Agility

Word of magic or dream?

“Agil” is the magic word of the future – and this has already begun yesterday. Agile companies consist of flexible teams that quickly (agile) adapt to the demands and challenges of the market and above all the customer as well as the competition and develop creative and needs-based solutions (products/services, services, processes, technology, etc.) with a high degree of personal responsibility and implement them with enthusiasm.

And these teams are probably urgently needed by most companies today!

LPM® Teamwork without limitation for individualists
LPM® Teamwork without limitation for individualists

So far the ideal – but what drives the companies to rethink?

The generational change among customers, be it expectations, purchasing motives but also reasons for loyalty are shifting with an unprecedented speed. The associated value change spsp;and digitization are acting here as additional accelerators for agile business forms in the digital age. This is nothing less than the reorganization of larger companies.

The fact that the ever more rapidly developing technological progress is changing society enormously is evident in many respects. Many people are concerned with the question of how a society deals with this rapid change without radically breaking with its respective zeitgeist values. On the other hand, and this is a core issue of digital transformation, there is the challenge for companies of how they must be positioned in the future to grow in and with this change. Let’s just look at the following points.

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Companies have to react in ever shorter cycles to changed starting situations and a changed environment. For example, if in the 1960s it was still sufficient to adjust to a time horizon of 20 years in terms of development, today these 20 years correspond to 5 years.  The following examples in the chart show how quickly the majority of a society adapts to a new technology in which continuously accelerating cycles these adaptations take place .

This development employs most companies  and there is not always only an atmosphere of optimism In many cases, this acceleration leads to a great deal of uncertainty within the company, both among employees and among managers. And in the process, the following questions are condensed: “Will I still be needed in the future?”, “Will my position/task still exist in three years’ time? Answers must be found to this question.

So what must a company look like that can survive in this environment? It is clear that the previous rigid models with large, rigid hierarchies and fixed processes will hardly be able to cope with this evolutionary change. Adapting these organizational forms would require so much effort and communication that sooner or later this company would no longer be able to operate economically. In addition, they would simply follow the trend until they completely lost touch. Just take a look around, yesterday Google was a pure search engine, has accumulated enormous capital and today the automotive industry is already learning to fear this. Or simply take the industry standard 4.0. It is not the end consumer who cares about what has to be bought, maintained or newly purchased, but our everyday appliances in the household will do this themselves.

In addition, there is also the demographic change in society, which means that by 2020 at the latest, the battle for these team players, i.e. agile employees, will further aggravate the situation. In Silicon Valley, there are already horrendous sums of money being paid to executives today to keep these valuable employees in the company.

Fitting the existing corporate and leadership structures to work with agile teams?

Agile teams work with a high degree of self-responsibility and with a great deal of freedom – this is the only way to “think differently – develop other solutions” or, to put it simply, “be creative”. According to most of Agil’s descriptions, previous leadership methods such as agreeing on concrete goals (what must come out concretely – including the annual goal agreement discussion), control or “close leadership” are not suitable for achieving agility in the company or in the team. This would only limit the “agile” teams and employees and would not allow them to exploit their creative potential. The same applies, of course, to the structure of the organisation within the company as well as in the individual teams.

This of course also means not being able to work completely “leadership-free” in the future! Rather, it means a rethink for the managers who will “only” act as primus inter pares in the future. This is especially good for the good and talented employees (who are ideally suited to the agile world), because they suffer the most from static corporate structures and often seek the breadth to make their own potential available in another company.

It would be criminal to carry out this company adjustment according to the “watering can principle”, because there are the following differences to note Thus, it is to be distinguished whether more or less agility is expected from the teams A development department or project department is much better suited than a call center for customer service or sales. Depending on the situation, the teams need more or less agility – but this is certainly necessary for everyone in order to meet today’s and, above all, future market requirements.

Leadership will, of course, also have to exist in the future, especially for agile teams. But there are three things to consider:

First, agile teams will only work if there are the right employees! To be able to work independently and creatively is good and nice – for this the individual employee must be suitable but also the respective manager and let the employee work!

Second , it is not enough to train managers on “the new methods” (leading agile teams) – that would be exactly the opposite of Agil (concrete guidelines, methods, processes). Each enterprise, which argues up-to-date with the topic, can sing of it a song.

The training is of course necessary, but the basic prerequisite is a completely new “leadership culture”, which requires new methods from the managers (see example Facebook), but first and foremost special characteristics, skills and even more certain “attitudes”, “attitudes” and “convictions”.

So it is e.g. essential for executives to let go of old/previous structures or procedures and methods !

Sounds factual simple – but represents the most problems in practice. Just imagine the simple example: If an executive has been sitting in his office for years and was used to only joining the circle of employees in the rarest of cases, then it will be more than a challenge to suddenly change this. Especially if this manager forces himself to do so because it is now intended that way, the problems are pre-programmed.

It’s not just a question of “simply taking a tour of the employees or departments”, but of “actively” contributing to the agile teams and employees. In order to talk to them about their impressions and experiences, to observe them at work and to be able to offer need-oriented support or assistance, or simply to listen in on the employees and teams, what they could use or what they would rather have less of (disruptive factors).

The “new executive” is therefore more a coach, companion, moderator and mediator than the “boss” from the past! Of course there will also have to be someone in the future, so the manager, die but only the rough direction gives. But already at this point the employees or teams should be involved (the term “matter for the boss” and “he has to decide that” really should no longer exist…).

That sounds pretty employee-oriented, or?

This brings us to the second essential attitude for managers in the leadership of agile teams and employees:

Trust!

Please make the employees and let them be creative! Do not predefine desired results, but allow them to “develop”!

This makes the essential difference in management culture easy to demonstrate: Not the WHAT (should come out) is in the center, but rather the HOW (let’s come to creative solutions) and the WOFÜR (the sense, e.g. to bind new customers) are in the center! Thus the HOW can become a new WHAT – i.e. a new solution – which would not have arisen if the result had been preempted!

Of course it makes sense and advisable to agree on time windows, structures, intermediate meetings, etc. – these agile concepts exist of course – but it does not change the fact that the leadership personality in agile companies has a completely different role and therefore needs the skills and attitudes listed here. And these cannot be given, read or trained, they have to be available and developable.

For many managers, especially those who like to be in the middle of finding solutions, “letting go” and “Neurious” – what will come out of the agile teams – is a personal challenge!

, as mentioned above.

And third, one of the keys to the new culture:

The constructive interaction between managers and employees!

I have already mentioned above how important this point is. For many employees there seems to be an enormous need for optimization, to put it positively. In addition, managers seem to assess the situation with regard to the existing agility in the company completely differently from their employees. In a current “agility barometer” by Haufe-Lexware and TNS Infratest, 71 % of the managers surveyed rate their company as already “agile”. Interestingly, however, only 30 percent of employees from the same companies believe they are agile. This is also in line with the surveys that have been conducted for years on the extent to which employees feel comfortable and motivated in the company. Even in these surveys with both target groups, the employees do not share the high assessment of managers by far.

From all these points it is easy to see that it will not be so easy to change the corporate strategy to the requirements of “tomorrow”. It is not enough to introduce a new project management and to learn the methods of “Agil”.

From my point of view the most important challenge is to change the CULTURE. And this must not only be on the new corporate and management strategy – it must above all be “inside”! Both in the heads, but above all also in the hearts! And that across all levels, otherwise it will only be lip service and then it will quickly be over with agility in the company!

Changing the culture does not happen overnight, of course, it is much more a “movement” that has to be initiated and allowed to happen.

The next challenge: “Allow”!

The companies or teams in which this culture is already lived prove that agility works very well in companies – with outstanding results by the way. These results relate above all to the motivation of the teams and employees involved as well as to the resulting “identification” of those involved with the company and projects. It is self-evident, because who doesn’t identify with the things in which he himself is involved? And if this identification is present, the results are usually better!

Of course there are many more challenges for all involved to become really “agile” as a company or team. And I would also like to point out here that the aspects mentioned about leadership culture are not so new! Or, what do you think? Integrating employees, listening to them, trusting them and talking to them about the meaning of the task has certainly always been worthwhile. And I am also convinced that there have always been so-called “agile teams” or even “agile companies”.

In my view, the particular challenge lies above all in the fact that companies – large and small – are taking this path, not because the market demands it or because “agile” is “in” at the moment, but because this is what management wants from the bottom of their hearts. Only in this way can a positive “movement” develop among all teams and employees and also be perceived as credible.

Alone by the change of generation – generation Y – there is no alternative to this way roughly described here. The new generation of employees has different values, expectations, attitudes and resulting behaviours. Employees must always be “taken along”, therefore they – like the customer – are the starting point of the considerations – e.g. for a management strategy. In order to be able to retain very good employees, it will be necessary in future for this reason alone to allow criticism from the employee side (without this having negative consequences). If you already live this culture today, you are already well positioned in this respect.

If not, and according to the surveys this may still be the case in most companies, you would be well advised to initiate the transformation to a new leadership culture as soon as possible! It definitely forms the necessary basis for developing the AGILE company! If this basis does not exist, the new methods make little sense and tend to lead to disorientation and demotivation.

But also the employees have to put on this shoe: To expect and demand more or to help shape the concept described here should always go hand in hand with contributing oneself. Only demanding, expecting and claiming all freedoms is not enough, of course!

This does not necessarily mean working longer. Rather, it is about assuming responsibility for the whole and about the willingness to get involved in order to actively participate in shaping it.

If you see the path suggested here as meaningful for you/your company/your team, but are still at the beginning, you will find here some tips on how you can start concretely and initiate a movement of everyone into the New Culture. Perhaps you will find yourself again and can implement some points directly. Of course, agility only works if everyone participates, so here are some tips for managers and employees!

For executives

  • First of all: Give yourself and your employees the chance to take a new path on the basis of co-designing, trusting, and to create a dream factory! Example: Include the coworkers with the organization of your rules of procedure also. You will be surprised how many blind spots are uncovered thereby.
  • Recognize disturbances and obstacles with individual coworkers or in the team. Deal with it. Ask for the causes – get feedback and criticism and let this process happen!
  • Reflect regularly your behaviour as a manager, especially after meetings. Have you integrated your employees? Should you have conveyed clearer messages? Do your employees know what you want, what the direction is? Always use graphic representations and text, because we humans have two halves and both halves want employment. Is everyone aware that you want to develop fun and joy in your joint activities? Have you invited your employees to contribute their thoughts? Did you set the right impulses? Have you given your employees the necessary freedom to work creatively on the topic?
  • Develop a positive dynamic in your team. Involve your employees in planned activities, actions, target formulations etc.. Explain the meaning behind the plans so that your employees can follow (with fun and joy) and “move” together in one direction.
  • Don’t let a non-existent leadership concept in your company or demotivated employees stop you. Convince people in a negative mood, preferably by going the positive way together with motivated employees. Always leave the door open for others. Give each individual the chance to jump on the bandwagon. How to make the most of team dynamics.

Check for yourself: How many items from this list are you already using? Which aspects should you force, what should you generally rethink? The best way to do this is to draw up a concrete list for yourself. Which employees do you want to talk to? What attitudes should you rethink about yourself? From which habits as a manager do you have to let go in order to take the positive path? ATTENTION: “Never bend over, because sooner or later this will be noticed!”

For employees

  • Give yourself and your manager a real chance to implement this positive concept and realize your dream factory together! Bring your ideas into the rules of procedure with.
  • Don’t let yourself be deterred by negative situations in the past, dissipate the caution and distance developed with you thereby.
  • Adress disturbances, which you feel, concretely. Always remain constructive and solution-oriented in the positive sense.
  • Do not allow yourself to be infected by negative colleagues. Convince them instead of the positive way.
  • Delete statements such as “that doesn’t work with us”, “that has always been the case with us”, “I’ve been saying this for years” and similar ones, preferably completely from your vocabulary.
  • Involve yourself, help shape wherever you get the opportunity to do so or get it yourself.
  • Do not think after a meeting about what was negative and for what reasons the discussed topics will not work – stay positive and especially filter out those things that help you in your practice and lead to solutions.

I would be pleased if we could inspire or encourage you to a new leadership thinking here and if you – in the sense of “agility” – could derive one or the other idea for you or your company!

We are happy to assist you with words and deeds – contact us!