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.
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: