Fragile instead of agile
Why we need to train real agility in a different way and with different content – by Lisa Hartmann
Previous training concepts for agile frameworks and methods do not go far enough to create a substantial mindset change. We should change this if fragility is to become agility again.
For about ten years now, agile frameworks have been rolled out in numerous companies on this side of the Atlantic, initially in software companies and IT departments, and now also in the development departments of industrial companies, in banks and insurance companies.
But despite great organizational and financial efforts, transformation is still "fr-agile" in many companies. The expected successes do not (fully) materialize or the organizations fall back into old patterns of behavior. The change is exhausting and agility is declared a taboo word in some places. This fr-agility certainly has several reasons.
Our article examines one aspect of this fragility and addresses the gap in today's agile training landscape. We explain what umlaut has to offer for sustainable empowerment.
Self-organization as a prerequisite for successful agile work
All agile frameworks such as Scrum, , SAFe®, LeSS and many more require the cross-functional, self-organized team as the basis for the functioning of processes and methods. As the 11th Agile Principle of the Agile Manifesto states: "The best architectures, requirements and designs are created by self-organized teams". Self-organization and autonomy require skills and trust in the team, which a team must learn and develop.
The individual in focus
The training market of the last 20 years has always functioned according to the same pattern: a single person registers for a training course and meets participants from other organizations at the event at an external provider.
Within the framework of such empowerment formats, the individual is taught skills for individual self-organization, like for example: time management, moderation, presentation etc.
Companies have replicated this principle internally and founded their own academies. But here, too, the individual usually registers and learns outside his or her team environment.
Framework trainings on a large scale
With the advent of agile product development and agile leadership, many companies have invested immense sums in empowering their employees to push agile transformation. The above-mentioned training catalog of personal self-organization was accordingly supplemented by various trainings in the agile methods and frameworks.
The basic training principle is usually maintained: individual employees take part in the training formats, hoping to return to their home organization with an agile mindset.
But we often overlook two points in the agile capability:
- Mainly processes and procedures ( Process, SAFe® Framework etc.) are trained and less the skills to live these processes.
- Complete teams are not trained, which are the core of agile methods, but experts are trained.
Empowerment of teams
umlaut reacts to these gaps, because we have often experienced that some agile teams let conflicts grow until a team member leaves or delegates complex decisions upwards.
Together with a customer in the automotive industry, we have developed a new training concept over the last few months that enables complete teams to organize themselves. By addressing as many different learning levels as possible, the groups develop their own identity and vision over four days. The participants learn seven skills of self-organization and apply them in the training setting, including decision making, giving and receiving feedback, and the systemic understanding of team structures.
In this way, very practical questions can be clarified together: How do we handle the situation when a new team member joins us? Which decisions can an expert from the team make alone, on which topics do we want to reach a consensus? Which mechanisms are effective in the team in case of conflict?
You can find out more about the skills we teach in our Experionate Broadcast (Apple Podcast & Spotify) or our YouTube channel. The functional familiarity between the team members gained in the training and the jointly developed understanding of self-organization create the basis for more efficient collaboration in everyday life, regardless of the chosen agile framework.
For example, the first customer team trained in this way started working together on a project, full of self-confidence. Thanks to the team identity developed in the "Self-Organization" training and the rules and leadership instruments agreed upon there, they continue to act successfully in their Scrum project setting. Fr-agile becomes agile.
Combination of methodological knowledge and team skills
Let us summarize: For agile transformation in the sense of the agile manifesto to succeed, teams must acquire the ability to organize themselves in addition to methodological knowledge. To this end, the enabling concepts must be adapted accordingly:
- Agile frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban or should be taught to complete teams in order to ensure a common understanding of the theory and a high practical relevance.
- Additional training formats like the one described above are needed to develop the skills for self-organization in the team.
Teams trained and strengthened in this way are a key success factor for sustainable business agility.