Interview with Daniel Heß and Philipp Diebold

In an interview, Daniel Heß (IAV GmbH) and Philipp Diebold (Bagilstein GmbH) explain what they think about blueprints in agile transitions, what patterns and anti-patterns they have identified and what the conference participants of Agile Automotive 2019 can look forward to in their presentation.

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Hello Daniel, hello Philipp, agility as a topic has been with you for a while. What was the reason to start with agility and what is your reason to stick to it?

Philipp: My first encounter with agility was relatively early during my studies as I learned about Scrum in business environment. Here, I really understood how much companies benefit if development cycles are short and customer feedback comes quickly. I sticked to the topic because I realized that agility is much more than just Scrum, clearly it is a cultural issue. I wanted to drive such long change processes by myself.

Daniel: I had a project with a Japanese customer in 2006/2007. As part of this, I came into contact with the Lean Philosophy of the Toyota Production System. The transfer to software development using agile methods was only a small step.


You are responsible for agile transitions in different areas of IAV. Is there a blueprint for such transitions and have you observed any patterns?

Philipp: Agile transitions do not have a blueprint in the sense of a framework like SAFe or LeSS. The approach actually differs from area to area. However, there are certain patterns that can be observed. One example is that agility is not an end in itself. Another pattern is that you have to keep everyone on the same track and develop a common understanding of agility.

Daniel: I think the lowest common denominator and the only blueprint I see here is the question, "Why do I really want to be agile?" The resulting actions are as unique as the answers to this question, the people who provide these answers and the projects in which they work. I think everyone has to figure out his own way towards agility to be really effective. So I agree with Phillip that everyone should be involved. However, I would rather speak of "invite everyone" than "keep everyone on the same track", because agility does not work without voluntariness.


Have you also observed anti-patterns?

Philipp: An anti-pattern I saw was when I provided my first management training at the beginning of the agile transition in my area of IAV. After that, all other affected employees felt second-class. So the anti-pattern is moving forward with only a part of the staff and not including the other part at the same time. It is really important to involve everyone right from the beginning. Of course, that does not mean there should be 100 people in a workshop or training. However, it should be clearly communicated that everyone will get a training in time. Another anti-pattern that I have seen very often in other contexts is when agile initiatives are started bottom-up. Even though the management is providing support, it does not internalize the agile mindset and at some point in time the management lapses into old behavior patterns, it does not provide the agile transition with the necessary time.

Daniel: My "favorite" anti-pattern is starting from the tool perspective instead of process perspective. True to the principle: "We are doing this with JIRA/TFS/Redmine. We are agile!" The old processes and roles remain the same, sometimes there is only a fraudulent labelling: Team Leader = Scrum Master. The Scrum artifacts are used reluctantly or carelessly – without seeing the purpose behind them. By doing this, you can easily kill a topic like agility, because everyone has the feeling that nothing has actually changed in the process, but you have a huge overhead with additional documentation and regular meetings. Another anti-pattern would be: "Agile = fast(er)". Of course, this it is tempting if the promise is that you are sprinting from now on and employees are doing "twice the work in half the time". Jeff Sutherland did not do us any good with the book title. Unfortunately, it is not on the book title, that in order to do "twice the work in half the time" the pre-conditions must fit and the management must not interfere with the team.


What is the current level of agility at IAV? Is it charging an open door, a fighting against windmills or something completely different?

Daniel: IAV is a very heterogeneous service provider due to the large number of customers and topics. Issues such as agile work contracts, cooperation models with customers, etc. have not yet been finally clarified. Of course, we also work on topics in which agility would be completely out of place, because the processes are simply not iteratively or sometimes given tasks are only complicated not complex that have to be processed according to a standard procedure with the greatest possible efficiency. However, where it fits, agility is well accepted and we also have a fairly active agile community.

Philipp: I think the entire IAV has some awareness about agility. But I also believe that this question can be answered differently depending on the department or area considered. For example, I coach a department that is very open to the subject. There are certainly other departments where you would actually fight against windmills. At IAV, there are some kind of "pilot" departments that show other departments how exciting and how right this way is. For example, our neighboring department has expressed interest and received an agile training just recently.


Information about the interviewees:

Daniel Heß is Head of Software Powertrain and Power Engineering Department at IAV GmbH and freelance consultant, trainer, coach.

Sergej Weber from Kugler Maag Cie interviews speakers at the  Agile Automotive Conference.

Philipp Diebold is Agile Coach and CEO of Bagilstein GmbH as well as Chairman of the Project Management working group at BITKOM e.V.

If you take Gartner's five-phase hype cycle and apply it to agility in the automotive industry, would you say that we are on the "Plateau of Productivity" already? And what else could we do to achieve it in the automotive area?

Philipp: In automotive, we have a very close integration of different companies: OEM, Tier-1, Tier-2 and so on. These individual companies have not yet reached the agile "Plateau of Productivity" - and even if every company reaches its plateau, it does not mean that the collaboration between these organizations is agile. So the plateau can only be reached together with all actors, meaning if all of them act in concert. Only then, I as an end user would get my car much earlier. There is still a long way to go before we, as the automotive industry, can say we have reached the "Plateau of Productivity" in terms of agility.

Daniel: I agree with that. The above-mentioned cooperation models need to be designed first. Ideally, teams consisting of suppliers, service providers and manufacturers would work cross-functionally to maximize value. I do not think we will have that in the foreseeable future. In my opinion, in the Gartner curve we are probably just behind the "Trough of Disillusionment". By now, we know what does work and what does not.


You now have the opportunity to advertise your session at Agile Automotive 2019. What does the conference participants can expect during your presentation?

Philipp: The conference participants will see a discussion between Daniel and me about what we think about blueprints and what a blueprint does actually mean for us. We will answer the questions: What are the points that you have to consider in an agile transition and which individual steps have to be taken? We will outline the whole issue using two case studies. Here we want to share our experiences and discuss them with the conference participants.

Daniel: I believe that it will be very entertaining and that we can offer real added value to the audience through the two different perspectives on the changes that come with an agile transformation.


Thank you for the interview, the last word is yours!

Philipp: Thank you too. I look forward to a lively exchange at the Agile Automotive 2019. Join our session! 

Daniel: Thank you very much! I look forward to many listeners and visitors at our IAV booth!