Sprinting at the 2019 offsite meeting

Sprints are processes in which small, interdisciplinary teams arrive at interim results within a clearly defined time limit. The term originated in software development, but caught on outside the IT field long ago. The Roche Employees' Association (AVR) utilised this agile working method at its offsite meeting in Lucerne from 5 to 7 June. Participants included the Committee of the AVR Basel and its President Adnan Tanglay; the Committee of the Central Switzerland section of the AVR and its President Reto Buholzer; and Human Resources (HR), represented by Bruno Weissen, Head of HR Basel/Kaiseraugst; Daniel Meier, Head of HR Reinach AG; Nadine Desiere, Head of HR Rotkreuz RDI; and Ursula Lottenbach, Head of HR Rotkreuz RDS, accompanied by a number of HR business partners (HR BPs) from Basel, Rotkreuz and Schlieren.

On the second day of the meeting mixed teams were formed to find ways of safeguarding the future of Roche sites in Switzerland. To this end, each group chose one or more user stories to discuss from a selection provided. One team, for example, conducted a brainstorming session on the subject: "As the Roche company we want to ... in order to make the organisation more efficient, processes leaner and decision-making paths shorter." In the discussion Michael Tilly, associate member of the Kaiseraugst AVR committee, spoke about the huddles conducted in production at his site. He explained that these regular time-limited meetings with representatives of various functions are an uncomplicated way of resolving problems. The group then discussed what makes these huddles so successful, and how these factors could be rolled out throughout the company to keep it competitive.

Tilly presented the results in plenary session. First, he said, there had to be a change in consciousness away from the current hierarchical arrangement and towards a network structure on equal terms. "The line manager must be able to let go," the team spokesman explained, "and the staff member must be willing to take responsibility." It was important to move faster than the competition, keep costs under control and deliver high quality, as the focus was on the patient. To achieve that, he continued, there were a number of different approaches in the various Roche areas – such as the Lean Production System (LPS) at PT. "Not everything always goes well, of course," said Tilly. But identifying a system's advantages and working on its drawbacks was part of lifelong learning.

Five groups presented their results, one of them even coming up with a specific proposal: Minimum Viable Product, MVP. The team, whose spokesman was Philipp Zeller, member of the Committee of the Central Switzerland section of the AVR, reflected on how lifelong learning could be promoted at Roche – and recommended the introduction of a Learning Day along the lines of the existing Digital Day. The idea behind it was that it would be a better way of firmly embedding the subject of advanced training in employees’ minds. The Learning Day could be jointly organised by the AVR and HR. Applauding all the presentations, AVR President Adnan Tanglay announced that the results would be consolidated, and that individual teams would work on their proposals jointly with HR in the coming months.

In addition to the sprints, the latest figures from HR were discussed. Regina Pfister, HR BP Basel, told her audience that in the 2018 performance appraisal only 339 employees had been given the assessment "greater contribution needed", equal to 3.7 per cent of the workforce. In 2017, 371 staff members (4.6 per cent) were assessed as having failed or partially failed to meet expectations. There had been 29 Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) in 2017, falling to 19 Contribution Improvement Plans (CIPs) last year.

The AVR committee then took the opportunity to put critical questions to the HR representatives. It wanted to know, for example, whether appraisals to date would be considered in the context of internal candidatures. Daniel Meier and Regina Pfister replied that this information was confidential and unavailable to recruiters. "Though if the employee gives his former line manager as a reference," said Meier, "then the appraisal naturally comes into play." "If the employee had problems in his old job," Pfister added, "he or she should take the initiative and state that they were irrelevant to the prospective new function."

On the third day of this year’s meeting the programme featured a training course on the fundamentals of labour law so that the AVR will be able to continue to stand up for employees in future. Sandra Klemm from the legal department highlighted the conditions justifying instant dismissal, the precautions that an employer must take in the event of mass lay-offs, and the regulations governing salary continuation in the event of long-term illness.

The first day of the offsite meeting, conversely, was devoted to AVR-internal topics – among them personnel case counselling, marketing and committee meetings. The social side was not forgotten, either: on the evening of Day 2 participants were taken by coach to Hof Landschi, where they enjoyed a fabulous view of Lake Lucerne over drinks before dinner in what used to be the barn.

Offsite Meeting 2
Offsite Meeting 3
Offsite Meeting 4