Zühlke – Empowering Ideas

Self-organised Team at Zühlke Germany

New Work @Zühlke: Can Salary Negotiations Work Without a Manager? Yes, in a Self-Organised Team!

Sven Bünte

Lotte and Sven work without a line manager. They have the freedom to make all kinds of decisions for themselves in the course of their work. This also includes decisions about salary increases. Lotte and Sven talk to us about New Work and what it’s like to work in a self-organised team.

How did your self-organised team come into being?

Sven: The Hamburg office grew significantly in a short space of time. It was clear that our manager at the time, Tobias, would not be able to supervise so many staff in the long term. He would have needed to prioritise specific tasks. Our New Work approach idea was inspired by a film we watched with our colleagues – it was a satire about unusual working conditions and led us to wonder, ‘Why can’t we manage ourselves, why do we actually need a manager?’ Self-organisation, or ‘New Work’, was part of the management’s strategic plan for the company, so they were very open to our ideas.

How did you implement the concept of a self-organised team?

Sven: Our line manager’s main responsibilities were employee management, including training, staffing and controlling. In the spirit of New Work, we decided to share out the tasks that Tobias was previously responsible for among the team. Some people were more interested in staffing and recruitment, others were more interested in employee management. My main responsibility is career coaching, for example.
Lotte: We’ve basically created a collective manager. *laughs*
My interests lie in recruitment and onboarding, so I have taken on these tasks. We have a meeting once a week to coordinate our work and help anyone who needs it.

Shall we move on to salary negotiations? Can you give us insights into how a self-organised team handles this issue?

Sven: We came to the point where we realised that we also needed to take on salary adjustments in a New Work kind of way. Salary negotiations were on the agenda every day and that prompted a kind of brainstorming session. We gradually developed a mini process and principles based around how we thought a fair process should look. We began with in-depth one-to-one discussions. The aim was to assess our colleagues’ training and development. On this basis, we came up with an Excel formula that also took other constraints in the organisation into account. For example, the average salary increase could not exceed a certain percentage. After several attempts, we all agreed that the fourth version of the Excel formula was fair. We took these numbers to a salary review meeting with senior management, and they gave us the green light to go ahead. 

Was New Work and the SCU (self-organised Competence Unit) project a complete success?

Sven: I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me it was an absolute success! We’ve never had any really low points. Slowly but surely, we’re always moving forward. The salary process we discussed is the most recent example. We also receive good support from management – it wouldn’t work otherwise.
Lotte: Yes, and we should also mention that Tobias, who has now taken on the role of Regional Director in Hamburg, is always available if we need to discuss anything. That’s why I’m still so enthusiastic and motivated by what we are doing. I feel like we’re all learning an unbelievable amount and also bringing New Work-related ideas to the organisation. I’m excited and optimistic about what the future will bring!

Sven Bünte is a Tech Lead and Consultant at Zühlke Engineering

Sven Bünte

Lead Software Architect
Contact person for Germany

Sven Bünte is with Zühlke since 2011 and he works as a Tech Lead and Consultant. After studying computer science and doing research in the area of embedded real-time systems, Sven mainly committed himself to architectures of connected solutions. He likes to build up motivated development teams as well as both Medical and IoT products. To that end, Sven follows Lean-Agile principles and implements New Work ideas.