During the last weeks, I heard some interesting comments from my network about agile working in Corona times. Many companies have stopped their agile pilot projects, some managers have switched to “Command-Line” and use “Dailys” to issue commands similar to a morning roll call in the military, others leave their teams alone and don’t perform the actual tasks because virtual communication is difficult or often not working at all, to name a few of the more disturbing observations of the recent past.

What does agile work mean:

For us, agility and agile working is more mindset than method. Observable is agile working on some principles, which we consider free of any technique or method that is used:

  1. Iterative approach:
    Plan – Do – Review – cycles are the procedure model used. Each active step is followed by a review to evaluate the experience gained and to incorporate it into the next level.
  2. The focus is on the next phase
    There is a rough direction, and only the next stage(s) are planned in detail.
  3. Continuous learning:
    From each review, the most critical findings are recorded and tried out in the next iteration as an experiment. If the new way works, it is continued, if it does not work, the operation has failed, and new findings are used.
  4. Self-organisation:
    Depending on the maturity of the team, the team members work in a self-organised manner. Line managers provide support by creating a framework that enables self-organized work.
  5. Customer in focus:
    The needs of the customer – whether it is an internal or external customer – are the focus of attention. It is always about creating added value.

We believe that even during the Corona pandemic, agile working is possible according to our definition. If we look at the competencies that require agile working during the epidemic, it becomes very quickly apparent that the skills that are sufficient under normal conditions to work together in an agile way will probably not be quite enough if we look at current work situations.

Communication is currently taking place increasingly in virtual space and the teams, which up to now have at least sat in the same house, are frequently working from the home office. From our point of view, this is one of the significant challenges that must currently be overcome to continue to strengthen agile working.

We are currently experiencing that organizations here often don’t keep up with the times, internal IT departments tend to wave aside and feel irresponsible, and people who want to work with the new collaboration tools tend to be regarded as oddballs.

A rethink is needed here:
Human resources development must strengthen practical collaboration skills, and IT departments are actively challenged to provide functioning conference systems where it is possible to communicate with each other via video camera without much effort. Virtual tools such as Miro or Mural also enable direct collaboration similar to an analogue whiteboard or pinboard.

If you want to enable agile collaboration, you have to create the technical prerequisites to train your employees and, in the sense of continuous learning, to allow them to try things out.