"The courage to break new ground pays off".

HDI Group ,
More than 900 colleagues at HDI Germany have been working agilely for a good six months - in a delivery organisation. What sounds technical has a lot to do with culture.

More than 900 colleagues at HDI Germany have been working agilely for a good six months - in a delivery organisation. What sounds technical has a lot to do with culture. After all, it's about principles like shared leadership, personal responsibility and transparency. In this interview, Chief Transformation Officer Dominik Hennen reports on what agile transformation does to people. And how it contributes to business success.

Neue Wege

Dominik, let's take a look at the first stages of HDI Germany's agile journey. What is your preliminary conclusion - has the start been a success?

Definitely, we are really successful on the road. The most important thing is that our teams have settled in well and feel comfortable in the new structure. That can't be taken for granted. For many colleagues, everyday working life looks very different today than it did before we started in the agile world.
But the courage to break new ground is paying off. In our last "Agile Pulse Check", i.e. our survey of all colleagues in our agile structure, there was a total of 86 percent positive feedback. In addition, we achieved very high so-called "confidence votes": In other words, the teams are confident that they will achieve their goals. Today, we know that their feelings were not deceived, because they were able to implement 92 percent of their plans in the first quarter and 90 percent in the second. These are very good figures, which I was very pleased about.

Are there also things we need to do better?

Quite clearly: yes. Among other things, we are working on the efficiency of our meetings and ceremonies. In addition, we will have to find solutions for so-called "backpack issues" - our teams are still dragging around too many tasks that predate the launch of the delivery organization.

"For our executives, this meant letting go of some of the things they had grown to love." - Dominik Hennen, Chief Transformation Officer HDI Germany

You just said it pays to break new ground. How did you motivate people to leave their comfort zone and move into new processes?

I think three levers in particular made this possible. First, transparent communication. From the very beginning, we tried to highlight the benefits of agile working - a high level of personal responsibility, participation, flat hierarchies. Principles that simply invite people to join in. Second: Active change support for our teams, especially with regard to agile methodology. And third: A comprehensive training program for all agile roles. All of this was high on our strategic agenda and supported by our top management.


The benefits you just described apply primarily to employees. How have your managers dealt with handing over responsibility?

Shared responsibility means that disciplinary, technical and methodological management are no longer bundled in one person, but are distributed across several shoulders. The teams are responsible for the specifics, which means we encourage them to take more responsibility. For our managers, this meant letting go of some of the things they had grown accustomed to. They had to decide which type of leadership they preferred. That's not a bad thing per se, because the different competencies are not always equally pronounced. In this way, the focus helps them to use their own strengths in a more targeted way. I think a large part of our leadership team has come to terms with this well and enjoys the success of the teams. Even though this was sometimes a challenging process of transition. The commitment of our HR development team has been very helpful in this.

If I understand correctly, you are not simply doing Agile l'art pour l'art, but because you expect it to have a tangible impact on the success of the business. Can you already give us some examples of this?

A number of very concrete successes show that Agile@HD is not an end in itself, but significantly supports the achievement of our strategic goals from GO25 (see box). All teams in our agile delivery organization are working in a "heartbeat" and according to a common prioritization; with good results: I am thinking of the "HDI Data Warehouse", which we have successfully migrated to the "Snowflake" cloud. Our Customer Relationship Management is now also running in the cloud, which has led to a significant stabilization of the application in sales and operations. Automation in the non-personnel area is progressing so that we will be able to process significantly more business transactions darkly in the future. Another example is the new pay-as-you-drive tariff that we developed together with Porsche. We have also managed to adapt our annex products to the new commission cap.

I was particularly impressed that our division was among the top ten in this year's Talanx Transformation Award with four projects. That really is a great testament to our agile delivery organization.

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