Global and Virtual: First SMA Internal Barcamp Launched

Madlen Freudenbergby Madlen Freudenberg (guest post), , 0 Comments


Global & Virtual: 1st SMA Internal Barcamp Launched

What happens when 100 executives from 13 countries meet virtually and without a set agenda? Here is a report on a complex and exciting experiment for leadership development that leaves you wanting more.


A conference that starts at 7 a.m. for one person and 5 p.m. for another is unusual. Even more unusual is a conference without an agenda. Instead there was just a question: “How to become a truly global organization?” SMA executives from around the world discussed this topic during the first internal Barcamp. So that they were speaking not only about each other but with one another, the entire event had to be virtual and take place at the same time in different time zones. A task that gave us, the organizers, a few sleepless nights in the run-up to the event.

To explain briefly: A Barcamp is an interactive and open conference format in which the agenda comes from the participants themselves.

The idea behind this is that the coffee breaks during conferences are often the most exciting part. Therefore, at a Barcamp, participants discuss only the questions that would probably have been asked during a coffee break or topics that they are really itching to deal with.

This is because everyone is an expert in their field and has enough experience and knowledge to enrich the discussion. In doing so, he or she come to new insights and solution approaches together. How much actually comes of this depends on how the participants contribute.


How are we developing into a really international company?

SMA is represented in 20 countries around the world.  Even if many processes and communication channels have been made international, SMA has its headquarters in Germany. This means SMA still often looks at things with too much of a “German” perspective. The goal of becoming a truly international company can be achieved only if we also work together, share knowledge and develop a common understanding of our company in a truly international manner. Leadership plays a vital role here because it is the example, sets the course and defines the scope of action for employees. As we couldn’t bring all of the executives to Germany, we developed a virtual Barcamp format.

Executives were able to log in at two different times, depending on their time zone. At the chosen Barcamp time, executives met in their local video conference rooms that were connected internationally. The joint session planning also took place here after a greeting and introduction. Participants were then able to log into one of up to four sessions taking place at the same time via Webex. The 45-minute sessions dealt with topics such as “Distance Leadership,” “International Communication” and “How to become faster?”


A practical test: virtual collaboration for leadership development

In addition to the international exchange of information, we took a step forward in the use of SMA’s tools for virtual collaboration at the same time. This concerns both our executives and our moderators. We trained extra employees in how to moderate virtual meetings for the Barcamp. This knowledge will certainly be passed on and contribute to putting communication on an even more international footing.


Positive feedback

“It was really fun! This is the format of the future,” according to the feedback from Ulrich Hadding, the SMA Managing Board member responsible for Finance, HR and Legal, who participated in both days of the Barcamp. The other participants also praised the cross-functional communication and wished for more interactive formats of this kind. One result was rules on international communication. For example, in one session, it was decided with immediate effect to no longer send emails when initially contacting a new employee but to call or, even better, arrange a video call.

What each person takes away from the Barcamp is as varied as the participants themselves. However, one thing is certain: Everyone wants more.


Barcamp Renewables 2018

Barcamp Renewables 2018 at SMA in Germany

Barcamp Renewables: connectivity and “idea ping pong” for tomorrow’s energy world

In 2011, SMA had the idea for Barcamp Renewables, which has been taking place since then at the company headquarters in Germany. At Barcamp Renewables, private individuals, start-ups, energy bloggers, scientists and company representatives network and discuss trends in the field of renewable energies and clean technology.

Would you like a taste of the Barcamp experience, too? Learn more here. 


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This article was published in 2018. As we are constantly developing our solutions, there may be newer or additional options for the tips and techniques in this article.

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