The principles and values of agile software development can also be used throughout an organization. //SEIBERT/MEDIA’s goal is to not only use agile software development methods, but also agile methods and values throughout our organization.
In this introductory article, we explain why we have chosen to do this, what we are trying to achieve, and cover what changes and challenges are involved. Later posts will cover specific aspects of our agile organization.
//SEIBERT/MEDIA – an agile organization?
Software development at //SEIBERT/MEDIA is now inconceivable without agile methods. Scrum and Kanban are now the standard procedures when we work on projects with customers. We’ve written about this before, when we looked at what the research says about agile software development compared to the traditional waterfall model (in German).
Over time, these team-based, agile procedures have been increasingly applied outside the software development department: Agile practices and values are now found throughout the organization. This has resulted in profound changes for our employees as well as when we work on projects with our customers.
Employees learn to appreciate agile values such as individual responsibility and self-organization. These new values and ways of thinking can clash with sometimes rigid procedures, as soon as issues go beyond the agile team. Certain established processes or underlying conditions no longer appear to be meaningful.
How should we adapt these processes and conditions so that they do not hinder, and instead support our teams and colleagues? Don’t the employees themselves, now aware of their individual responsibility, know themselves the best?
These thoughts sparked the process that we call the “transformation into a more agile organization,” or even simply the “agile organization”. We want to (re)design the company together with our employees, and thus provide a work environment in which everyone can work autonomously and independently, where everyone can make decisions about important business processes together, and also support them.
Before dealing with the specific methods and procedures of our “agile organization”, we would like to address a few fundamental issues.
We are all in the same boat
Agile organization primarily means you trust your employees. It is important to understand that the employer is neither responsible for the well-being of the company alone, nor are they the only ones who benefit from the company’s well-being. We want to encourage our employees to work independently and to reduce any inhibitions towards making their own decisions.
Work processes should not suffer from having to wait for permission from a project manager or supervisor. If this does occur, each employee can initiate a change process in order to avoid such bottlenecks in the future.
//SEIBERT/MEDIA wants to motivate employees to contribute their own ideas and have a say in the decision-making. In doing so, we are developing our company organization with the full involvement of our employees, and are using concepts such as Open Space, Hackathons or Slacktime, which we will be focusing on in later posts.
Transparency as the foundation for independent decisions
When employees work on a project, they know the project’s details better than “the manager”. They have a deeper understanding, and can more accurately assess what measures and investments are necessary, leading to improved team performance. To make such decisions, the team must have access to performance data and know how the project is financed. A comparison with your own bank account is a good analogy: To know if you can afford the new sofa or not, you must know your account balance.
This results in the need for transparency. Responsible decisions can only be made if employees are competent, and have access to all information for each situation.
Remove invisible barriers
How far can I go? How far should I go? These questions are faced sooner or later by anyone dealing with the principle of self-organization. For fear of doing something wrong, employees ask for permission to make decisions, instead of simply making the decisions. They must learn to use their newly acquired decision-making powers. When employees become braver, the phenomenon of “invisible barriers” often occurs. From time to time, they make decisions that go beyond what management regards as a reasonable choice. This is an invisible barrier, where they encounter resistance.
If employees repeatedly encounter such barriers, they can fall back into old patterns of behavior. In order to avoid this, it is important to clarify any limits to their self-organization – to make the barrier visible – and to expand their decision-making powers, step-by-step.
What do we do with the manager?
What happens to the manager when employees are less dependent on their instructions? You might mistakenly believe that the manager is no longer of any importance in the agile organization, that agility also works without one.
Jurgen Appelo deals precisely with this topic in Management 3.0 and gives the following answer: The manager is primarily responsible for ensuring that the teams are self-organized; They must create the foundation and conditions that support and sustain self-organized work.
Certainly, managers lead employees to make better decisions than when the managers had previously made them by themselves. In addition, the company increasingly provides more freedom for employees, since a greater delegation of responsibility to employees is one of the most important prerequisites for agile management. Thus, the manager plays an important role in the successful implementation of agile working methods. Their role is no longer a director, but rather that of a coordinator.
It is important to consider this changed role of management and, in particular, to take care of those who are directly affected. It is precisely from so-called middle management that resistance to such self-organized structures is often encountered.
More about agile organizations
We will cover various concepts of our agile organization in future posts, such as Open Space, Slacktime, Hackathons, Dotmocracy and experiments (like Lean Startup).
Want to introduce “Agile”? We are your partner!
Do you have questions about agile procedures in an organization or software development process? Do you want to introduce agility in your company and improve existing processes? At //SEIBERT/MEDIA, “Agile” is the standard in all of our projects. We would be delighted to help you to establish and optimize agile principles and procedures in your company – please contact us, no obligations. For detailed information about our Agile services, please refer to our Agile Service Portfolio.
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Agile organization at //SEIBERT/MEDIA – from brainstorming to realization
Agile skill matrix: Systematizing team training and controlling the exchange of knowledge