Five important things that change for leaders in an agile company

We identify ourselves as an agile organization, through and through. Organizational concepts such as Scrum and Kanban are firmly anchored in every corner of our company. All of our teams work independently on their products and services; in a self-organized fashion. Hierarchies are dissolved. We make decisions transparently and jointly. Our sense of leadership is detached from traditional formal power structures.

Internally, we agree that this is the best approach for being able to react quickly and correctly to the dynamic changes we face in the complex, modern marketplace.

The road to an agile organization

This transformation took several years - and there was no roadmap for how to exactly become an agile organization! We, too, originally came from a world of fixed departments, hierarchical structures, relatively clearly distributed decision-making powers, waterfall projects, approvals, and incentive target agreements for employees.

The process of transitioning into a modern agile company has come with occasional growing pains. We had to take many of our traditional ways of thinking and throw them out of the window. Several of our classic methods and tools ended up being mothballed. Power had to be redistributed.

Above all else, however, we've learned many, many things, and we are happy to pass on our experience in order to inspire people in other organisations who may still be transitioning or want to make such a structural change within their organizations.

The way to an agile organization is at times difficult and not always signposted. But there are signs and landmarks to follow.

A bird's eye view

Recently, I gave a keynote presentation on this exact topic at Audi AG in Ingolstadt. Please watch the recording below if you are interested in learning more about modern agile organizations, or review the presentation slides.

I looked at the agile transition from a bird's eye view. There are shelves and shelves of books that will help you understand how to implement Scrum and Co. in your daily work life. Alternatively, several colleagues have describe their personal experiences of implementing Scrum. During the presentation, I focused mainly on my own perspective - that of a managing director and thus a "leader". We will discuss how leadership can and should mean something completely different today than what it traditionally has meant.

Ideas and suggestions for reflection and experimentation

This presentation is not a retrospective, nor does it review our specific  process  to an agile organization over time. Rather, it's intended to offer ideas and incentives to rethink the status quo, to try things out and to experiment.

Among other things, I'll show you the basics of a concept we call Extreme Agile Leadership and I'll share examples of methods and practices that have been working well for us. While these methods don't always work perfectly in every company, I believe that it's valuable to take a closer look at these concepts and to experiment with them.

How does the role of a leader change in an agile organization? How should we define leadership? What can we achieve by emphasizing transparency and trust? How can we break down the traditional decision-making processes? And, of course, there's the question of how software tools contribute to the whole thing. 😉

To answer these and many other questions, I give many different suggestions. As I mentioned before, this presentation is not a how-to, not a review, nor an instruction manual. There is no one, clear, "right" road to becoming an agile organization. Furthermore, that road isn't completely mapped out; it's not perfectly paved. There are unique  potholes and dangers that you'll find along the way. You can get lost, slip up, and fall flat on your face. Despite this, there are trail markers and guidance here and there that can help make your transition easier.

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Further information

Agile remote transition – life as a distributed employee in a local Scrum team
Agile organization at //SEIBERT/MEDIA – from brainstorming to realization
Tools4AgileTeams website