Transformation & Change108

Big Bang Theory meets LiDAR

Transforming society

Big Bang Theory meets LiDAR - Transforming Society | Ulrich Lages (CEO @ IBEO Automotive)

Dr. Ulrich Lages

April 26, 2022


Change management and stories thereof are not new. Most change management efforts fail over time. Change processes can be lengthy, exhausting, and frustrating the longer they prolong. At Ibeo a new approach was followed: the change was initiated fast, unexpectedly, and with no option of going back by disrupting the previously in place system altogether within one minute to the next.

All of this happened May 9th, 2019. Our very own Big Bang. This is the art of the possible. Taking away everything people had known before and letting them create their very own high-functioning system by following self-organisation principles has resulted in an organisation that is more dynamic, lively, and innovative than ever before while disrupting the LiDAR market. Ibeo is currently on track to go from global technology leader to global LiDAR market leader for autonomous vehicles.

* The video and slides reference the following HBR article:

About the Speaker

Dr. Ulrich Lages

Ulrich started his officer career at the German armed forces. He studied mechanical engineering and did his PhD on active collision avoiding in autonomous vehicles at Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg, Germany and his Executive MBA in Maryland. In 1998 he founded Ibeo Automotive and has been the CEO ever since. Ibeo is a worldwide technology leader in the field of LiDAR sensors (acronym for Light Detection and Ranging), associated products, and software tools. It is Ibeo’s goal to reinvent mobility by enabling cars to become cooperative partners in public transportation, thus making transportation safer.


Business Agility Conference 2022 - Photos

Photo of Ulrich presenting at Business Agility Conference 2022Photo of Ulrich on stage at Business Agility Conference 2022

Photo of Ulrich on panel at Business Agility Conference 2022Photo of Ulrich on stage at Business Agility Conference 2022

Video Transcript


Before we talk about what we have done in terms of changing our company from a line-organization into a self-organization within one minute, I would like to give you an idea what is our actual business.

As you can see here,my background is in the German Army. So I was 12 years in the German Army. Afterwards, I did studies on autonomous driving with Audi and Volkswagen.I did my PhD on that. And I put some business experience on top of that in Switzerland. I studied in Switzerland and in the US. So that's my background.

And that's our company, 425 people today. When we did the change, we had been 360. We have 32 nationalities in our company. So, a high degree of diversity. So what do we do? We work on the future. We work on autonomous driving. We work on LiDAR devices. On laser scanners in order to understand the environment of the vehicle. And that is a safety critical product because if you want to put your child in a car and you ask the car, "Please bring my kid to the kindergarten," you want the car doing it safely. So please have that in mind.

If you change an organizationin the way as we did it. In the future,you can use this device. But our technology is already in the market since 2017. If you purchase an Audi A6 for example, then you can find these boxes in the grill and there's a traditional laser scanner. Traditional, it means there's a spinning mirror.

But we are working on the future. And the future means if you want to have a safely driving autonomous vehicle, you need to see everything, a small stone and other things as well. And so we developed the chip which you can see in my left hand, and the optics which we put in front of the chip that you can see in my right-hand side,and we bring it together. And then we put these boxes on a vehicle and if you put three of these boxes on the front-end of the vehicle, we collect one million measurements per second. 

So we have one, imagine one million single measurements in front of the vehicle. So we can see everything. And that's the future of autonomous driving. But how did we get there? Because that is pure innovation.

We founded the company in '98. In 2016, ZF became our shareholder. We were 64 people at that time. Then we had to grow very fast. In 2019, we had 360 people. It was obvious, if you want to grow even more, it is complicated doing it in a line organization. In a very small group,just the founders of the company, we decided, "Let's make this experiment. Let's change the company."

So we invited 360 people in one room. We talked about the past. Then we had lunch. And after lunch, I raised the question,"Okay, how do we want to grow?" And one young guy said, "Well, let's destroy what we have and let's do it in a different way." So we really put this button on stage. I asked him to press it. He was not informed what happened. And then we said, "Okay, take out all your seats. Come back.

Forget what you have heard,what you know about our organization. But you know what we need,you know what you can do, you know what you're good in." So please meet with those guys who want to work together. Figure out, "That's the task of my team," write it down, and three hours later, give me your sheets of paper. And then we will see how it works.

But nobody is anymore leader by definition. We don't want to have leaders. We only want to have a network organization. So we define three, four, five rules. And they had to do it. The idea was there is nothing that you can read about, how does the organization afterwards look like Everything was taken away within a second. And that is crazy if you do it because the next day you have chaos.

Very simple things. If you don't prepare anything, the very next day you have a new team. Where do you want to work? This was before Corona. So they went into the office. They saw a room out there, two PCs.But the room is nice. Come on, kick out the PCs. Let's take the room. Let's sit in there. Let's put a sign there. This is our team. Yeah, but the content of our work,we need the ASIC team. Where's the ASIC team? Does it still exist?

Paul was in the ASIC team. We have six buildings. Where's Paul? Can Paul tell us if he's still working on it or not or who does it? So people had to walk around to figure out who is still working on this topic. And then we had all these discussions. So the first two weeks are very emotional, very stressful. It was exhausting.

Every morning we collected questions from the teams. We condensed them, we put them together,and we wrote down overnight. We wrote down the answers and we gave the answers and so on. So we had daily discussions around the clock. It was a great time. Yeah, we changed it. But please have in mind, we are in the automotive industry and we work on a safety critical product. We did it in a way that our customers did not recognize what we are doing. Nobody mentioned it. But some customers were surprised that there are some new guys, young guys, taking over responsibility. Being motivated much more than the other guy before, whatever. So it completely changed.

We put all these papers. Each page is one team. We put it on the floor, really on the floor. We put these red lines there. And then we explain to 360 people in smaller teams, "Look, this is how the new organization works." And then we started to develop software tools in the background. How do you organize this network company and so on? What is this based on?

In a self-organization, you need more leadership than in an a line organization. Because in a self-organization, every decision is a result of a compromise. You take everybody you need on one table. And so we have developed an advanced system of servant leadership. So I love the presentation that you have given, and I would really love to talk with you afterwards because this is the basis for all what we do. Our claim where Ibeo isis the future. And Ibeo is ahead in technology. We want to bring this also to our organization because we believe we are a small piece of society. But in 10-20 years, people want to work in the way as we do it today.

But we are all used to work in a line organization. Somehow in kindergarten, school,whatever, university is all line-based. And we recognize every day that somebody, well, now you behave in a line-organization. Please change that. And the basis is, and we have heard this in the morning, respectful communication. Within 18 months after doing that change, we have lost 11 people. Only 11.

We want to be faster. That's why we did it. We want to have every employee at the very perfect right position in the company. But we also need to work on the company. We will need to improve the self organization. And that's what we doin a very small team.

We have two people. Marie is one of these. We have two people which help our employees to work on the organization and to improve the self-organization. About 10% of our people, 40 people,work in parallel to their ordinary job. They work on topics our employees are interested in to in improving the organization. And Marie and her colleague,they help our employees to organize this because how do you want to change the organization if you don't know how to do it? And that is fantastic because with 10%of all the people being part of it, not during the working time, on top in parallel the weekend or whatever. That's incredible.

So the very first day we later on made this network on the left side. Because every team told us we need input from that team, from that team and so on. And in the team, you do the work and then you have circles and circle typically organize the work of several teams. But nevertheless, this is a disaster on the left side because you can't find anything.

So what we do today, for example, every employee puts in, like you do it on Facebook, puts in some information about you and the guys you want to work with you do work with or you like, whatever. Then we can analyze this information. We have developed a software which analyzes this information in the way, are they just friends because they have met some time ago by incident, or do they really work together? And if they work together, well then in that team there is definitely a connection to that team.

Immediately, you can set up a process in a much more professional way because you exactly know how the information flows in the company. So the results are the team spirit increased significantly, and the sense of responsibility increased as well. It's not always good that everybody knows about what is ongoing. Because a manager is used to understanding,"Okay, in half a year, I need five more people or I cannot fulfill my task." But if you know it, you know it, you know it as well, you probably cannot sleep anymore. It's a challenge. But anyway, the hidden potentials are now really leading the company or running the company and are part, for example, also of my daily life. I have a much greater network today than ever before in the company.

This is the future. We want to have a sentient company. This is our vision, what we are working on. Don't ask me in details how it looks like, but we are trying to go into that direction. That's our mission. In the center, it's always, from the beginning on, the employee and the team and the company as being part of the society. And we do this on support, trust, and a huge degree of transparency. Next week, there will be another publication. If you want to read about it, you are welcome.

Thank you.

Download Materials


Are You Ready to Uncover Your Agility?

The Business Agility Profile™ is a detailed, research-based snapshot of your organization’s Business Agility capabilities & behaviors.

Based on years of research and trusted insight, it delivers data-driven analysis highlighting what’s pushing your organization forward — and what’s pulling you back.

  • Understand where your organization is on its Business Agility journey today

  • See how your organization compares to a benchmark of 1300+ other companies

  • Know the most important next steps to further develop and grow

The component MostRecentArticles has not been created yet.
The component LibraryHighlightsSmall has not been created yet.

You have NaN out of 5 free articles to read

Please subscribe and become a member to access the entire Business Agility Library without restriction.