Create agile awareness

Especially in complex development projects, companies use agile working methods to react quickly and effectively to constantly changing market and customer requirements. In order to benefit from the advantages of agile methods, it is important that research and development executives, as well as top management, internalise the values and principles behind agile methods. Practice has shown that the foundation for the successful use of agile methods lies in the creation of agile awareness, especially among managers!

Fundamentals of agile ways of working: Empirical process control, value orientation, self-organised teams and continuous improvement.

Agile ways of working – such as Scrum – are better suited than waterfall processes and classic project management methods because they are based on regular, adaptive planning and empirical process control. The core element is that the results are analysed at regular intervals and the consequences of the analysis immediately flow back into the solution. This creates a high degree of transparency at short intervals. This approach not only helps in complex projects, given that it:

  • takes customer feedback into account as early as during development.
  • regularly tests the technical implementation of your product.
  • achieves a development result that is in line with the market.

In addition, one central element of agile ways of working is value orientation. This means doing the right things, i.e. increasing effectiveness, by focusing on value-adding activities and results for the customer. This clear customer focus places the customer as a central element at the very heart of the development process, as feedback is requested from customers or representatives of the customer (e.g. sales) at an early stage and in short cycles. This not only prevents development from bypassing the customer but also ensures that usable results are generated at an early stage. In addition, value orientation includes increasing efficiency, doing things right, i.e. using resources well. For example, setting planning- and development times in the right proportion to each other.

Agile concepts are based on self-organised teams. These are small groups that together have the knowledge and skills to develop complete solutions and make relevant decisions on their own responsibility. Self-organised teams have the following advantages:

  • They have a faster and more comprehensive exchange of knowledge and experience.
  • They make decisions themselves and thus keep decision-making paths short.
  • Intrinsic motivation is increased due to their autonomy.
  • Identification with the product is higher.

Another basis of agile working methods is the continuous improvement of the product and the working methods. If a team is stable in its composition and responsible for a product in the long term, it can exchange and build up specific (experiential) knowledge in the long-term through short-cycle, regular learning within empirical process control, both with regard to the product and in the context of improving cooperation. Furthermore, agile organisations ensure regular exchange between teams and targeted knowledge preservation through a centrally accessible, transparent collection of knowledge.

Understanding agile practices, values and principles

The different agile ways of working include specific practices, as well as values and principles. One of the most well-known and widespread agile working methods is the Scrum Framework.

Scrum defines the following roles and practices:

  • Roles (Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development Team, Stakeholders).
  • Events (Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Retrospective, Backlog Refinement)
  • Artefacts (Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Increment)
  • Rules (Working Agreement, Definition of Ready, Definition of Done)

The four values and 12 principles from the agile manifesto form the core of the agile way of working. They can be applied equally to hardware and software development. They form the agile mindset that all Scrum participants, their managers and top management must possess, in order to be able to sustainably use the advantages of agile working methods.

Agility starts at the top

Research and development executives involved in agility should be aware of one thing: Implementing agile ways of working leads to a cultural change that influences hierarchies, structures and processes. This change can only lead to a successful outcome if management deals with the agile principles and methods in detail – even before the pilot project – and understands the changes involved. They must consciously decide in favour of the change and exemplify the agile mindset in their own company. Only then can the benefits they expect from agile methods actually be achieved.

Agile ways of working require a special style of leadership. Managers no longer have the technical leadership, they do not prescribe technical solutions or determine the organisation of work in their team or department. Employees in agile teams should organise themselves independently and make decisions on their own responsibility. To achieve this, there must be transparency and clarity in communication with them. This requires trust and appreciation in the cooperation between employees and superiors.

Managers must prepare themselves sufficiently for this changed role. It is not enough to understand the rules and functioning of agile methods. The principles and values on which they are based must be internalised and a change in leadership behaviour must have taken place. This is the basic condition for using agility consistently and successfully in the long-term.

We help you understand agility

In customer projects, our consultants experience time and again how important it is to create the necessary foundations for agile working. For this reason, we have developed special workshop formats for this initial phase of the agile transformation. They enable professionals from research and development and all involved managers, employees and stakeholders to deal with agility in detail, e.g. in terms of leadership, teamwork and mindset:

  • In our Agile Awareness Workshop, participants familiarise themselves with the principles of agile leadership, methods and ways of working within one day. Consequences, challenges and approaches to solutions become tangible in a risk-free space.
  • In our two-day agile basics training, participants focus on the areas of application, success factors and the sources of potential that underpin agile methods. They learn to apply the methods and develop the necessary mindset.
  • In the Agile Quick Check, managers deal with the “maturity” of their organisational area and the expected effort for the introduction of agile methods.

The Agile Awareness Workshop serves as a basis for decision-making. Participants compare their expectations and goals. Following this, managers should make a conscious decision to introduce agile methods. This commitment is then followed by the selection of the pilot and the transformation team.

If you are interested in discovering more about the challenges of agile leadership, we recommend our newsletter Agile Leadership – A Response to Complexity, Uncertainty and the Pressure to Change.

The benefit to you

  • You learn how agile methods work.
  • You understand the consequences of introducing agile methods.
  • You realise why agility is also a question of mindset.
  • You make a conscious decision to use agility in your company.
  • You acquire all the basics necessary for a successful pilot project.