management. What’s new is that the values and shared responsibility are taking center stage. Ramazan Koca, agile coach in the Digital IT department in Corporate IT explains why this kind of teamwork is so special and how the agile principle is applied at Vorwerk.


Mr Koca, you work as an agile coach at Vorwerk. How can the outside observer imagine your line of work?

As an agile coach I am part of the Digital IT department – with my core task being to facilitate and set up agile working methods. We are currently four agile coaches and see ourselves as part of the project team, in which we support our colleagues with the product definition, the requirements management and the application of their themes. 

Our aim in all measures is to make the best use of the for us new methodology of agile product development. To do so, I advise management and colleagues in the definition of the new agile roles and run internal workshops about agile requirements in management as well as agile leadership.

Which requirements are needed to become an agile coach?

I can outline the way we look at this at Vorwerk, as there are a number of different descriptions: Agile coaches should know their way around in the world of product development and project execution – preferably specifically oriented towards the branch and/or the products of the company. 

Added to this is the knowledge relating to agile methodologies such as “Lean,” “Scrum” or “Kanban.” And if you also have a pragmatic work ethic and respect for your colleagues’ projects, you are well-suited to become an agile coach with us.

Is there special training that is given in agile project management?

Most come to us with knowledge in the afore-mentioned areas. We offer training courses to colleagues who want to make progress as an agile coach, which enable them to initially become Scrum Masters, then moderators or mediators in an agile project team, then coaches for other Scrum Masters and ultimately coaches for agile project management.

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What is the main advantage of the agile method?

The great advantage is that values play a crucial role in the process. If openness, transparency, focus and dedication are integral parts of our actions, it leads to more satisfied teams and better results. There is also the fact that products are developed on a more communal scale and responsibility is shared among everyone involved – this applies in particular to the teams in project management, product management and implementation.  

People can get quite caught up in their own routines. But an open mind is very important in order to allow new ideas to unfold. How do you encourage this state of mind?

Through workshops and meetings like Design Thinking that enable the discovery of compelling solutions, which customers can later apply in a creative and playful way. I also coach on the subject of so-called “refinements,” where the end-users’ requirements are questioned and thinking outside the box is cultivated. 

In our change processes, we then need to find new avenues of cooperation and provide space for new ideas – whereby space must also be understood to signify time within this context.

What do you do to motivate your team?

I remind the team that you can have success both on a small scale and a large one. It is very important to agree upon and visualize small and ambitious goals in the team because by doing so, we can see what we have achieved and identified ourselves with our work and the results. To this end, we set ourselves objectives both on a monthly and a quarterly basis.  

And how do you melt down mental barriers?

“Musing” together, thinking aloud together, visualizing together.

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From your experience, what is the greatest hindrance to creativity when working in an agile team?

When values like transparency, dedication and respect are not lived by, or when we are multitasking so much that it becomes harmful. When we are working on two to three different activities, our effectiveness already drops by 50 per cent. If a person is working on five or more topics at the same time, he or she is only working at 30 per cent effectiveness. Therefore it is important to make sure that the colleagues can remain focused.

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Multitasking is a major hindrance to creativity
For every company, working on innovations also means taking a risk, as ultimately, you don’t know what exactly the work will result in. How do you deal with the fear of mistakes and failure within the team?

Failing and mistakes are part of life. It’s more important to speak about a “culture of learning” than a “culture of mistakes” and to nurture a culture in which failure is permitted. We should also remember that failure, just like success, incorporates everyone in the company.

But our open, incremental and iterative approach resulting from the agile project management helps us to recognize mistakes faster and to learn from them.

What does success mean to you

Success means to achieve goals – already in the process. Because while we are implementing products, we are learning something new and achieving a lot – which the customer may not see, but which help us to make progress. At the end of the day, we are successful if the customer chooses our products over those of the competition.

From your experience: when does an idea ultimately become an innovation?

In my view, an idea becomes an innovation once we have ascertained that the idea is feasible and unique – only then can added value for our customers ultimately be generated.

Finally, a tip for prospective agile coaches: where should I begin in a company if I want to promote agile work on new ideas?

In product management and product development, because these areas especially to stimulate the progress of companies and adopt new approaches. A key factor, however, is the company management, as it has to want agile teamwork and promote it. .

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“We require a culture of trust and confidence
Which basic prerequisite do companies need for innovation?

We need interdisciplinary teams with the necessary skills. This means that we combine all skills in the team that facilitate the process of solving a specific task. And very importantly: we need a culture of trust and confidence as well as the time and space, in which we can work.

What do you think: in future, does every company need an agile working method?

Yes – to do better justice to the products’ increased complexity and diversity as well as the different business models, we require an agile approach.