Aut­hor: Corin­na Bräu­ti­gam, Assi­stant Consultant

12th of Juli 2019

Ever­yo­ne is tal­king about agi­le. Who doesn’t nod at the state­ment “agi­le working is the solu­ti­on for fast and high-qua­li­ty results”? Agi­le – the res­cue in an incre­a­singly com­plex envi­ron­ment, or just a new buz­z­word for managers?

You find the ans­wer some­whe­re in bet­ween.
The topic agi­le is not brand­new. It has play­ed a lea­ding role in soft­ware deve­lo­p­ment sin­ce 2001, when the Agi­le Mani­festo was publis­hed. The mani­festo, con­sis­ting of four values and twel­ve princi­ples, crea­tes a gui­de­li­ne for agi­le work.[1] The focus here is pri­ma­ri­ly on incre­a­sing trans­pa­ren­cy and fle­xi­bi­li­ty in order to shor­ten the deve­lo­p­ment time of pro­ducts and mini­mi­ze their risks.[2]A look into the past shows that pro­duct life cycles have shor­ten­ed mas­si­ve­ly over the cour­se of time. For examp­le, the fixed-line tele­pho­ne had been in use for over 100 years. In con­trast, the Inter­net has estab­lis­hed its­elf in our dai­ly lives wit­hin about 30 years and mobi­le pho­nes in about 20 years.[3]The trend is clear: our future will incre­a­singly be deter­mi­ned by new tech­no­lo­gy. Chan­ges and rethin­king with regard to new forms of work are nee­ded in order to keep pace with the cur­rent and future chal­len­ges that this trend brings for com­pa­nies.[4]

It comes in han­dy when agi­le methods are cal­led mira­cle wea­pons with the help of which com­pa­nies can react to the fast pace of pro­ducts and incre­a­singly com­plex deve­lo­p­ment pro­ces­ses. Who says “no” to this? No to more effi­ci­ent work pro­ces­ses and incre­a­sed pro­duc­ti­vi­ty?[5]Cer­tain­ly nobo­dy!
Becau­se day-to-day busi­ness does not pau­se, howe­ver, ina­de­qua­te­ly conct­ruc­ted hybrid forms of agi­le methods and clas­sic pro­ject manage­ment methods are often used in prac­ti­ce in indi­vi­du­al depart­ments that have been selec­ted has­ti­ly. New pro­jects, alrea­dy very com­plex, are set up as spon­ta­ne­ous agi­le pilots or indi­vi­du­al ele­ments of the methods are sim­ply com­bi­ned without thin­king about the rea­son for their use. In many cases, the com­pa­ti­bi­li­ty of the selec­ted methods with each other and with the pro­duct or with the estab­lis­hed working method of the own com­pa­ny is not dealt with suf­fi­ci­ent­ly. This redu­ces the poten­ti­al of the methods and can even have nega­ti­ve effects on pro­ducts, cos­ts and the cul­tu­re of the com­pa­ny. So agi­le methods should not be used in every envi­ron­ment and cer­tain pre­re­qui­si­tes must be ful­fil­led so that employees, pro­ces­ses and the pro­duct its­elf can profit. 

Scaled Agile Framework

Crea­ting an envi­ron­ment in which agi­li­ty can unfold its poten­ti­al is dif­fi­cult. Role models are star­tups who seem to live agi­li­ty holisti­cal­ly. Howe­ver, the chan­ge often does not work in com­pa­nies and fails due to the spread of the “new way of work”. This often cor­re­la­tes with the size of the affec­ted orga­niz­a­tio­nal struc­tures and the num­ber of teams and employees invol­ved. But how can the trans­for­ma­ti­on still be suc­cess­ful and how can Agi­le be imple­men­ted for lar­ger, estab­lis­hed com­pa­nies?
A pro­fes­sio­nal and cul­tu­ral­ly sound role model func­tion of manage­ment is indis­pensable. The trans­for­ma­ti­on must be dri­ven not only by the indi­vi­du­al teams, but espe­cial­ly by manage­ment and exe­cu­ti­ves, and Agi­le must be exem­pli­fied. No con­cept, howe­ver bril­li­ant or sophisti­ca­ted, fits every situa­ti­on. It is important that employees and teams are able to select sui­ta­ble ele­ments from agi­le methods and adapt them to their work and con­text. In addi­ti­on, the focus on cul­tu­re must not be neglec­ted. Even if it means a leng­thy pro­cess and is a com­po­nent that is dif­fi­cult to grasp. Becau­se all agi­le approa­ches pro­vi­de time for cul­tu­re and Chan­ge.[6]

The imple­men­ta­ti­on should be based on a well-thought-out stra­te­gy pro­cess ins­tead of direct­ly sho­we­ring employees with methods. Manage­ment, tog­e­ther with selec­ted employees, should exem­pli­fy Agi­le and iden­ti­fy, docu­ment and share the rea­sons for chan­ge and its bene­fits with the ent­i­re work­for­ce.
Manage­ment should be regu­lar­ly visi­ble in the chan­ge pha­se and per­cei­ved as a pro­mo­ter of chan­ge. To achie­ve this, employees must be made awa­re from the out­set of the mea­ning­ful­ness and neces­si­ty of chan­ge. It the­re­fo­re requi­res a moti­vat­ing chan­ge sto­ry and a given agi­le frame­work, on which employees can mental­ly hang around. One of the most com­mon rea­sons repor­ted for the fail­u­re of Sca­led Agi­le is the lack of cul­tu­re. It should the­re­fo­re always be taken into account that suf­fi­ci­ent time and pati­ence is plan­ned for cul­tu­ral chan­ge. This time for chan­ge is ori­gi­nal­ly inclu­ded in all agi­le approa­ches, but in prac­ti­ce it is often neglec­ted. One of the most essen­ti­al aspects are the so-cal­led retro­spec­ti­ves. In addi­ti­on to the work done, the natu­re of the col­la­bo­ra­ti­on is regu­lar­ly reflec­ted upon and docu­men­ted in order to adapt it sus­tainab­ly and learn from all that has been expe­ri­en­ced. Suc­cess­ful agi­le com­pa­nies place the cor­po­ra­te cul­tu­re and the atti­tu­des of their employees at the cent­re of Sca­led Agi­le right from the start.
Pre­cise­ly becau­se of the cul­tu­ral chal­len­ge, a gre­at wil­ling­ness to chan­ge is deman­ded from the employees and an enor­mous pro­vi­si­on of resour­ces by the com­pa­ny is nee­ded. At the same time, sca­led Agi­le repres­ents an equal­ly gre­at oppor­tu­ni­ty for a new form of col­la­bo­ra­ti­on in companies.

  1. Cf. Hal­am­zie (2013), S. 16.
  2. Cf. Shin­de (2018), S. 1.
  3. Red­mann, (2017), S. 17.
  4. Cf. Reu­ter (2015), S. 1.
  5. Cf. Han­ser (2016), S. 1.
  6.,3596011 [Acces­sed on 20.08.2019].

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