Strengthening IT with collaboration, staff loyalty and productivity

Education provider WBS GRUPPE sets up its IT department for the future

// Agility, Corporate Culture

In a large-scale change project, , the IT oft he WBS GRUPPE developed new principles for its own work. Communication, performance and employee satisfaction were to be promoted in equal measure. In order to motivate as many people as possible to participate, the change initiative was launched openly and as an agile process. The noventum corporate culture experts provided the agile tools and managed the multi-layered project.

High-performance IT is at the heart of the continuing education market leader

With approx. 1,400 employees and currently approx. 9,000 participants, the WBS Group is Germany's largest e-learning provider of subsidised further education and retraining. With more than 200 local representative offices, the company is decentralised and supplies its customers digitally and online over long distances. With almost 100 employees, the in-house IT department is one of the most important departments and forms the technological backbone of the company with the online learning portal WBS LearnSpace 3D®. It is the contact for all employees and customers who need support in using the IT applications of the large training provider.

WBS board members Heinrich Kronbichler and Joachim Giese, together with IT manager Pedro Bergemann, engaged noventum consulting's CCM consultants to initiate and moderate a large-scale change project with the working title "myIT22 - Trust. Responsibility. Performance". On these three levels, the project was to secure the future and performance of the in-house IT. Alina Goebel, psychologist, coach and noventum corporate culture consultant, moderated the 2-day kick-off workshop and was the contact person and driving force throughout the entire project.

The approach: Making organisational development successful through participation

For the future of the WBS Group, the technical support provided by IT is of outstanding importance. As a result, the IT department is under a lot of pressure to meet expectations. Teaching is predominantly IT-supported or directly digital and is unthinkable without a dynamic and well-motivated IT unit. As a service unit, WBS IT is responsible for the functioning technical process of further education and training and is also always in demand for innovation through various in-house developments.

To support and further develop the IT department, a process was launched to motivate and realign the department from within. The central approach of this process was participation, co-determination and voluntariness. The employees themselves were asked to take responsibility for the future of their department. This set the tone for the project according to agile principles. In a broad-based kick-off, all IT managers and other colleagues worked out a current situation analysis, a target picture and concrete improvement measures. All employees who wanted to support and shape the change process were explicitly invited.

Finding topics with eigenland®

The first steps of the process (problem awareness and goal setting) were stimulated in the workshop with the eigenland® method. This method, specially designed for team and organisational development, gets topics moving quickly and effectively and integrates all participants in an equal workshop situation [noventum consulting with eigenland®]. The approx. 25 participants identified four topics and worked out corresponding change requests for communication, goals, responsibility framework and leadership in declarations of intent ("").


1. Improve communication at the interfaces

"We want to improve communication in IT and at the interfaces to save time."

Improving communication was the most extensive area of change addressed by the WBS workshop. "The readiness for appreciative communication alone is not a sufficient method. Transparency, direct communication, feedback and communicative rituals are important in order to set the right impulses together again and again," Pedro Bergemann sums up the first results of the communication change. For example, the IT of WBS GRUPPE established the "Blitzlicht", a monthly plenum situation in which employees present the most important IT topics and activities, thus contributing to transparency across departmental boundaries. However, this is not the only way to appreciate results and "celebrate" successes together. Team events have also been part of the fixed rituals since the project was completed, with which the WBS-IT teams promote togetherness and commitment in their work and thus strengthen the motivation of each individual. The continuous improvement of the meeting culture was another important building block of the communication concept, as was dealing with the topic of customer communication and service at the interfaces.

2. Only with common goals can forces be combined

"We want to concretise our goals to create transparency on the way to improve our performance."

In the kick-off workshop, the measures "Establish key figures for teams", "Key figures for the entire IT" and "Objectives for the entire IT" were defined. In the agile course of the project, a working group was formed from the individual persons responsible for the measures, which jointly identified "OKRs" (Objectives & Key Results) as a possible solution and implemented them for the IT organisation. A special feature of this approach is that "soft" goals (the objectives) are linked to "hard" implementation steps (the key results) and can thus be taken out of arbitrariness. The driving element for the process was also the participation and voluntariness of the employees, who were able to evaluate and concretise their own work and align it with key results. [noventum consulting on Objectives & Key Results]

3. A clearly structured framework of responsibility replaces rigid hierarchies

"We want to set the accountability framework to enable faster and safer work by focusing internally and improve collaboration externally."

At first glance, an organigram appears neither new nor particularly dynamic. And yet it is important for the structure of an organisation to create a systematic overview for tasks and people. Not an easy task in a modern IT organisation when a whole series of scrum teams, work groups, line activities and project functions are the complex database for which a clear overview is needed. "In fact, as a consequence of this demanding structuring of our IT, we have questioned and sharpened some responsibilities and accountabilities. Structures that have grown up can also be a hindrance, and clarity first helps here," notes IT manager Bergemann in retrospect.

4. Leadership is also an important topic in the agile world

"We want to improve our leadership to increase the effectiveness of the work with targeted measures and retain our skilled workers."

Feedback is the most important leadership tool and creates a common ground and openness on the part of the employees as well as the leaders. If feedback is given by both sides and has its place in daily work, it can be a strong bond for the whole team. This insight was quickly agreed upon at the WBS workshop. Well over half of all employees and managers in IT have dedicated themselves to this topic in special feedback workshops to date. These workshops and other management workshops were developed within the framework of the project hand in hand with personnel [noventum consultancy on leadership development] specifically for the needs of the WBS GRUPPE IT. The concepts are aimed at identifying potential for improvement, a common understanding of leadership and increasing transparency and employee satisfaction and are offered on an ongoing basis..


The agile noventum process model

Project organisation: Consistent orientation towards agile principles

As an agile process, the most important feature of the WBS GRUPPE change project was self-organisation within a well-organised framework. In the kick-off workshop, about 15 employees voluntarily took on the main responsibility for one of the defined improvement measures each and thus formed the core team of the project. With the support of other colleagues, these measures were then implemented in an iterative process over the following 8 months. Every month, the core team defined a sprint goal and the subtasks that were to be developed during the sprint in a planning meeting. At the end of the sprint, the partial results were presented and discussed with the entire IT team in a "review". All steakholders were continuously asked for their feedback via a Forms survey or directly. For the continuous improvement of the cooperation, the "retrospective" was carried out at the end of each sprint, in which the working methods were reflected and optimised step by step. The longer the change project lasted, the more dynamic it became. Most sub-projects dealt with cross-divisional issues and subsequently had an impact on the entire IT organisation. Therefore, the weekly status meeting was all the more profitable. In the "weekly", those responsible for the measures reported on the current status of the tasks in order to maintain an overview of the overall project, clarify obstacles and create transparency for everyone involved. Important decisions could always be made quickly because the head of IT was involved in all agile meetings as a product owner.

noventum consultant Alina Goebel moderated all meetings as an agile coach and provided input on the topics of leadership, communication, goals and responsibility, as well as being the contact person for individual consultations. As a project manager, she always had an eye on where the journey should go and where the team currently stood. "As an Agile Coach, Ms Goebel accompanied us through our entire demanding process and at all times gave us the assurance that we were on the right track," says IT Manager Pedro Bergemann.

[noventum consultancy on agile work organisation].




noventum consulting

Dr. Matthias Rensing


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