8 Perspectives on a transformation

Chapter 1

Kapitel 1: Los geht's

Put yourself in the shoes of Katharina, an experienced change facilitator and systemic organizational developer. Katharina is also a trainer for change management trainings and she is led into her latest challenge by a former training participant.


Scene 1: The order clarification 

Katharina was sitting at her desk when her phone rang. She recognized the customer's number and picked up immediately. "Good morning, Katharina here," she greeted the caller;

"Hello Katharina, this is Manfred," answered a deep voice at the other end of the line. "I hope I'm not interrupting something important?" 

"No, not at all," Katharina assured him. "How are you doing today, Manfred, and what gives me the honor?" Manfred and Katharina had met a few months ago at an Agile Change Manager training course and had stayed in touch. 

"Thank you, I'm fine," Manfred replied firmly. A lot has happened since we last met and I would like to talk to you about how you can support us in the coming period. Is this a good time for you?"

Katharina was immediately interested. "Sure, I'd love to. What exactly is it about?". Manfred explained the project and Katharina listened attentively and took notes:

"Listening to you and looking at my outline, I get the impression that there are various issues to be addressed here. Some of the things you describe are possibly a symptom of a deeper issue and range from leadership topics to general value creation and HR issues. That sounds really exciting," she remarked with delight. "I can help you avoid typical change traps, understand value creation better and deal with all the complexity in a structured way. When do you have time for a meeting to discuss the details?" 

"How about next week Tuesday at 10 am? Can we meet in our office?" 

"That fits very well," replied Katharina. "I'll make a note of it straight away. I'm looking forward to the meeting and finding out more." 

"I'm glad too," said Manfred. "I need your advice because I can't see the wood for the trees. See you then, Katharina." 

"See you soon, Manfred," said Katharina and hung up. She smiled. It wasn't always easy to win new customers, but if you got on well and the trust was already there, everything went much faster and smoother. She was looking forward to working with Manfred and his team. 

Tuesday of the following week, 10:00 a.m.: Katharina enjoyed opportunities to experience organizations and contexts up close and to embark on a journey together with potential customers. Meetings like this one were her favorite. She already knew Manfred as a "doer type" and she was aware of his willingness to break new ground. 

"Good morning, Katharina," a familiar voice suddenly sounded behind her, pulling her out of her thoughts;

"Good morning, Manfred. Nice to see you." With a welcoming gesture, Manfred led Katharina past the reception desk and straight down a nearby corridor. "You probably remember that I was a Product Owner for the MUH2000 product at the Agile Change Manager training. I brought a few questions and discussion points with me, such as the fact that I struggle with being so far away from the individual teams," he gushed;

"I can still remember it well," Katharina replied truthfully;

"Well, there's been talk for a few weeks that I should move to a new position. And now the time has come. I have now taken up my new role as Head of Division." 

"Congratulations, Manfred."  

"Thank you. It's all still very new and I'm still getting to grips with my new role. But there's one thing I don't want to put off. With my new responsibility comes the necessary mandate to think about my succession as Product Owner. 

As you know, I've been here for a long time and have a large network within the organization. This has always enabled me to work well with the various departments and, above all, to come to a common prioritization of the requirements for our product. I'm afraid that my successor won't find it so easy to keep the threads together. I think we need to systematize the issue of stakeholders and prioritization. We also need to become more efficient overall and improve collaboration between the teams;

You know me, Katharina, I don't want to miss out on the chance to make a difference. And that's where you come in. If there's one thing I remember from our training, it's that my thirst for action would do well to be accompanied and captured by an experienced change manager - or change facilitator, as I think you called it - if necessary. I would therefore like you to accompany this change and coach the new Product Owner and also the Scrum Masters of the teams to achieve our goals." 

Katharina couldn't help but laugh for a moment. "You put that very nicely, Manfred. I'm looking forward to working with you.

What have we experienced here?

We witness a promising start. Katharina, a dedicated consultant, is contacted by Manfred, a potential client. During their conversation, we sense the trust that exists between them. Based on their good experience in the past, both sides are delighted to work together and start a transformation together. But what exactly is involved? What challenges and surprises await them? That's what the following chapters will reveal. 

And what does this have to do with transformation?
We wibas consultants like to explain change as a movement: 

Change begins with a clear understanding of the current state, the status quo (1.). This sets the starting point from which we move forward;


But where is the journey going? A clearly defined goal (2.) with high relevance for the company not only gives us a direction, but also a reason for change. This difference between the current status and the desired goal creates an urgent need for action, the "Sense of Urgency". 


Instead of making big, radical changes, we should take small, iterative steps (5.) towards our goal. This allows us to make constant adjustments and ensure that we stay on the right path. But how do we make sure we don't veer off course? This is where supporting measures come into play. Managers must actively accompany the transformation (3.), challenge and encourage it;

At the same time, the entire affected organization should be involved in the change process to ensure that the solutions are tailor-made (4.) and that the transformation is perceived as a joint project. Further training, coaching and the training of multipliers are essential to enable the organization to successfully implement the change (6.). Finally, it is important to regularly check whether we are still on the right track and make adjustments if necessary (7.). 


For us, transformation is therefore a big concept that encompasses many things. It is a dance between stability and flexibility, structure and patterns of behavior, between tradition and innovation. It is a process that often begins in uncertainty and with resistance, from which individual parts of the organization like to try to "break out", but with good support and orchestration (9.) by the right team, it usually leads to good results and to the goal. 


It is an adventure worth telling. And as the narrator of this specific story, I am just as excited as you are to see how this story will unfold.


Scene 2: First insights

The open-plan office was a jumble of voices, movements and colors. Katharina entered and let her gaze wander over the various teams;


After her conversation with Manfred, the formal and commercial aspects of the assignment were clarified relatively quickly. Four weeks later, she was in the building for the second time. This time she was here to experience the daily routine, to talk to team members and to identify patterns and challenges of the organization. 


In front of her was the organizational area of the "MUH2000" product, which was the responsibility of three development teams and one operations team. She observed the interactions within the teams for a while and then spoke to different team members from each team. Each team seemed to be detailed and absorbed in their own world, but there was little interaction or questioning between the teams. Team topics seemed irrelevant to the other teams. The former product owner for all three teams had now been promoted to divisional manager. The leadership vacuum that Manfred had recently mentioned at lunch after the order clarification was clearly noticeable to Katharina in the conversations;

While she was walking through the office and thinking about her impressions, Manfred approached her in his new role as division manager. "Katharina, I've been thinking," he began, "instead of appointing a new Product Owner for all teams, why not appoint a separate PO for each team? Someone who can be closer to the action and understand the specific needs of the team."  

Katharina nodded. "Yes, that could work. The product owners would then have to work closely together, ideally manage themselves and actually bring about decisions. In other words, we shouldn't turn it into a group of people in an ivory tower where important topics are left unaddressed and no progress is made in the teams.


For this to work, we first need to understand the product and the value stream. By this I mean the work flow and where the teams need to coordinate their work;

If we have this clear and make it visible, then we can evaluate the options." 


The division manager was not immediately taken with the idea of analyzing the value stream. "That sounds like it could take a while. In the meantime, who will make the important decisions with the team and provide orientation?" 


"I suspect that the teams will manage for a few more days without their own product owners. I can also feel the gap, but hasty changes in positions and structures often do more harm than good," argued Katharina and thought to herself: "A clear understanding of the status quo, i.e. where the teams are today, is essential for successful change. If we have the thesis that a PO can lead to better end-to-end work for every team, we can use it to verify this."  


She was determined to help the organization improve its practices and foster a culture of collaboration and continuous learning. 

What have we experienced here?

In this scene, we see Katharina immersing herself in the world of the "MUH2000" product and recognizing the initial challenges and opportunities arising from the management vacuum. Her observations and conversations with the division manager and the teams show that she interacts, makes suggestions and offers solutions. She realizes that a vision alone is not enough. The path has to be developed and walked together    

And what does that have to do with transformation?

In this scene, we see Katharina and the division manager taking the first steps on their journey by reflecting on the roles of the product owner and the teams and focusing on the division's value creation. In doing so, they work on the framework for shaping the actual work and its flow. It is a good example of how an organization can begin to rethink its way of working and prepare for change with the participation of "everyone". A legitimized status quo is the starting point. 

Change is an area of tension that requires both leadership and cooperation. Katharina and Manfred are obviously ready to tackle this area of tension. However, they will also need other co-creators, otherwise the change will quickly get stuck in a trap. 


Scene 3: Initial feedback

n a few days after the initial impact, Katharina was sitting in one of the free meeting rooms, organizing her observations and information. She was thinking about the observations made by the teams and how they could best be supported;


While she was thinking, someone knocked on the door. It was Lena, one of the developers from one of the teams. "Lena, come in," said Katharina and smiled. "Nice of you to find the time to come by today."  

As in the morning, Lena seemed a little nervous: "You asked me this morning about my perception of the current work situation. After our conversation, I heard that they are probably thinking about changing the product owner structure. I think that's a good idea. We need someone who is closer to us and understands our specific challenges." 

Katharina nodded. "Thank you for your feedback, Lena. It's important for me to know what you as team members think about possible changes. The Product Owner structure is one of the upcoming topics after we have understood how you work together in the teams and where you see challenges." 

Lena smiled. "I think it will help us to become better. A dedicated product owner for our team has more time for us and can give us more direction. And maybe we could also have regular retrospectives with the product owners to give and receive feedback." 

Katharina made a note of Lena's suggestion. "That's a great idea, Lena." 

She often encountered this pattern at work: when people are listened to and their needs and ideas are perceived, this already leads to a certain degree of relaxation. And that in turn made her work more successful, as some unnecessary pressure could be resolved through a simple human gesture - genuine interest;


When Lena left the room, Katharina felt encouraged. Lena was not the first person she had interviewed in the last few days. She gathered information to get an overall picture of the status quo that she could later reflect on together with the organization. As the interviews progressed, it became increasingly clear that the teams were ready for change. Their feedback and ideas showed that the teams were thinking about alternatives. Good prerequisites for embarking on a joint solution finding process. The key questions were now: "what's next", "what is the minimum viable change" and "what is the North Star or what is the point of the whole thing at all";

What have we experienced here?

In this sequel, we see how Katharina approaches the team members. She acts as a partner and supporter for everyone involved and is interested in opinions, observations, theses and indicators. 

What does this have to do with a transformation?
As with almost every transformation, people are at the heart of this transformation. Katharina's willingness to listen and take feedback shows the teams that she is ready to accompany and support them on their journey;


Scene 4: Working with then Teams

Katharina entered the open-plan office where the three development teams and the operations team for the "MUH2000" product were working. She hadn't known the company for long and had only been on site a few times. She had resolved to experience the teams' daily routine again and again in order to recognize patterns. 

As she walked through the rows, she noticed how the team members were either engrossed in lively discussions or working individually and concentrated on their computers;

Katharina sat down with one of the teams and started asking questions. She wanted to know how they organized their work, what challenges they faced and how they made decisions. She noticed that the team was committed but often unsure about what to prioritize. It was obvious that the absence of Manfred as Product Owner was affecting the teams;


After listening for a while, Katharina suggested holding a short brainstorming session to collect ideas for improving the way they work. She asked the team to write down their thoughts and suggestions on a whiteboard. The team members were enthusiastic about the idea and actively participated. 

Many good ideas came up during the session, including:   

  • Tom, the experienced developer, suggested implementing a new architecture for the backend to improve the scalability of the system.
  • Another team member suggested having regular retrospectives with the product owners, which were already rumored everywhere, to give and receive feedback to improve collaboration.
  • Katharina herself came up with the idea of introducing a monthly "innovation hour" in which team members could present new technologies or working methods in order to learn from each other.

The ideas were evaluated and prioritized. At the end of the session, the team had compiled a list of actions and suggestions for improvement. And some of them could already be put directly into action;

Katharina felt encouraged by the team's positive response and willingness to think about improvements. She was confident that they would make great progress together. 

What have we experienced here?

Katharina encourages the emergence of impulses and ideas and uses structures and processes from her toolbox. In doing so, she meets people where they are. She looks at interactions from different angles and tries to separate observations from her own ideas. And even if it is tempting for her to talk shop about a transformation backlog, for the time being it is just a backlog of ideas that can lead to experiments.

And what does that have to do with transformation?

A transformation is not so much a process or a method, but a journey. A journey that is accompanied by leaders who bring knowledge and experience, and their ability to inspire and motivate teams and bring structures to life. 

Katharina's interactions with the team show that she is interested in needs and addresses their implementation. Among other things, a transformation is about empowering people to contribute their best ideas and finding solutions together that suit the people, the environment and the issues. In this way, everyone works together to achieve the goals of the change.


Scene 5: First ideas

On the way out, Manfred came to meet her. "Ah, Katharina, I was just looking for you. It's good to see you. What were your first impressions? Can we be a bit more specific about filling the Product Owner role? How do we ensure that the teams work together effectively and not in silos?" 

Katharina smiled. She had just come from a workshop with a few team members from the various teams working on the "MUH2000" product and remembered that the teams had also expressed the need for a closer exchange with the potential product owners, who were now the topic of conversation in every coffee kitchen;

"I have collected a first picture and some impressions that go well with your idea to think about the Product Owner role for the product "MUH2000": 

"It was important to you, and some team members also suggested giving each team a product owner in future. It seems to me that there is a lot of energy behind this idea. For effective collaboration, however, we should make sure that the product owners speak with one voice and act as a team. To do this, we need to pay attention to a few things. We could organize regular working sessions for the product owners to work together on the product backlog, share experiences, discuss challenges and learn from each other. It would also be helpful if you set clear expectations and goals for the product owner team." 

"That sounds great," Manfred summarized after a few minutes in which they had discussed and concretized the next steps that would be important for sustainable change. "I think it could work well. Let's try it out and then we'll see." 

"We should describe it as a real experiment," Katharina recommended, "so that we're not trying things out in the dark, but it's clear what hypothesis we have, what we can use to determine success or failure, so that we can change direction if necessary. I have a canvas for this..."  

As expected, Manfred didn't need to be told twice. With formulated experiments, concrete ideas and the agreement to train the new Product Owners on a trial period and with close support from Katharina "on the job", he immediately knew who he would put forward as Product Owner candidates.

As a result, Katharina was already sitting in a meeting room a few days later, surrounded by the three new Product Owner candidates: Julia, Magnus and Felix. She could feel the mixture of excitement and uncertainty in the room. It was a new step for everyone;

"Congratulations on your new role," began Katharina. "The next six months will be intense, but I'm happy to support you." 

Julia, a young woman with shining eyes, nodded. "We're ready for the challenge." 

Katharina smiled. "Good. As you know, one of my tasks as a coach is to help you find your way into your role in the coming period. Before we start, I would like to discuss some coaching agreements with you. This will help us to structure our work together and set us on the right path."

During the meeting, they also worked together on a coaching backlog, which outlined the most important topics and challenges for the coming months. Katharina was impressed by the openness and commitment of the three of them.

What have we experienced here?

Katharina begins her journey with the organization. She meets the new Product Owner candidates and works with them to develop framework conditions and agreements for the collaboration;

What does this have to do with transformation?

Katharina is faced with the challenge of coaching not only the product owners in their new role, but also the managers and other stakeholders in the organization and ensuring that the new structure works. As in most transformations, this also involves continuous support and involvement of those affected across different levels of the organization.


Scene 6: The change gets underway

Katharina stood in front of a large whiteboard on which the structure of the organization was outlined. There, the various teams, their roles and the relationships between them as well as the stakeholders were recorded. 


Julia, one of the newly appointed Product Owner candidates, approached her. "Katharina, I'm not sure how we can best support the teams. There are so many challenges and I sometimes feel overwhelmed." 

Katharina smiled. "That's normal, Julia. A transformation is always a challenge. But remember, you're not alone. We are here to support you and together we will find the best solutions." 

Julia nodded. "I know, but there's so much to do and so much to think about. And I want to make sure we make the right decisions." 

Katharina's view of this was clear. "We will, or we'll learn together along the way. I now take a more relaxed view and regularly remind myself that change is not just about changing processes. It's also about creating a culture of learning and continuous improvement. And that takes time and patience. It also means that sometimes we will make mistakes, but we learn from them and do better afterwards." 

Julia smiled gratefully. "Thank you, Katharina. I'm glad you're here." With these words, Julia turned and left;


Katharina looked after her and let her thoughts wander. On the one hand, she was preoccupied with the results of the status quo analysis that had been completed the previous week. In particular, the susceptibility of the "MUH2000" product to errors was a concern for everyone. An obvious and easy-to-implement improvement could be more frequent contact points between team members, for example through daily stand-ups, instead of the current weekly meetings. 

On the other hand, she thought about the risk of becoming a "silo for change" as a coach. Therefore, she did not want to think up the next steps in silence. She wanted to let the organization shape the change itself. But this had to be maintained and expanded;

What have we experienced here?

In this scene, we see how Katharina and Julia navigate the challenges of the early days of a transformation. It's clear that it's not just about processes, but also about people, communication and culture. It's about having the courage to try out new things and continuously learning to do them better. The uncertainty that comes with new approaches and new roles is addressed through continuous support, coaching and learning.

And what does that have to do with transformation?

A transformation of this kind is much more than just a change in structures. It is about how teams work together, communicate and solve problems. It is therefore also about creating a culture of learning, adaptability and continuous improvement. It's about being allowed to make mistakes and learning from them. This learning can be supported by external coaches or by internal multipliers or peer groups, such as communities of practice:

In the next chapter, Manfred's perspective will follow in a few days.

Chapter 2 describes the same process from Manfred's perspective. In the following chapters, the perspectives of the teams, the product owners and individual experts are added and the actual transformation is described;