My Working Out Loud Moment

Work­ing Out Loud (WOL) is on everyone’s lips. Whether at Bosch, Daim­ler, ZF and last but not least at BMW, where I recent­ly had the plea­sure to meet John Step­per, the cre­ator of the method and the author of the cor­re­spond­ing book. Every­where there are enthu­si­as­tic employ­ees who use Work­ing Out Loud to cre­ate a coop­er­a­tive learn­ing cul­ture in their com­pa­nies, break up silos and push the often rigid cor­po­rate struc­tures towards a high­ly net­worked agile orga­ni­za­tion. From the ten­der begin­nings at the grass roots, a pow­er­ful move­ment quick­ly emerges, at least with approval and more and more often with the active sup­port of top management.

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For a long time I have under­es­ti­mat­ed Work­ing Out Loud. For more than sev­en years now I’ve been writ­ing this blog with more than 400 arti­cles and I’m an enthu­si­as­tic user of Twit­ter and now more and more often also LinkedIn. I met many moti­vat­ed and open-mind­ed peo­ple who “worked” in the same way. Many excit­ing ideas arose from this net­work­ing, such as the first PM Camp Dorn­birn, where the PM Camp move­ment orig­i­nat­ed and we launched openPM as a free plat­form for project man­age­ment knowl­edge. For me it was and is com­plete­ly nor­mal to share my expe­ri­ences and knowl­edge and to ben­e­fit from the gen­er­ous con­tri­bu­tions of oth­ers. Every day, this results in vir­tu­al con­nec­tions which, depend­ing on the com­mon inter­est, grad­u­al­ly trans­form into mean­ing­ful per­son­al rela­tion­ships with tan­gi­ble results such as the PM Camps or openPM. Trapped in my fil­ter bub­ble, I thought for a long time that every­body works this way nat­u­ral­ly already.

Break down bar­ri­ers between depart­ments. Peo­ple in research, design, sales, and pro­duc­tion must work as a team.
W. Edwards Deming

After the first few months in the large cor­po­ra­tion, how­ev­er, I quick­ly real­ized that this way of work­ing, shar­ing and net­work­ing is by no means a nat­ur­al thing. It’s not for noth­ing that in most big com­pa­nies there’s the pop­u­lar word “If XYZ knew what XYZ knew.” Although every­one knows the impor­tance of the per­son­al net­work and every new employ­ee is encour­aged to do so, the pow­er of net­work­ing through an enter­prise social net­work is often under­es­ti­mat­ed. And that’s what it looks like then: Closed groups which, in accor­dance with the Conway’s Law for the struc­ture of soft­ware sys­tems, repli­cate the orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture, lit­tle activ­i­ty and con­tent and thus lit­tle incen­tive to read along, to con­nect and to con­tribute, espe­cial­ly as there is the implic­it or explic­it sus­pi­cion of not hav­ing enough real work to do. A vicious cir­cle that has to be bro­ken through the open and gen­er­ous shar­ing of rel­e­vant con­tent in an increas­ing­ly dense net­work. Par­tic­u­lar­ly in phas­es of change, such as the agile trans­for­ma­tion that many cor­po­ra­tions are fac­ing today.

This is exact­ly where Work­ing Out Loud comes in, as the graph­ic from the arti­cle by Katha­ri­na Krentz from Bosch shows. Based on the five ele­ments Rela­tion­ships, Vis­i­ble Work, Gen­eros­i­ty, Pur­pose­ful Dis­cov­ery and Growth Mind­set, Work­ing Out Loud is essen­tial­ly a guid­ed self-help course that enables every­one, sup­port­ed by a small peer group, the so-called Work­ing Out Loud Cir­cle, to expe­ri­ence and learn this kind of net­worked work­ing. With the Cir­cle Guides, John Step­per offers a well-struc­tured twelve-week pro­gram to test this work­ing method step by step. But let’s just let John explain himself:

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