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How a Team-building workshop improved my Work (a Success Story)

Today I am glad to share an interesting story about dSPACE, a German high-tech company operating in Japan. I am talking with Karsten Fischer, who is the Group Leader of two teams at dSPACE Japan. Karsten joined my Management 3.0 (Agile Leadership) and Lean Change Management workshop in November 2019. He started implementing Management 3.0 practices in his teams. At the beginning of this year, he approached NuWorks to organize a team-building, IKIGAI and vision building workshop with his teams.
I am happy to share the interview with you.

Stefan: Hello Karsten. Tell me a little bit about dSPACE and yourself. What kind of company is dSPACE and what is your role at dSPACE?

Karsten: Hello Stefan, happy to see you again – at least online, due to the current situation – and thank you very much for having me to this interview.

As a company and a close partner for our customers, dSPACE provides solutions and know-how for development and testing of so-called Electronic Control Units (ECU) by using model-based and automatic code generation approaches, deeply combined with simulation technology. This allows our users to develop and validate their own software and hardware innovations faster and safer – by running these in virtual environments. That also means high levels of quality can be reached earlier on, already before deploying and testing new functionalities in the real car, a plane or a medical device, to name some application examples. And as a global player, dSPACE has offices world-wide. Here in Japan we are present at 4 different locations, the main office located in Tokyo and with branches in Nagoya, Utsunomiya and Osaka.

About myself, I first started as an intern, student worker at dSPACE headquarters in Paderborn, and after graduation joined as a full-time software developer. With 5 years of experience, I came to Japan as an expatriate and team leader in Application Engineering for 3 years. I returned to the HQ, became a group manager in the SW development department there I developed functional concepts, handled patent creation and research, performed tasks in product management for the Japanese market with one of our main software products. Therefore, I always continued to be in close touch to the Japanese “locals”. Now since 2017 I am expatriated again here to dSPACE Japan K.K., in order to directly help our employees and customers for the expanded software product range – with the strong support from German colleagues and of course with the help of the members of my group here. Appropriately our name is “Software Product Group”.


Stefan: You joined the Management 3.0 and Lean Change Management 3-Day Workshop last year in November. Why did you join this particular workshop?

Karsten: I had an eye on Management 3.0 for several years, sometimes reading related blog articles and newsletters. When I returned to Japan in 2017, by chance Jurgen Appelo was here and I thought to join his workshop but at that time I could not, due to scheduled customer visits. Then when I saw an advertisement for your Three-day workshop last year, this time I could not miss the chance and quickly got approval from my boss. Our company invests in our employee’s training and development, so one benefit is that we can take some classes rather easily.

Now I remember that before the workshop you contacted me because some participants canceled, as they had date conflicts. And as I eagerly wanted to practically learn more about Management 3.0 by means of the workshop, together we came up with several ideas. Finally, we found a solution for everybody by separating the three consecutive days into three times on Fridays. And thus, here we are to talk again today for this interview.

Stefan: Do you use Management 3.0 and Lean Change Management practices or thinking in your company?

Karsten: Yes, step by step, little by little – as we say as a running gag in one of the teams. Some thinking I already used without knowing, just as it fits well to my own ways of thinking, I guess. Take for example using “story telling” with interesting examples to share knowledge. In 2017 I organized such a session as a first event in my new position.

And after joined your workshop last year, soon I organized an internal workshop for my members. There we used for example “Celebration Grid” to openly reflect on our work and results, set some goals for improvements that we tackle in this year. Overall everybody’s feedback was positive for that. And I wanted to expand more on the Management 3.0 practices, move towards self-organization with the teams. Soon after started to plan the whole group’s workshop with you.

Then with the workshop in this year we started to use the “Personal Maps”, “Delegation Poker”, “Moving Motivators”. And recently, on a free desk in our area in the office, I placed a “Kudo Box” for writing “thank you” notes to each other. As we just moved to another office floor in the building with two other groups and mine, it was good chance to make us a little more at home with that.

And to be honest, I wished to be a little further. However, as the whole working situation changed due to the Covid19, dSPACE Japan also starts work from home for employee’s safety since April. That was a new and at first a challenging situation for us – as for most Japanese companies, I guess. This slowed the Management 3.0 practices down a bit, as we had first to re-organize our workstyle and shift to more online practices. And thankfully our IT team gradually added more online tools.

Till now we took the workshop as a group, that got us started again with Management 3.0 and step by step it is on-going. Now I am preparing another internal meeting to collect feedback on the current experiments, adjust and plan the next steps.

As another activity I joined an upcoming and company-wide project here in Japan, where we research and want to apply more of such modern working styles, also factoring in to keep some home office days in the future. This working group will start soon, and the plan is to invest quite some time and resources for further improving the work environment for everybody. I am sure the way of thinking of Management 3.0 combined with the Lean Change Management ideas will come in handy.

Stefan: What are major challenges in your work?

Karsten: Japanese customers have a generally high expectation and working together with them by also including the German side for development and engineering, is one part of the challenges. Thus, beside the organizational and technical skills development, we invest even further in inter-cultural trainings and exchange of employees. My teams and me, together with the other members here in dSPACE Japan, we then bridge as good as possible to the HQ, to make our customers become successful with their own work by employing our company’s tools and solutions.

Stefan: In the beginning of this year you approached me to run a workshop with your team. Can you explain what the intention of this workshop was and why you did choose NuWorks?

Karsten: Simple answer, I really liked the way you organized and facilitated the workshop last year. Plus, your company were the first to offer Management 3.0 workshops in Japan. That’s why I did not think long and contacted you again.

Stefan: Unfortunately, we needed to postpone the workshop due to the Covid19 pandemic. So, we decided to run the workshop later this year in September as a hybrid version, 3 hours online course and two half day in-person workshop with two different teams. The workshop was a mix of Management 3.0, Work Together Anywhere and IKIGAI.
What was the impression of the workshops?

Karsten: Exactly, September became the ideal timeframe as weather would be not too hot to also use some open-air location. And we did the online part at first. After having a short “tech check” session for 20 minutes, where everybody could test their equipment with the used software, some days later we went live. And that Zoom conference call with everybody having their web camera on, plus using with your prepared exercises, that was an awesome experience. For the exercises we used break-out rooms with random members, re-combined and discussed results in the main room, with seeing everybody mouse-pointer with picture and names attached moving around the virtual space, checking out other members’ opinions. Everybody was so engaged, which especially made me happy. And some drew such cool personal maps as the homework with pictures of their car and so –again thank you very much for taking an extra effort. Also, thanks to Kumiko-san and you with NuWorks for the good organization and help for first fully multi-dimensional interactive online workshop which we held as a group.

Next, we met the two times “offsite”, as we call it here. This means “offline” in real life and in a more neutral place, not a meeting room in the office. And you also made a superb choice by booking that roof-top location in Shibuya via Spacemarket. Size of the room was a little smaller than I expected but location and atmosphere were top-notch in my opinion. They took some very skilled photos for the advertisement, that was one other learning of that day. Still with the adjacent roof terrace, it was spacious and in the current situation provided the necessary distance and fresh air ventilation. Especially at the second time we completely moved to outside, when working with the prepared materials and flip charts.

Interesting for me was that both times went into quite different directions. For each time I had selected members from both teams, in order to have them interact and work cross-team. At first, I really wondered and then in the end realized that both results just focused on different aspects of the same things and complement each other well as a whole. So, for finalizing our group’s vision 2021, we plan to combine these into one by a further online meeting end of this year.

Stefan: What was the result of these workshops? What was the biggest benefit you and your team took away from the workshops?

Karsten: For the online part I already mentioned some before, the personal sharing, finding the common and different motivation factors were the important and good results.  Just the online “Work Together Anywhere” part I personally found a little weak. I think because we had learned such things on-the-job and hands-on already in the last months, and one of the teams is half split between two locations. Hence those were not fully new and just recent topics with the work from home. Still it was a good point to do reflection and writing down our team agreements for the online working. That is a result and we can build more on this later, for example when new members join.

Then in the two offsite meetings it was important to first learn more of the basic Management 3.0 knowledge for all members and doing exercises, transforming into usable results. That was good. For the workshop’s personal Ikigai game part in smaller teams, this was also helpful for the mutual understanding and continued team building. However, from the contents of the topics I felt that time given for us was a little short, therefore, I want to follow that up for myself.

Finally, and as one of the main results, using selected Ikigai game questions to find out about our group’s own as part of the company’s mission and vision that was an interesting way to do that, even sometimes a challenging one. Here you as facilitator helped us a lot and with number-based voting on some questions we got it right then. For me the most interesting part of the day.

Overall, from those three and half-days, I found good learnings and insights, plus more tools, more homework and new ideas. The other members’ responses were similar. And in the offices, since April we avoid working all together on the same weekdays, limiting the presence for the safety of ourselves from Covid19. Thus, another well-received benefit of the workshop was that they could see each other again in-person as a larger group and with a safe manner. Then with closing the workshop with the Konshinkai party, we ate tasty pizzas on the roof-top terrace and had active talks at the end of the day. Great.

Stefan: Now, let me know a little bit about yourself. Why did you choose to move to Japan? And what do you like most about being here in Japan?

Karsten: The work, the people, the tasty Japanese food and my wife brought me back here, I would say. And I enjoy exploring all the different areas of Tokyo. Like taking the train somewhere and then walking for hours, finding always new things in this ever-changing and active city.

In addition, one of our company’s goals is to be a real business partner to our customers, and especially here in Japan I also like to work hard for a day together and afterwards go to dinner, sharing stories about work topics and life, cultural differences. Same as we also do internally with members of our company, and with visitors from German HQ. That is really a nice culture in Japan, where we have this strong company spirit.

In Germany in dSPACE, I experienced that similar, where we had time with the younger colleagues for going to a restaurant, playing some games, and sports. And we have famous company parties in Paderborn. For this the global colleagues including those from Japan will arrange carefully timed visits together with their customers, to additionally join the summer festival – so it is really all cross-culture.

Stefan: Thank you and I hope you will continue implementing more modern ideas into your workplace.

Karsten:  Thank you, too – and thanks to your help, I’d like to say.