The theme of this year’s #WOLWEEK from June 5-11, 2017, is “Contribute and Create Value”. So, this time it’s not only me contributing privately, but we as Working Out Loud (WOL) enthusiasts from the Robert Bosch GmbH. With this post, we want to create value for others by sharing how we organize the topic WOL and WOL circles. We hope that motivates more companies to introduce WOL and its circle method, answers some questions which I get very often and that you find these insights helpful.
The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 390,000 associates worldwide. The company generated sales of 73.1 billion euros in 2016. As a leading Internet of Things (IoT) company, Bosch offers innovative solutions for smart homes, smart cities, connected mobility, and connected manufacturing. It uses its expertise in sensor technology, software, and services, as well as its own IoT cloud, to offer its customers connected, cross-domain solutions from a single source. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.” The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.”
As an innovation leader, Bosch is shaping and driving transformation. Times of change also call for new forms of collaboration to become more flexible, agile and inventive. This calls for creativity on the part of all concerned, as well as intensive collaboration across divisional boundaries.
Working Out Loud was introduced at Bosch in June 2015, where the first circle pilot has been set up. Up to now more than 500 associates world-wide have joined around 140 circles.
For us it is mainly a virtual collaboration and networking method (= network-based collaboration), which we think is highly important as a basis to become a more agile company. But it is as well a mindset and a way to collaborate (to make your work visible and work with a network), which breaks traditional patterns and supports a digital culture. The WOL Circle method is introduced as a guided mastery program, which enables individuals to work self-organized on diverse targets and tasks by building a structured and goal-orientated network. Participants of the program develop new habits by overcoming personal hurdles and become an active part of the connected and networked Bosch world. In a small team of 4-5 people, a so-called WOL Circle, they experience and learn how to work out loud.
We strongly believe that Working Out Loud is offering a lot of value added. Therefore, we accompany the circles and measure their outcome by asking the participants to fill a feedback form (more details will follow later). Now we are able to offer a value proposition, which is very welcome, not only when you talk to management:
Let’s come now to the real practical part: how do we organize Working Out Loud and the circle program at Bosch?
In June 2015, we have created an open community on our internal digital collaboration platform called “Bosch Connect”, which is available since 09.2013 for roughly 300.000 associates.
Necessary information like the WOL concept, the circle method, the circle registration form, media material, events, activities and helpful resources can be found in the wiki. The forum is used for questions & answers, via the blog we communicate and share interesting news and stories and the bookmarks guide to external sources. It is a lively community with more than 1.200 members. Up to now it grows organically and viral, only based on word of mouth.
The community is organized by our so-called WOL Co-Creation Team, which consists of 11 Bosch associates from different business units. Co-creation for us means, that you can contribute to a topic and its tasks, which you are interested in, without any official contracting, just based on motivation and enthusiasm and a small amount of time. Our team takes care of the typical Community Management tasks and handles requests, welcomes new members, communicates and shares information. And we set up circles.
If you want to participate in a WOL Circle at Bosch, you just fill a wiki-based registration form. We ask you to insert your name, department, and location, if you want to join a face-to-face circle or if a virtual one fits as well, and if you are willing to take over the circle facilitation. Then we ask you for your preferred weekday and time and if there is already an open circle fitting your expectations.
Based on these data we try to find four to five people to start the circle. We ask one of them to take over the facilitator’s role and invite this person to a separate facilitator community, where they find more background information, instructions for the circle start and get access to the facilitator network. Then we make this person an owner of a restricted sub-community for the circle as a working environment. The other circle members are then invited to join, we clean up the registration form and the circle is ready to start.
Once a month we offer facilitator calls, to exchange with them, answer questions, support each other with tips and tricks and to get to know, how the circles work.
I personally love the first three weeks after the circle has started. Even after almost two years, it is still exciting to see the first steps of colleagues, writing their first status updates, starting to be visible, commenting, offering recognition and attention. And to get the first feedback, on how surprised they are by the WOL method, its simplicity, the small but powerful steps and how much fun it is to learn within their circle. This is really worth the effort!
The next wonderful time for me is when the circle comes to an end. Circles post pictures from their last meeting, some of them held over dinner. They share their experiences via our template “My WOL Moment” and via our standardized online feedback form.
In general, the feedback is overwhelming and much better than we have expected. But it underlines that the time has come for new learning methods, which are based on intrinsic motivation and curiosity, structured and guided but mainly self-organized, independent from time and location, with small peer support groups who support each other.
What else are we doing to spread the word and to drive WOL @ Bosch forward?
We’ve made Working Out Loud part of our official, corporate onboarding process “Welcome2Bosch” for new associates world-wide. It is recommended as a way to learn networking and become an active member in the Bosch networks.
Then we have piloted two new concepts: “WOL for Teams” and “WOL for Leaders”. For teams because we thought, why not having a bigger group in one circle, all having the same target? After the first pilots, we can now say: it doesn’t work. Defining one target where everybody is motivated to contribute is difficult. And building a network is something very personal, which doesn’t work for a team. It only works, if all of them pick a personal target and maintain a personal relationship list, and in parallel support a team target, like becoming more visible or improving the team collaboration.
“WOL for Leaders” is a concept, which runs as a 1:1 reverse mentoring program. There are ten steps to take for the leader with his mentor, so the duration depends on how much time the leader has and invests, not necessarily 12 weeks like in the WOL circle concept. Each step has one theme like for example “Follow people and communities” or “Share an experience or opinion”. The why – what – how is explained and combined with leader pain points and digital capabilities. Then there are small exercises to bring the theory into practice. That concept works pretty well and we are happy to open it mid of this year to everybody (not only leaders) at Bosch.
In 2015 and 2016 we’ve organized a one day conference only for Working Out Loud, the so-called “WOLCON”. You can find a lot of tweets (# WOLCON 2015, #WOLCON2016) and the last event video with impressions online:
Credit: Production Company: Friends & Fellows
And we are an initiator of the German Working Out Loud Community of Practice (WOL CoP), where enthusiasts from Daimler, Siemens, Deutsche Bank, Continental, Deutsche Post / DHL, Audi, BMW, Telekom and John Stepper co-create together. For all of us, WOL is an important method and needs to be introduced and spread within our companies as an enabler for digital collaboration and cultural change. To really live WOL and not to reinvent the wheel for all companies on their own, we’ve decided to collaborate together. We meet once a quarter for a one day workshop and in between, we collaborate virtually on agreed topics (see here more details in the latest storify).
To introduce WOL inside a company there isn’t one right Enterprise Social Network / Digital Collaboration tool. Tools like Yammer, Jive, IBM Connections,… and similar other tools are all good. You as well don’t need to hire paid consulting companies – it just needs John Stepper, motivated people with passion and experience, a fitting strategy and time for enabling, initial set up and maintenance, and some budget for events and communication material. Here of course John can help and give some advice. In our case we co-created “WOL for Teams” and “WOL for Leaders” with John and additionally with Lee Bryant and Cerys Hearsey from Postshift, who supported us with our management levels and their transformation knowledge and experience.
Alright, that’s it for now. I am really excited to share a little part of our work with you and hope, that you find it helpful and valuable. Happy #WOLWEEK to all of you
For Bosch and the WOL Co-Creation Team,