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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