About the company
The Danfoss Group was founded in 1933 by Mads Clausen and is still today almost entirely owned by The Bitten and Mads Clausen Foundation. Danfoss is a global producer of products and services used in areas such as cooling food, air conditioning, heating buildings, controlling electric motors, compressors, drives and powering mobile machinery. The company is also active in the field of solar and wind power as well as district heating and cooling infrastructure that targets entire cities and urban communities
1. Employees: 25.300
2. Net sales: 6.23 bilion USD
3. Head office: Nordborg, Denmark
4. Sales companies in 47 countries and 56 factories in 18 countries around the world
The product development project was set into motion to develop a pulsation damper for the Danfoss Economizer line - a product line intended to reduce energy consumption within refrigeration and ventilation in cold storage, brewery, slaughtering, dairy and frozen food. The damper would reduce damaging pulsations and hereby improve reliability & life time of economizer line components – as well as reduce service down time. By the time of the official kick off an early prototype of the product had already been tested together with a selected Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Feedback had been gathered and ideas for product optimizations were identified, but key hypotheses regarding market attractiveness, cost, product design and manufacturing still needed to be tested and validated.
The main reason for testing out Agile methods such as the rhythm in key events was a heavy demand for reduced time to market, enhanced internal and external stakeholder satisfaction and rapid feedback loops. The aspiration being to be the first to the market and build a position as a preferred solution towards key players.
Next to working intensely on realizing the aspiration, the project would run as an Agile Development pilot as part of Danfoss Innovation+ program. By doing so, pave the way for a large-scale organizational Agile roll-out. This also entailed that the project would be subject to an adapted, “lean” governance model as well as to an enhanced focus on empowering the team to make key decisions within the project with the project owners close to it.
Establishing rhythm in key events
The project was officially kicked off after the formal M0 gate approval with a 3-day workshop together with the project team, the project leader (in this case: Scrum master) Pernille, the project owner team, as well as Agile coaches to help support the integration of the new Agile methods. As part of the preparations for the kick off, a first version of a fixed rhythm in key events had been drafted by the Scrum master and the Agile coaches to be reviewed with the team at the kick off.
Seven key meetings – each with set length and agenda – were defined:
- Sprint Planning (initiated each sprint)
- Daily Standup
- Weekly Review & Adjustments to Plan
- Biweekly Product Owner Meeting
- Full Demo Builds & Tests (Review of physical solution elements at the end of each sprint with key stakeholders)
- Refine & Freeze Product Backlog (at the end of each sprint)
- Sprint Execution Review & Retrospective (process feedback session with the team and the Scrum master the end of each sprint)
The project’s duration was set to six months. Although parts of the solution were already validated, there was still quite a complex stakeholder landscape. To allow for ongoing prototyping and releases rather than the classical waterfall project approach, both the team and the review team consisted of representatives from the entire value chain. The key question the rhythm needed to answer was therefore how to ensure knowledge sharing, coordination and continuous key stakeholder involvement while still providing time for focused deep-dives and weekly progression in a short-termed intense project? In a culture heavily colored by subject matter expertise and a quality-oriented mindset, no one would find energy and motivation in a calendar drowned by meetings.
The initial idea therefore became to execute the project through six 4 -week sprints with an enhanced focus on coordination and knowledge sharing in the beginning and in the end of the sprint. Next to standard planning- and coordination meetings by the Visual plan, the rhythm was designed to drive two key behaviors.
- Create strong project ownership. The project owners would meet up physically in the project room to review solution elements, track progress and identify opportunities to support the project minimum every other week.
- Complete and release of hands-on, physical builds and demo’s every sprint that would be reviewed by key stakeholders.
Learning from the challenges
Although apparently simple in theory, getting the rhythm just right in practice turned out to be quite the challenge. The first bump in the road emerged when the meetings were introduced to the team. It quickly became clear to all that the low allocation from some team member would challenge the relevance of the daily standup and the weekly review. They simply wouldn’t be able to attend. And if they were to find themselves in the project room, they wouldn’t spend their scarce time on status meetings. Secondly, the length of each meeting had to be reviewed. This also affected the available time for in-depth subject matter discussions. The facilitation therefore had to be even more firm, crisp and clear – challenging the role of the project leader on finding the right balance between being a facilitator and a subject matter expert.
Time had to be invested in co-creating the meetings, their duration, and agendas. People also need time to question and integrate the new routines in their current habits for the first two sprints. All to accommodate for the unique needs of the project and its stakeholder, as well as the everyday life of the team members. The situation required a shift from the classic “bulldozer” approach toward a more subtle, collaborative and adaptive anchoring of the method. Overall, however, the rhythm became the core of the project design and the key driver of many of the positive effects the project owners and leader each observed
“High engagement, speed, and continuous progress”
- the project owner.
– the project leader.
“Speed – that we can get around to so many things in such a short amount of time – that’s amazing. Normally, it would extend over much more time”
– the product owner team.
The product solution was available to the first customer after seven months of development time. Compared to the average development time of a similar solution, this is a reduction in time to market of 30% to 40%.
The project has delivered key insights and guidelines on how to integrate an agile mindset in the development of mechanical product solutions.