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#Kulturwandel 4.0: The Otto Group has launched far-reaching changes to make all affiliated companies, including the EOS Group, more competitive. It is now up to all of its employees, three of whom report on how new freedoms inspire them to make EOS faster, more flexible and more modern.

Discussing issues with the Managing Director and expressing criticism may be the way to do things with a small start-up, but what about in a global company with just under 8,000 employees? Often, only the upper management levels can discuss strategic themes such as cooperation, networking and processes. The EOS Group shows that there is another way. The Group relies more and more on an open exchange through hierarchy levels

Motivated to take on responsibility:
The new corporate culture generates positive energy

This openness is part of the so called #Kulturwandel 4.0 – a cultural change process –, which the parent company of EOS, the Otto Group, announced at the end of 2015. The organisation executives are examining existing structures and practices and making necessary improvements throughout the Group. The aim is to make all companies in the Otto Group faster, more customer-friendly and more modern so they can remain competitive in times of increasing digitalisation.

Taking advantage of everyone’s energy and ideas

At the beginning of #Kulturwandel 4.0, the Otto Group Executive Board Members each took one of the six relevant themes, such as ‘#Speed’, ‘#Customer’ and ‘#Empowerment & Agile Leadership’. Employees of the Otto Group were asked to join the change process and work together with Executive Board Members in core teams. The response was huge. Employees from different companies – such as Baur, Hermes and About you – and very different backgrounds volunteered. EOS employees are also participating in four of the six teams to work out measures for improvements. Which structures are still efficient today? What does the customer want today and tomorrow? How can we better use synergy in the Otto Group? Team #Speed, for instance, identified and eliminated many unnecessary activities and time wasters that slow down the Group. Streamlined processes increase flexibility and speed. ‘We use everyone’s energy, skills and ideas. This corporate culture inspires me and gives me a new, positive energy,’ says Lara Flemming, Head of Corporate Communications & Marketing at EOS.

More than 40 initiatives across the Group are being promoted within #Kulturwandel 4.0. ‘They are a kind of treasure chest. Any company can use it according to its needs. What works for EOS may not be useful for other companies in the Otto Group, such as Crate & Barrel or Schwab,’ explains Pia Fischbach, Head of International IT Account and Project Management at EOS IT Services in Germany.

Take advantage of new freedom

#Kulturwandel 4.0 deliberately creates new freedom. ‘The core teams have coined the slogan “You are the culture!”. Each employee can make a contribution,’ explains Christian Kerpen. The Head of Business Intelligence Competency Center at EOS DID in Germany works in one core team, just like Ms Flemming and Ms Fischbach. He pointed to a normal situation in his department as an example. When the demand for a seminar on the topic ‘Agile Project Management’ exceeded expectations, Mr Kerpen decided to increase the seminar capacity without any kind of decision documents or prior clarification of the costs. ‘Previously, that would have been hard to implement. The maxim of change – “just do it” – actually works,’ he says.

Networking among hierarchies already takes place at EOS, as in the socalled EOS Cultural Café. In informal discussions, members of the management discuss matters with their employees, using a more agile approach without an agenda. CFO Justus Hecking-Veltman and Western Europe Head Dr Andreas Witzig initiated the first such discussion. Ms Fischbach, who was present, says, ‘Among other things, we discussed the mistake culture at EOS. All participants meet on equal terms and such discussions let employees know that their opinions are valued. I really felt I was appreciated.’

Ultimately, internal changes have an outward effect. ‘We employees can offer our ideas and bring about improvements. The new approach motivates us and increases everyone’s sense of responsibility of the individual, and thus the success or failure of EOS,’ says Ms Flemming. #Kulturwandel 4.0 is not an end in itself, however. The intention is clear. The Otto Group and EOS want to secure and extend their market position. Everyone who participates secures the future of the Group.

KNOWING
WHAT
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Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming.
DAVID BOWIE (1947–2016), British singer. During his 40-year career, David Bowie proved to be a master of change and innovation. His versatility made him one of the most influential artists in recent music history.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

The Otto Group, the parent company of EOS, has announced #Kulturwandel 4.0 for the headquarters and for all Group companies around the world. More than 40 Group initiatives and countless measures have been started since the beginning of the year. Chairman of the Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Otto Group, Hans-Otto Schrader, explains why he initiated the process.
Hans-Otto Schrader: The Chairman of the Otto Group’s Board of Directors is impressed by the passion of the staff for #Kulturwandel 4.0

Mr Schrader, the Otto Group management announced #Kulturwandel 4.0 in December 2015. How did this come about?

Hans-Otto Schrader: #Kulturwandel 4.0 is our response to the realisation that we have to change fundamentally in the digital world, which is evolving ever faster. Only when we do so will we be able to play a role as a top company in the future. With approximately 50,000 employees and 123 companies, the Otto Group is a large tanker that should not be overtaken by smaller speedboats. That is why we have identified areas where we have to improve and become better than we are now. Are we close enough to the client? Are we fast enough? Are we sufficiently connected? Are we transparent? How do we motivate our colleagues? These are the questions that concern us. We must ask ourselves whether we can effectively and efficiently take advantage of the opportunities, given our size and extensive know-how. This is why we initiated #Kulturwandel 4.0.

Why do you speak about culture and not about strategy?

Mr Schrader: Peter Drucker, the Austrian-born economist, said something very intelligent: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ The best strategy does not succeed if it does not apply the correct culture to its implementation. Often, there is no lack of strategic, financial or business targets in companies. They instead lack the appropriate mind-set to lead them to success. Culture is about attitudes that determine our behaviour. We want to actively shape how we work together in order to implement our goals in the best way possible.

Tell us about an example of #Kulturwandel 4.0 that you consider important.

Mr Schrader:One very important point is hierarchy. The Otto Group is very hierarchical, which hinders us at some important points. This is not about simply demonising hierarchy, though. We need a hierarchy for the design of structures and to coordinate our many people and tasks. It will instead be defined differently from now on. The function of leadership is closely associated with this. We must ask ourselves what type of leadership we need in the future to meet expectations of the talents we want to recruit for the Otto Group and to secure the company’s success in the long term. What conditions do we have to create that will allow talented people to develop?

#Kulturwandel 4.0 has been going on for some months. Have there been any surprises?

Mr Schrader: Some! The most amazing realisation for me, however, is how passionately employees have joined this process and how many clever ideas we are implementing. A tremendous amount is also happening with the EOS Group. We had the motto ‘just do it’, and I am impressed as to how this has been accepted. It proves to us on the Board of Directors that our people hold the greatest potential. We would do well to put this valuable asset to better use.

Photo at the top: Happily engaged in cross-functional work: Ilona Bolotina, Christian Rönnpag, Christian Kerpen, Pia Fischbach and Lara Flemming (from left).
Motivated to take on responsibility:
The new corporate culture generates positive energy
Motivated to take on responsibility:
The new corporate culture generates positive energy.