Task: Transforming BMW’s Culture
Digital Transformation is on the minds of most executives at legacy organizations, not to mention being a prevailing topic across their LinkedIn newsfeed, front-page news, and shareholder meetings. It comes as no surprise then that many legacy organizations have started to chart their Digital Transformation journey.
However, many are now grappling with the greatest challenge to their digital shift, a cultural one. Through their Digital Transformation experiments, many executives are now realizing that they must focus on Cultural Transformation in parallel to ensure that ‘cultural roadblocks’ are dealt with and resolved in a collaborative and transparent setting. Technology companies like Microsoft have gone through a cultural transformation and have emerged as a more successful and ‘mission driven’ organization. Seeing the success of cultural transformation initiatives at other legacy organizations, BMW, working in conjunction with its partner consultancies, has now shifted focus to driving cultural change. However, even at an ‘engineering-driven’ organization, bringing together all cultural leaders to develop clear, implementable solutions company-wide can be challenging.
In partnership with the boutique consultancy Kregel and Plietsch, which was tasked by BMW’s CEO Harald Kruger to support in driving new cultural initiatives into the largest departments at BMW, we developed a week-long Culture Design Sprint. The objective of the design sprint was to bring all of BMW’s cultural leadership together and develop new solutions that could be deployed across the company. Using Design Thinking as our foundation, we developed a new methodology that took into consideration the human side of cultural transformation, bringing in influences from sociology, psychology and empathy mapping. Of equal importance was the environment we wanted to create for these cultural leaders. We wanted to ensure that they felt invested in the solutions they were generating and could evangelize them at the organization. To accomplish this, an off-campus and off-the-grid environment was created to allow participants to be as open and constructive as possible. The week-long sprint was conducted at a guest house at the top of the Alps where participants lived without the comfort of cell reception, with their nightly entertainment consisting of not cable television but cow pastures and the serenity of nature. This created a digital-detox environment that gave participants the rare opportunity to unplug, focus, and reflect
The teams created five novel concepts to be catalysts and vehicles for driving cultural change inside the organization. Three of these solutions were tested from which two have been green-lit to be used within selected departments. Overall, due to the close-knit collaboration necessary for each teams success, our remote setting in the mountains and our engaging exercises, BMW’s cultural leaders emerged from the week as a team, not just individuals tasked with similar marching orders. The action-oriented to-do’s coming out of our time in the mountains allowed them to focus on executing cultural change right when they were back in the office, versus having long meetings to build consensus by negotiation.