How can you build a truck with innovative unique selling propositions in just 18 months, if the regular development cycle is at least five years? MAN Truck & Bus was confronted with this challenge at the end of 2016.
Case Study: Success Story MAN.
Within the planned 18 months, two TÜV-approved vehicles were built.
The answer was a cross-functioal team and a new way of working for MAN: Scrum. Thanks to the consistent establishment of the agile framework, a 100% dedicated development team including Scrum Master and Product Owner could be set up very quickly.
Interface functions such as the purchasing department and assembly were integrated into the team and also tried out new approaches. For example, the process of searching for and integrating external development service providers was carried out in just six weeks instead of the regular six months. Direct communication with colleagues in the assembly department revealed potential errors at an early stage and optimizations could be incorporated directly into the ongoing development process. Both the number of emails sent and the resulting waiting times were reduced to a minimum.
Meanwhile, the success of the team has become tangible: Within the planned 18 months, two TÜV-approved vehicles were built, which were able to demonstrate new standards in terms of safety, driver comfort and drive technology at the IAA Nutzfahrzeuge in September 2018. In addition, a highly efficient and motivated team has been created that lives and spreads the agile mindset.
When asking the team about the decisive success factors, especially the following points were mentioned: 100% availability of the team members and their co-location, daily coordination with colleagues in the workshop, full support and regular and pragmatic involvement of stakeholders, as well as transparency and communication with related departments. The most important point, how-ever, is openness and the courage to try something new.
The positive impact of the project on the rest of the company is enormous. MAN is now living the future-oriented implementation of innovative ideas through agile methods.
The objective was to develop a vehicle especially designed for urban distribution transport.
At the end of 2016, MAN Truck & Bus commissioned a project to be able to present an approved concept vehicle with unique features at the next IAA Nutzfahrzeuge in September 2018. The objective was to develop a vehicle especially designed for urban distribution transport – with new standards in terms of safety, driving comfort and emission-free mobility.
At this point, the decision-makers were aware that the short project duration in particular represented a great challenge that could not be overcome with the established standard processes and organizational structures. In order to meet this challenge, MAN decided to introduce the Scrum methodology as part of an agile R&D pilot project, supported by external coaches. The typical short iterations and feedback loops were intended to create value and make results visible more quickly.
In a very short time, an internal MAN team first defined the product vision and the unique selling propositions, such as a user-optimized field of vision for the driver to avoid accidents, an ergonomic entry/exit to reduce the driver‘s physical strain, and user-oriented workplace ergonomics.
A groundbreaking decision was filling the product owner role.
At the beginning of the project, the entire internal team was trained regarding the basics of Scrum (roles, events and artifacts). Afterwards, the roles within the team were defined, an initial product backlog was developed and the dates for the regular Scrum events were determined on the basis of working agreements. Accordingly, the team was able to start an agile way of working after just one week.
The training was conducted by external Scrum coaches. These coaches assumed the role of the Scrum Master with a 100% presence in order to optimally enable the MAN-internal Scrum Master.
Right from the beginning the coaches pushed for a 100% focus of the Scrum team members on this project and demanded a co-location of the whole team. Therefore, also the commitment of the managers and colleagues of the team members in their normal line functions was required.
In addition, the importance of commitment and support on the part of stakeholders (including top management) was explicitly pointed out. A groundbreaking decision was filling the product owner role, which was initially to be assumed by a representative of the management. In order to be able to fulfill the full-time responsibility of this role, one of the team members assumed this role instead, who was enabled by the management with the necessary decision-making authority.
The topics „reporting“ and „decision making“ were another important issue. Particularly with regard to the short project duration it was important to design efficient decision-making processes within the established committee structures. The Scrum team and the stakeholders agreed to communicate project progress pragmatically prepared only in the review meetings (a dedicated event in Scrum to obtain stakeholder feedback) and to also make the necessary decisions there. Direct feedback and very short decision paths contributed significantly to the success of the project.
By consistently applying lean principles the entire process duration could be shortened to six weeks and thus the project deadlines could be met.
MAN also tried out an agile approach when selecting and onboarding the development service provider. With an average duration of six months, the procurement process used in the classic projects would have taken up a third of the planned total project duration. By consistently applying lean principles, such as having all decision- makers in one room or being able to get timely feedback from them, the entire process duration, including the necessary committee decisions and board approval, could be shortened to six weeks and thus the project deadlines could be met.
Due to the agile form of cooperation, it was also necessary to break new ground in the integration of service providers. For example, in the context of sprint planning, the service provider was commissioned directly out of SAP with work packages within a sprint duration of one week and could thus be managed directly and briefly.
The entire MAN team and a selection of the service provider‘s employees spent five full days getting to know each other, including a joint Scrum training session and a sprint simulation. This early focus on a common understanding accelerated the subsequent collaboration and formed the basis for rapid concept development and decision-making.
When starting with vehicle construction, all people involved made their tasks and impediments transparent on a Kanban board.
The synchronization with the established product development process (PEP) at MAN was divided into three steps: Adaptation towards the planned production quantity, streamlining of requirements, adaptation towards the agile way of working. This happened in close collaboration with all areas involved in the process and the process owner.
After completion of detail development the procurement of the parts and the assembly of the vehicles was started. At the same time, the assembly staff were enthusiastic about the agile approach. When starting with vehicle construction, all people involved made their tasks and impediments transparent on a Kanban board. Numerous emails were replaced by daily personal coordination between the technicians and the developers directly on the vehicle, whereby issues could be resolved in a minimum of time.
The TÜV-approved vehicle was completed within 18 months with the agreed unique selling propositions and was presented at the IAA Nutzfahrzeuge in September 2018.
The overall project was a complete success in many ways. The original project order was completely fulfilled. The TÜV-approved vehicle was completed within 18 months with the agreed unique selling propositions and was presented at the IAA Nutzfahrzeuge in September 2018. The advantages of the agile approach in an innovation project within MAN were impressively demonstrated.
In the course of the project a highly motivated and experienced Scrum team has been created, which has assumed „ownership“ of its product. Such a team is a value in itself, which must be maintained beyond the project for other challenges in the future. Voluntary work beyond the regular working hours to achieve important milestones is only one sign of the extraordinary team motivation. The Scrum maxim „one team, one goal“ is impressively shown here. Even privately the team has grown together and meets regularly for personal and sportive activities.
At the latest when starting vehicle assembly more and more employees were involved in the product development and the „agile spark“ also jumped over to these colleagues. This combination of the personal experience of the agile way of working and the enormous project success leads to a massive impact on the whole company.
The Scrum maxim „one team, one goal“ is impressively shown here.
In summary it can be said that without real commitment and support of the stakeholders, without 100% availability of team members and the respective task focus, without co-location of teams, short distances and direct communication such a complex project could not be realized in such a short time.
The experience from this project shows that such successes are actually possible with people who can and want to go new ways, who critically question things, organize themselves and take on real responsibility. Supported and empowered by an also convinced management, it is even possible to build an innovative truck within a project duration of 1.5 years.
Scrum Academy GmbH
Sohrab is a long-standing Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and CEO of the Scrum Academy GmbH based in Cologne. He is a trained medical doctor and worked for Bain & Company as a consultant and as a CIO at SE-Consulting, among others, before founding the Scrum Academy. As a consultant and trainer, he has been supporting companies from a wide range of industries for over a decade on topics related to agile transformation, innovation and organizational development.