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Ingo Kallenbach

Leadership in an agile world (2): "working out loud"

How you can promote the development to an agile company with "working out loud"

Companies such as Siemens and Continental are already working successfully with the new method. At BMW and Bosch, "Working out loud" has even been integrated into the daily work routine. In the age of digitisation, this new procedure promises to enable cooperation across divisions and companies and to promote the rapid exchange of knowledge and access to institutions and persons with whom one has had no contact so far.

On this occasion, we looked into the question of how you can use "working out loud" for your company to establish an agile attitude.

 What is "Working out loud"?

To use the words of the inventor of the method and the author of the book of the same name, John Stepper, "Working out loud" is a simple method for building relevant working relationships that help to achieve a goal or discover new topics.

As the core of this method he describes in his book published in 2015 a multitude of practical techniques and working tools that are primarily intended to build relationships. With the help of stories, practices and exercises, own behaviours are modified and an open, self-organized and networked way of working is practiced. The basic principle of the method consists of the formation of so-called "circles", which can be equated with small working groups. Both online and offline, there is a constant exchange between the participants in regular meetings.

Working out loud" focuses above all on the personal encounter of people far away from function, role or task in the company. The participants should learn together and from each other to find the best possible way for themselves to achieve a certain goal. The focus here is on mutual help and the exchange of knowledge. The own work and the specific expert knowledge of everyone should be made visible and shared. In this way, knowledge transfer is promoted and silos are dismantled.

How does "Working out loud" work?

The practical application of "working out loud" takes place in the aforementioned circles, which consist of 4-5 people. In these small groups you meet once a week for one hour either in person or digitally for a period of 12 weeks. In the 12 sessions each participant works on his individual goal with the help of the knowledge and skills of the other group members. In each meeting we work together according to a given agenda, the so-called circle guide.

Various exercises are performed alone or together. Through discussions, reflections and feedback everyone learns with and from the other participants. Week 1 starts with the definition of the personal goal and the creation of a list of people who are connected with this goal. In week 2 the activation of relationships starts by creating posts for the people on your list, etc. In this way, employees should learn to work more openly and in a more networked manner and thus be prepared for the new requirements of the digitized working world.

Every employee can learn exactly what he is interested in step by step with his circle. The choice of goal is irrelevant, as the mechanisms of network-based work can be learned with both private and professional goals. Due to the simplicity of the method, it can be flexibly integrated into everyday work and applied to all conceivable topics.


Bild Working out loud


"Working out loud" and agility in the company

The "working out loud" method offers employees an opportunity to network across hierarchies, to share helpful information and to support and inspire each other. "Working Out Loud" as a flexible and network-based form of work represents an approach to promote an agile attitude in the company. In the meetings, the own work is made transparent and a self-organised, networked way of working is rehearsed.

This approach can be equated with an agile approach characterised by trust, pro-active knowledge exchange, openness and mutual appreciation. Hierarchical structures fade into the background or can be completely hidden, since a person's knowledge and skills alone are of importance regardless of their entrepreneurial status. Mutual help and learning from each other in the course of achieving personal goals requires a relationship at eye level, which is largely determined by mutual appreciation. As a result, the entire corporate culture becomes more open, innovative and collaborative and knowledge silos are reduced.

The free choice of an individual goal, which is to be worked on in the 12 weeks, falls back on the intrinsic motivation of the employees and thus ensures a strong commitment to the goal. Employees learn that they can achieve their own goals faster and more efficiently with the help of a network and thus combine network-based work with positive experiences. This experience is applied to everyday work and thus promotes the formation of interdisciplinary teams

By making one's own work public through constant exchange, not only progress but also difficulties and mistakes become visible. This makes it possible to process errors faster and more effectively on the one hand and to establish an open error and feedback culture on the other. Furthermore, the method can be repeated as often as required and can therefore also be implemented iteratively by designing several runs as conversion cycles with specific intermediate results.


"Working out loud" can serve as an effective instrument to bring about changes in behaviour, to practice new working methods and to establish network structures in the company. The method promotes open and transparent cooperation and relies entirely on the intrinsic motivation of the employees. With "Working out loud", employees learn to work in interdisciplinary teams in a self-organized manner.

In this way, a valuable contribution is made to the development of a healthy corporate culture and an agile attitude is established. For example, you can use this method to process the training requirements of your employees. Instead of developing elaborate training programs, employees become experts in their personal strengths and can share their skills in meetings with others who have deficits in certain areas and would like to be encouraged at this point. We are curious to see how this innovative concept will prevail in the German-speaking countries and internationally.

(editorial realisation: Corinna Brucker)

If you are interested in "Working out loud" or can use first impulses, then just contact us!


Further blog posts from the series "Leadership in an agile world":

Leading in an agile world (1): the concept of agility

Leadership in an agile world (2): "working out loud"

Leadership in an agile world (3): scrum

Leadership in an agile world (4): barcamps

Leadership in an agile world (5): retrospectives

Leadership in an agile world (6): peer feedback

Leadership in an agile world (7): transparency

Leadership in an agile world (8): Delegation Poker

Leadership in an agile world (9): crossfunctional teams

Leadership in an agile world (10): face time