“Agility is not a cure-all”
In an interview with Michael Meinecke we find out who stands to benefit from agile working and what agile transformation is all about.
Just what the doctor ordered for those pressing challenges.
Mr Meinecke, everyone is talking about agility. Many companies are jumping on the bandwagon and want to become an agile organisation. Is agility really the miracle cure that everyone says it is?
Many companies – regardless of size and industry – come to us and want more agility for their business. Yet agility is not a cure-all. First, we assess the individual client situation. What exactly the problem is, what the client would like to improve, how the organisation ticks and, above all, what the business model is and what the market conditions are. If the future market environment is shaped by more and more new developments and disruptions, the company needs to work faster and with more foresight, and this is where agility can help. Agility is an end in itself, but it’s not a cure-all. There must be a changing market or organisational need. This means that there must be a specific development that makes it necessary for an organisation to change something.
So not every company needs to become agile, is that what you’re saying?
Exactly. Agility has unfortunately already become almost a taboo subject these days, with negative connotations.
What does agile work really involve, aside from all the hysteria?
Agility is supposed to enable companies to adapt more quickly and easily to changing market conditions. Companies are often faced with the challenge of becoming more flexible or developing new products more quickly. Increased agility can be beneficial here. Agility is a kind of value-orientated operating system to manage organisations in a world with increasing dynamics and complexity, which we call dynaxity. The ‘value-orientated operating system’ includes the attitude, type of management, organisational design and working methods of an organisation. Attitude and mindset in particular play an important role because agile methods that are applied with “old” ways of thinking do not realise their potential.
What requirements do organisations need in order to successfully implement agile working?
On the one hand, organisations need changing market requirements (as mentioned) or the need to make a change. On the other hand, organisations must be willing to fundamentally change processes and behavioural patterns – from those at board level right down to the lowest company role. Employees need to constantly reflect on their actions and want to question whether they are doing the right thing or whether there is still room for improvement. This attitude and willingness to adapt again and again is an important foundation for the success of agility.
Many people do not like change. Agility seems to create a state that thrives on change. Will employees not be overwhelmed by it?
People need stability, that’s true. Agility provides employees with stability through processes, fixed rules and structured workflows. Employees also receive guidance though a shared purpose and an understanding of what they are working towards. Our experience so far has shown us that teams who implemented agile working methods did not want to return to the old way of working.
That sounds great. But how does this type of change succeed so that employees no longer want to work in any other way?
It makes no sense for large companies with over 1,000 employees who have been working in the same way for 20 to 30 years to become agile. But it’s a different story for smaller units and businesses with up to 300-500 employees. There is, after all, no master plan on how to incorporate agile principles in an organisation. For example, we increase the maturity level of the organisation through broad-based qualification measures, provide training on new processes and try to develop solutions based on existing problems encountered by the employees. To this end, we not only contribute our know-how, but also support the companies with the necessary manpower and implement the agile transformation together with the organisation. We enable companies to make the transformation happen.
How can companies see that their chosen change process is heading in the right direction?
The most workable method from our experience is when an organisation sets goals and priorities together and combines them with objectives and key results (OKRs). By doing this, companies achieve authentic results and keep track of the change process.
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