Agile transformation (part 6) - methods and instruments
Managers often go from one workshop to the next and are provided with numerous agile instruments with which they are then supposed to handle in their organization. In case of doubt, a visit to Silicon Valley for the "Top Executives", plus books, webinars and podcasts, so that a wealth of tips and methods emerge on how to achieve agility in organizations. The toolboxes of the managers are therefore full to bursting. And yet the desired effects are not achieved.
It is dangerous to believe that the mere application of diverse tools will lead to success. Agility must be thought of holistically in order to achieve the appropriate effect. It must not be reduced only to its methodical application such as Scrum, "Working out loud" or "Delegation Poker".
The "plugging of holes" and hoping that some fashion terms and Haufe workshops will be enough will definitely not work in the VUCA world.
Vertical and Horizontal Penetration
In order to actually unfold the advantages of an agile transformation, a holistic vertical and horizontal penetration of the organization is necessary.
It is not uncommon for agile transformation to begin at the team level. Usually the development teams go ahead or have been working with agile methods such as Scrum, Kanban etc. for some time. However, this often does not lead to the desired acceleration, as the levels above do not work according to the same principles of agility.
If a vertical penetration does not take place, managers push more and more tasks into the now agile working teams instead of "pulling" them. This leads to an overload of the entire system, which resembles a congested highway. Traffic only flows really fast if there are at most as many vehicles travelling at the corresponding speed as the throughput of the lanes. The lanes correspond to the individual teams, the vehicles to the tasks. As a result, the overall system can even slow down, even though traffic flows faster on one lane - compared to a team that works agilely, but does not take into account the dependencies on the other teams (horizontal penetration).
A horizontal (on team level) as well as vertical penetration is necessary to successfully realize an agile transformation. The agile mode - not as a fashion activity, but as a holistic approach - must encompass all company levels.
The individual teams can work according to different methods. The chosen method depends on the degree of predictability of the events. As a rule of thumb one can say: The less predictable, the more agile, the better plannable, the more classic the chosen approach can be.
Fig. 1.: Kallenbach (2016)
To be on the safe side, it should be mentioned that the methods alone do not lead to acceleration. Parallel to this, a cultural development is needed that evokes an agile attitude based on a common awareness of values, common principles and a common purpose.
The communicative efficiency of organizations and their employees is increasingly becoming a decisive success factor. Internal communication is moving closer to value creation. Networked work must be guaranteed - fast, uncomplicated and optimally as transparent as possible for other employees.
Social networks act as a catalyst here. Instruments for dialogue, networking and interaction open up new opportunities for interdepartmental cooperation. There are now numerous instruments on the market that can support this. Here are some of the most popular examples:
Multimedia: Adobe Spar, Fly, Spreaker, Pinterest etc.
Preparing content: Storify, Feedly, Diigo, Tumblr etc.
Messaging: Threema, WhatsApp, Skype, Viber etc.
Social networks: Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Tibbr, Slack, SocialCast etc.
Virtual themed group rooms and workstations are suitable for this purpose, in which like-minded people can discuss answers to complicated questions, enter into productive dialogue and exchange ideas virtually. The specific information on knowledge and expertise (foreign languages, experience, etc.) enables employees to be found more easily throughout the company as contact persons and, in return, to benefit from the skills of their colleagues.
Already today - and even more so in the coming years - it will become increasingly important for companies to implement platforms in which all applications converge. Only that will provide the transparency and efficiency you need. This makes agile work more real and tangible, because information flows can be objectively classified and quickly reacted to.
Agile transformation - without integrating information technology - is therefore unthinkable. This is also one of the greatest challenges. Very few companies I know personally have managed to place their numerous programs and applications on a common, easy-to-use platform.
It's about integration and automation. And it's about data protection, which must continue to be guaranteed despite all openness and transparency.
Everyday life often still looks creepy. One department works with program xy, the other has focused on z and the third still prefers its self-made Excel lists.
Microsoft is on the right track with Office 365. But also applications like Zapier or IFTTT (rather for the private sector) offer the possibility to integrate several hundred apps and thus ensure the necessary data exchange.
The Chinese are showing the way. Chat systems are becoming service platforms for all kinds of everyday concerns. Hundreds of millions of Chinese today organize themselves via the messenger program WeChat.
Communication, payments, bookings, salary payments etc. - everything runs via one app. Separate apps for the individual functions are no longer necessary. Of course, it is highly critical that almost all data is forwarded in parallel to the Chinese authorities.
However, one thing is clear: the future will belong to integrated platforms that also guarantee a high level of data protection. This is because they create the conditions for agile, efficient and successful work.
Successful agile transformation is possible when vertical and horizontal penetration ensures agilisation of each organizational element. Networked work enables transparent communication in which everyone can participate. IT must integrate all elements of the organization holistically in order to be able to realize agile processes.
The seventh part of the series "Agile Transformation" deals with success factors that, in our view, can contribute significantly to scaling.
More blog posts from the series "Agile Transformation":
De Clercq, Isabel (2018). #Networked work. Social networks in companies. Frankfurt: Frankfurt General Book.
Kallenbach, Ingo (2016). Leadership in the Healthy Organization. Exceptional performance through potential development. Stuttgart: Schäffer-Poeschel.
Nowotny, Valentin (2018). AGILE EVOLUTION: A guide to agile transformation. BusinessVillage