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Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published on our German blog for idea management and cost saving in 2018. As it is extremely popular with our German readers, we thought we should share it with our English-speaking audience as well. We sat down with Siemens' Markus Wegmann to learn about the company's leading cost saving and idea management program, "Siemens 3i," after the team won an award for the best idea management program at the 2018 Zentrum Ideenmangement (Center for Idea Management) conference. This is the highest award in idea management in Germany. Check out our conversation with Markus Wegmann below.

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Q&A with Siemens' Markus Wegmann

HYPE Innovation: We know that idea management is part of the corporate culture, but what place does idea management and your 3i program have at Siemens?

Markus Wegmann: Idea management is an integral part of Siemens' corporate culture. Werner von Siemens awarded the first documented bonus as early as 1858, and in 1910 rules and bonuses were created for the first time. This makes idea management at Siemens over 100 years old, and our current 3i program (ideas - innovations - initiatives) has been in existence since 1997 and has, of course, been continuously adapted.

The 3i program is also actively supported at Group level by the Human Resources Director and is clearly regulated by our general works agreement on the 3i program. Together with the division's 3i Business Managers, a modernization and development program was launched in 2017, involving parties such as HR, the 3i Business Managers of the various divisions and the 3i units.

One of the impulses from these discussions was to link the 3i programme even more closely to other corporate initiatives. In our company, the program is implemented by the divisions or the national companies, which are responsible for it. The 3i may then differ in its individual orientation, as orders, objectives or support measures are determined by the respective divisions.

One common feature, however, is that we try to steer the strategic orientation in such a way that different corporate initiatives cooperate, whose ideas then flow into the 3i program. For example, 3i recently supported the global Siemens internal IT hackathon, which brought together over 1,000 participants in 17 countries.

HI: Is idea management at Siemens linked to other corporate programs?

MW: Yes, because operational idea management in the divisions is usually strategically linked to departments such as "Operational Excellence" or Quality Management, making networking and integration mandatory.

3i also cooperates with Innovation Management at Siemens in order to be able to coordinate innovations that target products, processes or businesses and to adapt communication in the respective communities.

3i also works in partnership with initiatives such as LEAN, productivity measures or ideas marketplaces to help improve productivity. The idea management system has been proven to make additional contributions to productivity in the millions. It is also a partner of agile idea competitions and initiatives such as 'Start-up-Now' or 'iDea Company'.

With special offers or campaigns, 3i supports theme-oriented and time-limited campaigns, which are usually limited to local sites and focus on topics such as occupational safety at the site or digitalization. These special campaigns are also part of the general works agreement.

HI: What goals is Siemens pursuing with idea management?

MW: In order to be able to positively influence long-term perspectives along the value chain, we must bring all employees together in a committed manner and develop ideas together. As an idea management team, our role is to support managers in achieving their business objectives. We try not only to help them, but also to continuously promote employee motivation and identification. We also see ourselves as the part of the corporate culture that motivates as many employees as possible to generate ideas and thus become an active part of the company's processes.

Ultimately, our goal is to bring about change, and change that has a positive impact on the entire company. This can involve various aspects, such as questioning processes - "are they still up-to-date and effective? - or it brings employees together, thereby strengthening the sense of unity, forming networks, spreading knowledge, and, at the same time, strengthening communication within the company.

These goals are then measured using key performance indicators, so that we can see how successful we have been and how this culture of generating ideas together in order to overcome challenges has established itself in our company.

Since the last fiscal year, 3i KPIs have been collected and jointly published worldwide. Previously, this happened only in the individual countries. This led to the exciting result that in 2017 more than 160.000 ideas were submitted worldwide - Siemens mind never sleeps - of which over 125,000 ideas were implemented. This number of ideas generated added value of EUR 317 million in 29 countries last year.

HI: Did you define target agreements up front, which subsequently had an influence on the achievement of objectives?

MW: No, Siemens believes that a specific target agreement is not necessary. 3i has been a tradition and part of the corporate and leadership culture for many years. Through motivation and good leadership, we want to create a creative framework in which the daily quest for improvement is an essential part. Targets may be set in individual divisions, but these are targets with specific topics and a specific benefit to be achieved. We strive for quality rather than quantity. After all, what good are ideas if they do not contribute to the success of the company?

The results of 3i and its objectives are collected and made available to managers or senior management who then discuss measures to strengthen the 3i culture.

HI: How do you communicate with Siemens employees regarding 3i?

MW: We use various channels to continuously strengthen the visibility and perception of 3i. For this reason, the 3i program has, among other things, its own topic page on the Siemens Intranet, which is available in seven languages. All articles that are available across the entire company are published there. These can be very local topics or global publications. In 2017 alone, there were 131 articles worldwide.

There are various groups in our internal network, one large and one per country, in which communication with employees varies depending on the challenges they face. There, we regularly publish success stories of idea management, with our own hashtag: #3isuccessstory. We also try to address the younger employees in the company in a targeted manner with such a story. In addition, success stories always get around and thus encourage other employees to actively participate.

The fact that employees with their 3is can be awarded for their ideas at the divisional 3i Excellence Awards has also greatly increased awareness of the program.

It is also particularly important for us to introduce new employees directly to 3i. For this reason, there is a separate module on the subject of 3i during the induction period. Numerous web-based training courses are available for this purpose, which are constantly being revised. There is even a newly designed app for managers in which they have to answer 20 questions about 3i in a playful way. You can imagine it's similar to the "Quizduell" app.

HI: How do you support your employees and decision makers in fulfilling their roles?

MW: Our employees are our most valuable resource, they are also responsible for 3i's reputation and success. We therefore try to support them in the best possible way, wherever we can. In doing so, we rely on classic marketing measures, such as 3i info walls or the Siemens Social Network, where you can get help from colleagues in "Know-How Support."

We also make short videos available in which specific topics are explained in a targeted manner so that any employee who wants to learn more about 3i can get immediate information at any time.

We know that sometimes it can be difficult to make a decision. That's why we offer a kind of "speed-dating" - 3i speakers talk directly to decision-makers, so that together they can go over ideas where they are hesitant. The speakers also support the communication between decision-makers and submitters. We often experience that a personal meeting or getting to know each other helps enormously in finding solutions.

In addition, we have created significant relief for the experts by introducing a central service point for higher-level, central topics such as HR processes, IT issues, or travel costs. There, ideas are first checked and processed before they are forwarded to decision-makers, so that they do not have to deal with similar topics several times.

In the individual plants, there is also motivational recognition by the management. Decision-makers are presented with internal awards, such as "best decision-maker" or "best submitter." This promotes motivation on the part of employees to get involved again and again and contribute ideas.

HI: Are certain methods or instruments integrated into idea management that help 3i grow and develop?

MW: Absolutely! We have had good experience with the use of methods when it comes to promoting the generation of ideas. Especially by using lean methods, such as CIP or 5S, we were able to celebrate successful campaigns. In our office and production area we implement the 3i-unlimited method. Since the submitters are groups, the ideas are collected in lists, which the manager then evaluates and awards directly. For each idea there are chips, which are collected in a savings tube and thus directly visualize the success of the group and keep motivation high.

In addition, we also use methods such as the 3i-Workshops, structured agile methods for groups, or the idea mobile, for the continuous collection of ideas in the working environment.

HI: How did idea management develop in the last reporting year?

MW: In the last reporting year, a number of measures were taken to systematically drive the further development of the 3i program. At the very beginning, we initiated the measure "Modernization and further development of 3i." In this context, the 3i logos were redesigned and presented in cooperation with the "Corporate Communications" department, among others.

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We have also considered how we can expand the bonus system to further incentivize and reward our employees. We have expanded our gift shop. Our employees will soon be able to redeem their bonus in 400 different shops. There really is something for everyone! We're also currently examining whether cash bonuses can also be converted into Siemens shares or retirement benefits.

The internationalization of the program has also been driven forward by the roll-outs in China, Canada, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, as well as by the expansion of the languages, including Chinese and Czech. In addition, an international reporting system, which did not exist before, has recently been introduced and is now available in 28 countries.

In the age of digitalization, we have accordingly also started to use new media and modernize the existing ones. For example, introducing a mobile app with which ideas can also be submitted, redesigning our tools, or newly introduced workshops that train our employees at regular intervals. In addition, we already offer FAQs for our employees on the 3i topic page, so that new employees can read them at any time.

HI: You spoke of an incentive through bonuses, what are you counting on?

MW: Yes, of course we want to give our employees a feeling of appreciation, because they make 3i. Without them, there are no ideas. No ideas, no added value.

We distinguish between monetary and non-monetary appreciation. The intention of our reward system is that employees who submit ideas with a smaller benefit will receive a higher percentage. To this end, tables are provided to help you determine how prizes are awarded.

However, non-monetary appreciation has a much greater significance for us. We know that it is very important for employees to receive the award certificate in person instead of being sent it by post. Occasionally this is also done in the context of a meeting. In addition, other, more local events are held at Siemens, such as a soccer tournament in the summer, where there are many prizes and an awards ceremony. Our various locations also occasionally award prizes, such as a visit to the Allianz Arena for a Bundesliga (soccer) match for the best 20 entrants, or invitations to visit other companies.

But even if an idea is rejected, we want to be fair and show our appreciation for the employee. We ask decision-makers to explain the reasons for the rejection in a comprehensible and transparent way so that the employee understands why the idea was rejected.

This is particularly important to us, because if this is not done properly, we risk that those employees will not actively participate in the future.

HI: What does the future hold for your 3i program, are there any specific plans or highlights?

MW: Yes, of course there is a lot on the cards for this year again and I think I know what you are primarily aiming for. In autumn 2017 we decided to replace our SIM 1.0 (Siemens Idea Management) with your standard software "HYPE Improve" as SIM 2.0. The many advantages convinced us and we are already very excited about how the new tool will be received by our employees. Especially with the extension of the mobile app so that employees can submit their ideas quickly and easily while on the road.

Furthermore, we are already testing your campaign module and the results speak for themselves. Within our 3i speaker we have defined a specific campaign: "How would you change 3i? Out of 109 addressed speakers, 90 actively participated and submitted 53 ideas. This not only has the advantage of collecting the right ideas at the right time, but also that the resource question is already clarified in advance and the implementation rate is usually higher. That's why we want to use it specifically to support special campaigns and theme-oriented initiatives in the future. But you can find out more about this both at the forum at Deutsche Post and at your big idea manager conference "idēa" in October.

Communicatively, the expansion of the series of articles on 3i is also on the agenda and starting this year, a weekly #3iSuccessstory will be published. In addition, the web-based reporting will be expanded and further countries will be integrated.

Apart from that, we are expanding again. In May, the roll-outs in Russia and India will start, and we are already processing inquiries from South Korea and Brazil. That's enough plans and highlights, isn't it?

Special thanks to Markus Wegmann for the interview. And congrats to Siemens on the prestigious award!

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Maria Wenning

Maria Wenning

Maria Wenning joined HYPE in 2014. She started out on the marketing team and was responsible for organizing client-specific events, social media activities, and content production. Today, she is one o
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