Making the case for the agility and diversity connection

Portrait of Gaby Kruse

Featured Employee:
Gaby Kruse

Job Title: Product Owner, I&O Region 2 Small Units and Shared Services

After 29 years at John Deere, Gaby Kruse understands the benefits of agility and diversity in the workplace and strives to keep them at the forefront of her work every day.

Kruse, product owner, I&O R2 Small Units and Shared Services, Mannheim, is a champion for the Agile Operating Model (AOM) because she already demonstrated the agile mindset before it was introduced to Global IT. Of course, she had plenty to learn about how the model worked, but she already had the skillset to successfully adapt to this new way of working. Although, it wasn’t all new to Kruse.

“I’ve always had the mindset to think differently about my work,” she said. “I’ve always felt very strongly about continually reviewing work and striving to improve it.”

An attitude that developed from family roots.

“When my dad worked at Deere, the John Deere Idea Management program asked employees for suggestions, and my dad was always making suggestions about how to make things better,” said Kruse. “He was always looking for ways to save the company money, and I learned from him that I should never stand still but deliver good value to the company and help the company be successful. And I love to make processes better, so through that agile mindset, I hope I am contributing to the company’s success.”

Although the AOM works a little differently for Kruse’s infrastructure team as opposed to a software development team, Kruse has gone above and beyond to work with agile coaches and scrum masters to create a process that supports her team’s work.

“Our agile journey is a little different,” she said. “At the end of the day, within infrastructure things must be running, so it is a little harder to do that in a scrum fashion. But we built the knowledge and gathered experiences which we put into action. We check in with coaches to see where we can make changes or do things differently. This is a journey, and we know we are not perfect yet, but I look for the flexibility and freedom to make it work for my team.”

Agile mindset expands beyond AOM

The mindset to make things better led her to another area in the company that needed some process improvement: DEI.

Kruse is a member of several Employee Resource Groups (ERG) in Mannheim to contribute to the DEI efforts there. In Europe, DEI sometimes means something different than in other Regions.

“Proximity plays a big part of it,” said Kruse. “Mannheim is one hour from France, two hours from Switzerland, etc., and we are exposed to a lot of different cultures, languages, rules, laws, so we are a little more used to working with different people.”

But that doesn’t mean that there are not issues that could use improvement.

“The organization needs to understand the value of having diverse people on the team,” said Kruse. “It’s all about people and their age, sex, color, disability, sexual orientation, etc. It’s not just about one thing.”

“My passion is to make sure we build a diverse mindset in the company and act on it and that includes working with all types of people around the globe.”

And Kruse has put that passion into action.

She joined the People and Culture group in Mannheim and together they developed the OPEN WO/MEN program. By using the concept of “reverse mentoring”, the program hoped to bring more women into higher management positions. The all-male management team at the factory in Mannheim were assigned female mentors. The mentorship program allowed women mentors to share real-life stories with the leaders, ask them uncomfortable questions, and provided a safe environment for leaders to ask questions in return.

Through this program, managers gained a better understanding of the challenges women face in their everyday working lives and, as supervisors, develop their own ideas on how they can help support women on their way to top positions.

Within a very short time, a lively women's network with mutual peer coaching grew among the mentors. As hoped, individual mentees quickly showed an increased awareness of injustice in the workplace. Many wanted concrete suggestions from their respective mentors. As a result, all mentors jointly developed an action plan focusing on co-leadership, extended leave, and female sponsorship, and three additional teams have been formed around the company.

As a result, strategic ideas around DEI are continuing to be discussed throughout the company. Gender diversity is on people’s mind in Mannheim, and a change in corporate culture is already clearly noticeable. During the recent smart industrial (SIRD) reorganization, two women were added to the senior factory staff in Mannheim, which may have been influenced by what was learned during the reverse mentoring process. The program also won a Region 2 DEI award. Learn more about the OPEN WO/MEN program here.

“It’s just about treating everyone equally,” said Kruse. “The female/male mentoring relationship is very powerful and is making people think more deeply about issues they might not experience. As a result, it is changing behavior.”

And that behavior change is more than process improvement; it is success for the company and for Gaby Kruse.

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