Karo discovers new worlds
In the property finance unit, the One Agile Way of Working has become a reality for all delivery employees. Karolina is one of them. Together with her Squad, the product owner is striking out in a new direction. We accompany her on her daily routine.
There is a colourful glimmer behind Karolina: a board is covered with post-its of all shades. Tasks, open questions, notes – everything that needs to be done over the next few days. “Of course it is quite a challenge”, says Karolina, who is referred to by her Squad simply as Karo. The 32 year old is a product owner in the property finance unit. What was previously a part of the construction financing, is now the home base. “This is what we have been called for a few days now”, explains Karo. Together with her eight colleagues – six women, two men – she is taking her first steps into the agile world.
She is currently reflecting on the past day’s completed tasks and the work for the ones ahead. Jobs are distributed, help is given, problems are solved. Whenever Karo loudly crumples up a post-it, a smile passes across the faces of her Squad employees. One less job to do. “It is exciting, but we all still need a little time to find our feet”, Karo remarks on the first days of the agile adventure. She is confident: “We will do it.”
Everyone must break new ground
In her Squad, people with the most varied of skills and specialities work together. “Our team is in a good position as far as construction financing is concerned: two colleagues take care of the pricing and the product strategy, another the existing customer management and a further two the customer communication”, explains Karo. Working with them: one data analyst, one expert for process development and one product developer. “Lots of very different minds, but all working towards one goal: to offer the customer the best”, says Karo.
Since the beginning of the transition she has noticed “hardly any difficulties”. The large majority of the team has been working together for a long time, that is, before the transition. “That helps, of course”, Karo acknowledges. She observes that, “no one treads on anyone else’s toes here because we all have the same stance.” This means, when no one knows how something works, everyone must break new ground. Karen acknowledges that this has naturally caused some concern. “Up until now, everyone was only familiar with their own tasks and processes”, says Karo. Karo’s colleague Corinna , who is fondly referred to as Coco by her team, explains the new working environment in this way: “Now each employee has to keep track of the whole picture.” Coco explains that at the beginning, there are lots of mundane tasks: “for example, clearing the calendar of old standardised appointments and deadlines, holding daily meetings, concluding old tasks, helping colleagues with individual tasks. In summary: it is easy to work more closely”, Coco elaborates.
„Agile working is certainly exciting, but we all need little time, to find our feet. We’ll get there.
Karo, Product Owner
“Mistakes are allowed”
For Karo, the transition into her role as product owner is “a balancing act between taking on responsibility and ensuring the employees are feeling positive”. After such a drastic transition,“mistakes are of course allowed to happen”, says Karo. From her perspective, what’s important, is that mistakes are transparent and that everyone knows straight away where problems could occur.
For Karo this has almost become routine. She is not easily fazed. After all, she understands all facets of banking. Since her traineeship at a local Sparkasse bank branch, she has progressed through all sectors: “From the cashier’s desk to private wealth relationship management, I have done it all”, explains Karo. She is happy to be on the move, travelling across Germany on the weekends to visit family and friends with her husband. While she is explaining this, she is shifting from one leg onto another. She needs to go. There is an upcoming meeting in Obeya. “Another really new word”, she says with a mischievous smile. And with that, she’s gone.
Two weeks later
An enquiring look, a smile: two weeks later Karo is sitting with her Squad in a small room and consulting them about upcoming tasks. The sprint planning – also known as a planning session – is coming up. Coco is currently reporting on an offer that combines construction financing and current account. The corresponding tasks are under discussion. Can the team handle this in the next two weeks? Karo asks: “Can we all visualise this?” Everyone affirms that they can.
The atmosphere is open, almost playful, but there is an air of concentration nonetheless. The employees ask detailed questions, Karo answers or passes the questions on to a colleague. More and more post-its make their way from the backlog into the next column, the upcoming sprint. It goes on: task after task moves its way across the board. Karo looks attentively around the meeting and communicates a lot. She often repeats the question: “Does that work for everyone, to try this out? Are we all agreed, that we want to get this done this year?”
„At the beginning, there are lots of mundane tasks: for example, clearing the calendar of old standardised appointments and deadlines, holding daily briefings, concluding old tasks, helping colleagues with individual tasks. In summary: it is easy to work more closely.
Corinna “Coco”, Squad Member
“The twinkle in the customer’s eye”
Anastasia nods. She is the data analyst and “on permanent loan to Karo’s Squad”, as she says. This means that she helps to structure the data budget in the Squad and to find automated solutions. In addition, she takes care of data procurement, helps with data processing and tries “to give colleagues an eye for data”. She has already been testing agile working for a year. “I was familiar with the mindset after the first few steps”, she says. But this also means: “I try to share experience that I have gained with my colleagues and help to implement the agile working method in a way that suits us”, explains Anastasia.
Karo concurs: “No one should feel stupid if something doesn’t quite work.” Even after two weeks, not everything is running perfectly. “But it will, we are growing very well together”, Karo is convinced. Was she ever afraid that she and her team could be overwhelmed by the agile adventure? “No, I am not afraid”, she says. On the contrary: “When a lot of changes take place, you reflect on what is essential”, she remarks. Solving common problems, helping the customer with an issue, creating solidarity. This is her mission every day. Throughout these exciting weeks, Karo thinks back to why she was sure she wanted to go into construction financing at the beginning of her career. “The twinkle in the customer’s eye, when their dreams are realised and they can move into their own house, that’s it”, she says.
She and her husband are currently on the hunt for their own home. Preferably in Frankfurt “even if it can be difficult”, as she acknowledges. But there is nothing that fazes Karo.