We live in a time in which technical progress is advancing rapidly. At the same time, the demand for transparency, co-determination and flexible working time models is growing. Established processes are being completely turned upside down and digitalised from one day to the next, as was recently the case with COVID-19. For organisations, it is therefore more important than ever to be able to react flexibly and quickly, i.e. agilely, to changes. In this post, I will give several tips on how to increase the agility of your own company.
Why should I make my business more agile?
Even the best strategy can only be implemented until certain conditions change. We now experience this almost daily. An agile company or organisation is designed to embrace change and meet it constructively. The goal is to constantly question oneself without external pressure, to adapt again and again and to develop further. The key to agile development lies in the culture of every company. Managers and employees must become creators of the culture and the handling of change. But how do you shape your own culture and how do you promote such a way of acting?
Step 1: Eliminate change management
Admittedly, this is a bold demand at first. But an agile corporate culture is based on the fact that employees and managers are not used to experiencing change management as large-scale waves of change. Instead, change processes are permanently initiated and reflected in integral, small steps. The advantages of this approach are numerous. For example, it is much easier to get direct feedback for small changes and to be able to take back small steps. We have had good experience with establishing rounds in which managers and/or employees are given a clearly defined framework for change. This can be a series of workshops on corporate culture, for example.
Step 2: Build backlog, define process, get started
As with agile project management, e.g. Scrum & Kanban, we want to get into implementation as quickly as possible. So we start by building up a backlog. You can simply stick stickies (post-its) on the wall, or you can enter cards into a digital tool. If your company doesn’t have one yet, I recommend starting with Trello. It’s free of charge, covers all the details, is easy to use and allows you to get started quickly and you can even import projects into Atlassian Jira afterwards if you need to. On the cards we capture ideas, problems and blockers. We like to use user stories as a method to describe the expected result as precisely as possible. The steps “Backlog”, “To Do”, “In Progress” and “Done” have proven to be a lean workflow for our agile company board – and off we go.
Step 3: Communication of change, feedback and participation
In my experience, communicating innovations in regular team meetings has proven its worth. You get immediate feedback, can answer questions and initiate the next optimisation directly in the dialogue. This offers a great opportunity to integrate co-determination into the agile change process. Above all, I recommend encouraging and accepting feedback that does not necessarily confirm one’s own way of acting! This closes blind spots in your own perception.
Step 4: Be brave and take a step back
If you realise that you have rather complicated a process and not optimised it, one thing is very important: to be brave enough to take a step back. Such an approach would be the death of the entire effort in classic change management. In agile, we assume that wrong decisions are seen as an opportunity to learn and optimise. This requires a whole lot of trust on the part of employees, leaders and management.
Step 5: Create a framework for reflection
Agile leadership teams benefit enormously from regular reflection. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Did the changes add value?
- Have processes or procedures been simplified?
- Are we now faster at making decisions and better at implementing them?
Regular reflection is best instituted in retrospectives. It is advisable to consciously break out of the usual environment. For a successful team, it is great if such an appointment is like a small incentive. So just get out of the office and rent a room in a hotel somewhere. Many hotels offer attractive conference packages with business lunch – inspiring surroundings included.
Agile in mind, not on paper
This brings us to the essential element in the entire value chain: the mindset. Agility does not happen on paper, but in the mind. The mindset, i.e. the combination of inner attitude and the associated way of thinking, is an important part of the corporate culture. This in turn arises from what is experienced (or lived) in the company. This means that the way change is implemented is actually a totally exciting opportunity to actively shape the corporate culture.
Distribute management responsibility
But how do you involve as many minds as possible here? Personally, I like the holocratic idea of the hierarchy of circles very much. We assume that in a company the hierarchy, i.e. the power of shaping, is shaped from the inside out. The starting point is the inner core. Around it, we look for fields of design in which we can work. So we start in the inner core, usually the management, and look for a somewhat wider circle of willing and able designers who are prepared to let new ideas flow in and try them out. We deliberately do not aim at the broad masses in the company, but make sure that our circles can always represent the workforce as a whole.
Actively shaping change together step by step can become an essential part of the corporate culture. Experiencing change together as constructive and enriching brings people together and moves the organisation forward. This creates self-organised leadership and thus a stable foundation for an agile company.
Need a jump-start?
At amiconsult, we have successfully integrated agility into our corporate DNA. Let’s take a look under the bonnet of your organisation together! We will help you get started quickly and without detours. Good luck on your agile journey.