Thorsten Scheller illuminates all facets of agility in his book “Auf dem Weg zur agilen Organisation” (“On the way to an agile organization”).
For a long time, companies were regarded as permanently stable and products and projects were adapted to the corporate structure.
At a time when many rapid, unpredictable changes are taking place, it is no longer possible to adapt the products to the company in a target-oriented and sometimes even impossible way. Rather, it is necessary to tailor the products to the needs of the customers.
The prerequisite for this is an appropriate attitude and a new understanding of roles. In this uncertain environment, companies with fixed organisational structures and a lack of adaptability are increasingly facing difficulties.
The first chapter deals with the particularities of the VUKA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), in which there are no fixed rules, no certainties and no clearly recognizable connections, i.e. in a world in which everything is possible and in which today one thing and tomorrow already the opposite could show up.
Volatility refers to the extent of fluctuations within a short period of time, e.g. of prices, rates or entire markets, which are neither foreseeable nor predictable.
Uncertainty refers to a state of lack of knowledge, uncertainty, ambiguity – a state that is associated with an unknown risk. Causal cause-effect relationships are known, but not their probability of occurrence.
Complexity means that it is not possible to recognize inner connections through analysis. For analysis, a system must be dismantled into its individual parts. If a complex system is disassembled into its individual parts, exactly the part of the properties that is created by the cross-linking of the individual parts is lost as a result of the disassembly. In addition, these complex systems are also adaptive, i.e. they show special adaptability to their environment and can learn (from experience).
Ambiguity refers to a state in which the cause-and-effect relationships are not known.
What is the answer to the requirements of the VUKA world? Agility – “Adapt through fast learning”. Agility means adaptability, i.e. to react flexibly to environmental influences and to ensure the survival of the company by increasing adaptability.
Methodically, it can be moved in the VUKA world with small steps in the form of experiments and by rapid subsequent reflection. Agile approach is understood as an iterative and incremental process: a product or service is created step by step and based on one another in close cooperation with and involvement of the customer.
Prerequisite for agility
“Just using agile methods doesn’t make you agile!”
An agile mindset is necessary to be able to take the step into agility. This usually requires a change in culture. Trust and responsibility form the basis for cooperation, and a new understanding of roles must be established and room created for creativity.
Ways for others, new solutions are opened and self-determined, meaningful work comes to the fore. Agile Mindset also presupposes that a positive, anti-tayloristic image of man prevails. The failure of agile projects often lies in the fact that this cultural change was not or only partially implemented.
All these considerations are based on the Agile Manifesto adopted in 2001 by a group of 17 software development experts. It defines the agile values and principles. Although this manifesto focused on the software industry, the content is applicable to other areas of mental work.
Agile values – the foundation for agility
Four agile values form the foundation for agility and relate to the three areas: People, products and adaptability.
- human focus: Individuals and interactions have priority over processes and tools.
Smoothly functioning processes form the basis of this value, but at the same time the focus is on the individual needs of employees and customers.
- Cooperation with the customer has priority over contract negotiations.
A contract can only be the basis for cooperation. The service itself can only take place in an appreciative cooperation between customers and employees.
- Functioning performance has priority over extensive documentation.
Here the focus is on performance. Customers buy the service, not the documentation. Nevertheless, documentation is important in order to understand what was done when, why and how.
- Reacting to change has priority over strict plan monitoring.
Interferences have priority! In a complex context, it is no longer possible to implement a plan 1:1. Agility means planning clearly, but adapting constantly to what is happening.
The Agile Manifesto reflects not only the Agile values but also the 12 Agile Principles, which are based on the Agile values. As guiding principles for agile work, they provide assistance in practical activities.
Principle1: The highest priority is to satisfy the customer through valuable service. This should be delivered as early as possible in order to learn from the feedback of the customer.
Principle 2: Changes in requirements must be incorporated even at a late stage of development in order to support the customer in his competitiveness.
Principle 3: In order to be able to provide the service as close to the customer as possible, the service is delivered quickly and in very short periods of time.
Principle 4: Business experts and developers must work together on a daily basis to find the best solution for the customer.
Principle 5: Motivation of employees is an essential factor. To this end, an appropriate environment must be created.
Principle 6: Every form of communication within a team is constantly promoted.
Principle 7: A functioning performance is the most important prerequisite for progress.
Principle 8: Sustainable development is achieved by working at a speed that all participants can sustain over the long term.
Principle 9: Excellent technical solutions and good design should be sought.
Principle 10: The art lies in concentrating on the essentials and creating only what is needed.
Principle 11: Self-organized teams form the best basis for the best solutions.
Principle 12: A continuous improvement process is guaranteed by constant reflection and adaptation.
The last part of the book deals with the practical implementation of how to bring agility into a company. Various tools and methods are presented.
Agility is not suitable for every type of company. For companies in a complex environment, agility is the only answer to the uncertain situation. Of course, there are no copyable recipes, which would be contrary to the principle of agility.
Each organization must find its own, its own individual way.