Freitag : how agility helps in designing and manufacturing cult products

We have to find more designers who share our approach, who might have read the same books and have compost heaps behind their houses. People who don’t just say to us : Yes we have to make something so that the world will be a better place. (Marcus Freitag)

I have been lucky enough to live and work in Zürich for five years. When I arrived there in 1999, there were two popular urban artefacts that really stroke me : the Micro scooter and the Freitag messenger bags. These bags are made of recycled furnitures (trucks security belt and tarps), they are unique and are immensely cool (and yes we have a few in our family).

Fast forward 14 years : thanks to the The F-Book (from which the quote above is taken), I’ve just discovered how the values, the culture, the processes and the way the company engage with customers all converge towards this unique set or products : no wonder why these have achieved a cult status.

Freitag uses Scrum process to develop product and lean principles to manufacture and distribute them. Check out the Livestream session from Daniel Freitag (Marcus brothers) in Lift 2013 conference : fascinating (click the picture for the 17 mins video, Livestream does not embed easily in WordPress unfortunately).

Freitag has decided to go “Beyond Budgetting” as the budget plan decided in January is already obsolete in February. They don’t want to get trapped into the paradox of having plans and being agile as this is not compatible. They just forget about planning (who tries to suggest that you are right). Instead they speculate (which implies you might be wrong). This is the Lean principle of testing hypothesis.

Last but not least, they are heavy users of visual management. Boards everywhere, Kanbans to manage the Scrums of Scrum (scaling agile) you can even move them, post-its and pens. “Don’t tell me show me” is a company motto. I love the part about itsfavorite japanese brush pen :

“I believe you can run a company with a pen and post-its. I think I can tell everything I need to my company with these two tools.”

This is an awesome finding : one of my favorite brand, designing great products based on strong values I share (recycled industrial products as artefacts of pop culture), shows that the way it works internally fully matches my management beliefs and principles.


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