What are the examples of agile methods

This is how agile work works - principles of agility

The term agility has been on everyone's lips for several years and is associated with various possible aspects of work. "Agile leadership", "Agile organization" and "Agile methods" are just a few of the numerous examples. However, if you take a second look at the conversations and discussions around agility, you quickly notice that most of them only have a very vague understanding of the importance of agility and the principles on which it is based.

In order to benefit from agility and agile working methods, however, it is precisely this understanding and also the implementation of agile methods and processes that are extremely important. With this article we want to shed light on the darkness and define agility as well as give tips on how agile work can be implemented in companies.

"The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic" Peter F. Drucker

What is agility

Agility defines the ability of a company to quickly adapt to a constantly changing environment and to grow with it. This ability to adapt to today's volatile, complex and confusing markets can lead to great competitive advantages if one is able to react appropriately to changes.

In order to implement this successfully, both a dynamic ability and a stable component are necessary in the company - so to speak, a haven of calm or something to hold on to while the company is constantly changing. Often this stable component is the vision, the culture and the corporate values ​​derived from them. Large, established companies in particular find this dynamic ability difficult, as they are often based on rigid management hierarchies, processes and structures.

The core elements of an agile network organization are: value creation, focus on individuals and interactions, continuous learning

Where does the term come from?

Agile work has its origins in software development. In 2001, a group that collectively called the “Agile Alliance” met to jointly lay down the essential principles of agility. These included representatives from Extreme Programming, SCRUM and DSDM. Their goal was to get companies to think about new, more flexible ways of working. This resulted in the “Agile Manifesto of Software Development”, which sees people as the most important resource. Above all, it focuses on values ​​and culture and turns away from rigid process thinking.

But not only software companies can work in an agile manner. The elaborated twelve principles for agile work can also be interpreted more generally and adapted to almost every company.

By and large, it is about putting people and interactions above processes and tools and focusing more on the product itself, without having to spend a lot of time on detailed documentation. The focus is on adding value for the customer. The ultimate goal is to satisfy him and to work with him ⎼ much more important than first negotiating long contracts with the customer. So this approach and way of thinking is important in order to focus more on reacting to the ever-changing environment instead of following rigid plans.

What are examples of agile methods?

Scrum

An example of an agile method is Scrum. It is a framework for project and product management and comes from software technology, but is now also used in non-tech companies. Scrum helps to plan iteratively and incrementally, which contributes to the fact that initial ambiguities can be quickly eliminated on the basis of intermediate results and the plan can be continuously adapted and further developed. Detailed plans are only created for the next sprint (short interval). A Scrum team consists of six +/- three people and three roles: the Product Owner, the Scrum Master and the rest of the team that develops the product. The Product Owner prioritizes technical requirements and the Scrum Master is responsible for managing processes and removing obstacles.

Open Fridays

Another method for agile work is Open Fridays, where employees from all departments of the company meet voluntarily at a certain rhythm, for example every second Friday. Here employees can suggest topics that they consider important and would like to work on. Each participant writes his topic on a post-it and presents it to his colleagues so that teams can then spontaneously form around selected topics. They then work on their topics for a set period of time in order to present them to the rest of their colleagues at the end of Open Friday. In doing so, know-how is shared between people who normally do not necessarily work together and problems are solved that often do not receive any attention. In addition to the many new ideas that arise, cooperation in the company can also be strengthened and silos broken down.

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

Also the introduction and implementation of an agile target system, such as Objectives and Key Results (OKR), support the incremental planning and control of the company and the targeted management of employees. In addition, transparency and communication are increased and the meaning of the work is made clearer, since every employee has an insight into the goals of each company level and sees what his or her work pays for and was involved in the goal setting. You can find out more about the OKR framework here.

Why is agility so popular at the moment?

Among the many advantages that agile working brings with it, first of all is higher productivity due to more focused work. This increased focus comes from the fact that one improvement after the other is carried out iteratively and one can thus concentrate on one task after the other. Resource allocations are easier to understand due to increased transparency, cross-functional teams and more communication across departments and meet with greater acceptance by employees. A culture with more morality and togetherness is developed, which makes it easier to both retain workers and to convince new or potential employees for one's own company. In addition, the continuous adjustment to the market instead of rigid adherence to one direction means that the company works more innovatively. In addition, employees can also be given more responsibility when working in an agile manner. All in all, this means that employees are more motivated in their day-to-day work.

So agile working has many advantages - the only question now is, why doesn't every company do it this way? The main reason for this is that many companies quickly encounter seemingly insurmountable hurdles on the way there.

Why do companies fail to work agile and what should they do to prevent it from happening?

One is often missing at company level agile target image. This includes a clear, long-term vision that, like most visions, is not interchangeable at will - i.e. generically focused on market leadership or sales figures - but one that relates specifically to the company and, for example, focuses on its own products or services. The whole company should work towards this vision and have the same understanding of it. This is the only way to derive a mission, a strategy and an operational roadmap that point the employees in the right direction. This encourages self-organized teamswho, based on the vision, can make their own decisions quickly and in close proximity to the customer. For this it is necessary that each individual processes and tasks critically question and contribute their own ideas, instead of only assuming an executive function. This is also known as “intrapreneurial thinking”.

Customer proximity as the key for team-based, decentralized network structures

The most important value-adding activities and decisions in agile companies are always geared towards the customer and are not simply determined top-down according to the wishes of management. The key to team-based, decentralized network structures with personal responsibility is customer proximity. Because in an agile working environment, teams are formed around added value for the customer. Therefore, it is also ensured that all tasks create a value contribution for the customer and thus every employee has a direct effect on the goals and key figures.

The learning process is greater and a better product can be delivered to the customer if the teams are in direct contact with them without, for example, the sales department acting as an intermediary. In addition, there are no long discussions across hierarchies. In this way, silos within the company can be broken down and Taylorism, i.e. processes that are prescribed in detail and with precise workflows, can be avoided.

Spotify, for example, has few or no centrally prescribed processes and standards. Work is carried out in groups of no more than eight people, the so-called “squads”, who make decisions and act completely autonomously, across functions and in a self-organized manner. This means that teams at Spotify can work and react quickly and flexibly.

The principles of agility

Corporate culture

A stable one Culture is important for employees as it serves as a guide; but is often underestimated. It takes a long time to change and consolidate it. Culture must be used consciously. It is a company's key competence and can create significant competitive advantages.

An important aspect here is that agile working does not aim to hone a product until it can be brought onto the market as a perfect product. Instead, products are introduced to the market and then steadily and iteratively aligned with customer needs. In such an environment, however, it is natural for mistakes to happen and situations of failure as well. In order for the team members to dare to contribute new ideas, make suggestions for improvement and make decisions, it is therefore important to have one Culture of failure to establish. A “safe place” where you can develop freely and new ways of thinking are encouraged.

The culture of failure says that it is part of making mistakes, because it is from them that the whole company can learn incredibly well. It is important that the mistakes and the conclusions one draws from them are shared and discussed. As soon as employees feel that failure is part of the process and accepted, it leads them to step out of their comfort zone and think outside the box. "What is important for the company?" is about "What is important to me?" posed.

Also one Culture of trust is very important. It is the basis for more freedom of choice in difficult and problematic situations and promotes quick reactions to external and internal influences. It thus forms the basis for self-organized teams. In this way, micromanagement, in which the manager constantly monitors and controls his teams, can be avoided.

In general, this is nothing new. However, a culture of trust must be actively communicated and lived by at all levels of the company.

The role of the manager

“Servant leadership” is the catchphrase here. According to a study by Kienbaum and StepStone, most employees want a transformational leader instead of a manager who only controls and delegates. So a coach with a role model function, who acts in a value-oriented and transparent manner and promotes independence. Managers should act like a mentor and give self-employed employees responsibility, support and encourage them, help them develop further and explain the meaning of the work to them.

Iterative processes instead of long-term plans

In order to be able to react quickly to external influences, the Processes within the company iterative be designed. These days, long-term plans don't work anymore. In addition, you can no longer work endlessly on a product to perfection until it is finally brought onto the market. This is due to the dynamics and complexity of the markets and the ever faster changing customer requirements.

In addition, competition no longer only comes from well-known and established market participants, but also from young companies and from those from which one would not have expected competition until recently. Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer was still convinced in June 2007 that the iPhone would not sell well. How wrong he was with that is at least today known to everyone. Nevertheless, any company could have made this mistake. In order to avoid such a thing, the management level, as well as all other employees, should always keep an eye on the competition and maintain their adaptability instead of stubbornly sticking to one direction.

In the Goal setting The best way to proceed is as follows: Strategic goals are usually set by the management levels, as they often have a better view of the big picture. Operationally, however, the bottom-up approach is the best way for workers to say how these goals can be implemented. So all levels in the company should work together.

How can I train self-organized employees and create networks between employees?

In order to support employees in innovative work, it is helpful to train agile coaches or to invite external coaches to support them in dealing with complex tasks. Workshops, e-learning and training with teams, i.e. formats to enable continuous learning, are also important. Another method is to involve team members in the HR department's recruiting process when a new employee is to be hired for the team. This makes it more likely that the team will work together faster and better and achieve the desired productivity.

In employee development, a strong feedback culture is the be-all and end-all. The first step is to help employees better give and receive feedback. Tools that serve as a reminder and as an aid to providing successful feedback can be useful here. Workpath currently offers a beta version for this, which is being further developed in collaboration with selected customers and ensures continuous development with 360 ° feedback.

At the process and operational level, companies often donate to team communication as well as communication Too little attention across departments and teams. This can be remedied with simple methods and processes. For example, introducing more regularly helps Check-insin order to increase the frequency and quality of communication, to better combine goals with tasks and to exchange knowledge more openly within the team. Also Retrospectiveswhich should take place at least once a quarter, promote internal processes and help operations to adapt to the changing environment.

Ultimately, it is also important to provide teams with common spaces in which people from different teams can exchange ideas. Joint events also promote togetherness and have greater effects than you can imagine.

Conclusion

Agility requires action and discipline - just like business success, it doesn't come by itself. There are many approaches to implementing agile work. For example, internal coaches can be trained, external support can be brought in or new tools can be used that make structuring and organizing easier. Workpath has set itself the goal of shaping the working world of tomorrow and supporting companies in transforming themselves into an agile network organization and therefore offers a SaaS solution of the same name. It includes performance tools for OKRs, check-ins and feedback to establish and support common goals, continuous feedback, self-organization and focus.