Developing creative ideas – it doesn’t happen at the flick of a switch. Some need a quiet environment, others need to share with like-minded people, and still others thrive on heated discussions with those of a different opinion. Whatever the case, creativity needs freedom. To create this freedom and meet the demands of the digitalized working world, we at Deutsche Telekom are changing the basic conditions, using agile methods, and trying out new forms of collaboration.
Learning together and
from one another
To give an example of this, many of our employees are experts in their field. Now in its third year, the employee initiative “Learning from Experts” (LEX) gives anyone who wants to the opportunity to share their knowledge in the form of a “LEX session”. As a rule, they last no more than an hour and are mainly held online. The content is available worldwide for all colleagues. The idea was developed by just a few employees at the end of 2017. It has since grown into a community of 50,000 Deutsche Telekom employees. Our experts have already recorded around 3,000 talks on topics of their choice, including some from our own Board of Management members, such as Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges. Thanks to LEX, our experts can transport their good ideas beyond the boundaries of their departments. That ensures a constant breath of fresh air and creates an inspiring environment for developing the digital products and solutions that will shape the everyday lives of so many people tomorrow.
Birgit Bohle, since January 2019 Chief Human Resources Officer and Labor Director at Deutsche Telekom
“We want to become faster, better, and simpler. For our customers. That’s why teams need more autonomy. It allows our employees to actively shape the working environment. We give them the space they need for that. We use agile methods wherever they are appropriate. They are focused, practical, and tailored to the respective requirements.”
Our stanceThe digital working world is becoming more complex and diverse, and requires a lot of flexibility. To design it, we don’t need any new, rigid rules or additional bureaucracy. But we do need a clear stance. Our employees must know our stance on the digital transformation of the working world – and how we are supporting them in the changes they experience in their day-to-day work. That’s why, together with the Group Works Council, we adopted the “Manifesto of Agile Work” in 2019 as a guideline for shaping the digital working world.
Agility makes us faster
Agility – most of us have heard the term before. But what does it mean and what does agile work look like in practice? At the heart of agility is a special mindset. The ten agile principles describe what this looks like:
Flat hierarchies and team members who are each individually responsible for certain tasks enable efficient and also fulfilling work that allows everyone to be involved.
Long meetings at which much is said, but nothing is decided are a thing of the past. With agile work, focused and action-oriented meetings with clear goals are on the agenda.
Rather than presenting customers with a fait accompli, we involve them in the work processes early on and can respond quickly if the result doesn’t meet their requirements.
“That’s how we’ve always done it” is no reason to stick with conservative approaches. Agile working means questioning established ideas and creating added value through new solutions.
Feedback and continuous improvement
We can only improve if we engage in open, respectful dialog with each other and give honest feedback.
We have learned that A is followed by B, then C – linear processes that always follow the same course, but that doesn’t mean they are the best option. By using flexible development processes, we have the ability to respond quickly to changes.
The development of a new product is resource-intensive. If the end product is not convincing, it costs not only money but also time. That’s why we develop prototypesand put them through intensive testing. In these experiments we quickly learn what we can improve.
The goal is to create a product that our customers like. That’s why we develop product features from the user’s perspective and avoid getting bogged down in irrelevant details.
Decisions driven by data
To make the right decisions, we continuously gather feedback and incorporate it into finding a solution. Although we can’t lose sight of the financial and scheduling aspects, they must never take center stage.
There are a variety of methods to make the intermediate stages of our work transparent, and we make use of the entire range – from Kanban boardsto prototypes . With the help of these visualizations, we can make our progress tangible and gain valuable feedback.
Having to be at work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., an assigned workplace, and bosses who always have to keep an eye on their team – that’s the working world we know. But in many areas, this is no longer in keeping with the times. At Deutsche Telekom we are adopting a holistic approach to changes in the working world under the heading #New Work. It all starts with the working environment: At many locations we have redesigned our office environments. Employees at these sites are free to choose the workplace that best suits the task at hand – whether it’s a desk or a comfortable sitting area, an extra quiet thinking room, or a creative space for collaborating with colleagues. Working from home has long since been part of day-to-day work in many areas of our company. During the coronavirus pandemic, the option to do so was expanded. In 2020, up to 80,000 employees worked from home. We also offer flexible working hours, part-time and tandem work, and sabbaticals. But the #New Work approach is also about continuing to develop our corporate culture and our understanding of leadership.
The 80:20 formula
Have you ever had the feeling that you’re unable to use all your skills at work? Or are you also interested in topics that aren’t actually part of your duties? This is precisely what the “80:20 model” at Deutsche Telekom is designed for. It gives employees the opportunity to spend some of their working hours on exciting projects outside of their usual area of responsibility and to work with teams from other departments for this purpose. This allows us to take advantage of hidden talents at our company and break down rigid departmental boundaries.