NEWSLETTER
Agility, Change management, Guidance
Agile leadership – What is agile leadership? The 10 principles

Table of contents

No question – agile leadership is a trend. We hear buzzwords like agile project management, scrum, design thinking and agile leadership everywhere. But why actually? – Why is the whole world jumping on this trend? What is it about agility? Is this something for you and your company? What does it mean to be an agile leader? How exactly does that work?
We are often asked these questions, which is why we have taken the trouble to answer all your questions about agile leadership in detail here. We hope you enjoy reading it!

 

Agile leadership: What is agile leadership?

Why agile leadership?

Companies in the VUCA world

Many companies are moving towards agility and agile leadership. These include large corporations such as Spotify, Google and parts of the railroads. Why are they doing this?
Ultimately, companies are changing to become faster, more flexible and more customer-oriented, because they have to!
Our world is becoming ever faster due to factors such as globalization, digitalization and networking. Faster means that the intervals between changes or even innovations are getting shorter and shorter. This permanent, rapid change is known as VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous).
This means that although we know that a lot is constantly on the move, it is impossible to predict where the world will go. So we cannot prepare ourselves, but must be able to react quickly when a change occurs. And for this, we as a company need the ability to adapt quickly to new, changing situations. This ability is called agility.

 

Why agile leadership

 

What are the benefits of agility?

There are many changes that we are already having to deal with and that we as a company have to adapt to – now and in the future. We can meet these challenges with agility.

Customer requirements

Customers have become more demanding.
I’m sure you’re familiar with this; we’re all customers somewhere: we used to be satisfied with a product for years, but now we want the latest update quickly. We also no longer wait a few days for a response from customer service, but expect to hear back within a few hours. And if the customer service or the product is lousy, we simply go to one of the countless other providers – and of course report our bad experiences online.
If a company is agile, it has the ability to recognize trends and changes much more quickly and react to them at short notice. Thanks to flat hierarchies and changed decision-making powers, there is no need to go through lengthy bureaucratic processes before being able to react.

Greater competition

There are now many more suppliers for each product than before. We are no longer dependent on buying products from within the country, we can simply order from anywhere.
An agile company offers products and services that are geared towards specific customer requirements. This makes it attractive for the customer.

 

Customers and competition

Disruptive innovations

Some of the new providers are particularly dangerous for existing companies: Disruptive innovations, i.e. inventions that completely turn the market upside down, are coming onto the market with increasing frequency. Examples include digital photography and smartphones. In the automotive industry, it is becoming apparent that there will not only be a completely new type of automotive supplier in the future (namely Google or Apple, which have already launched their own models), but that the entire industry is changing. Instead of owning their own vehicle, customers want mobility and “Drive Now” or the e-scooter are also solutions for which the purchase of a new car is exchanged. Those who don’t recognize such changes in time and have an answer to them will fall by the wayside… Just like Kodak, which stuck to analog photography, or Nokia, which thought the smartphone was a short-term wave.
Agile companies are characterized by a significantly greater capacity for innovation. The fact that new things are welcomed and that trials and errors are considered a normal part of the development process motivates employees to try things out for themselves and research the best possible solutions.

Demographic change

Another change is demographic change:
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified employees. Employees are needed everywhere. They find work everywhere these days and naturally choose exactly where they want to spend their time. Salary is no longer the only argument. To attract employees to your company, you should position yourself as an attractive employer.
And this is where agile companies have an advantage, because the possibility of co-determination and co-design, flat hierarchies and empowerment make them more popular with existing and potential employees and therefore much more successful on the labor market than classically managed companies.

Younger generations

Agile companies are particularly attractive to members of the younger generations for the reasons just mentioned, as younger employees have little desire for traditional top-down, command-and-control management. They would rather think for themselves than follow instructions without comment.
As you can see, there are many reasons to embrace agility. And this requires managers who support this change towards adaptability.

Our video: Why should companies become agile?

 

Agile leadership: is it for us?

If you are asking yourself whether agile leadership is also something for your company or department, then here are 10 points of reference. It’s worth thinking about agility when…
  1. …your corporate or divisional environment is changing faster and faster and is somehow getting crazier and crazier.
  2. …decisions, processes or reactions to events often take longer than would be good from your point of view.
  3. …the satisfaction of your customers is not as high as you would like it to be.
  4. …requirements for projects or tasks change during processing.
  5. …the right approach to a project or task is not clear from the outset and still needs to be worked out.
  6. …information does not flow between departments as it should.
  7. …your employees have more information about what the customer or the market needs than you do.
  8. …your employees are dissatisfied or even run away.
  9. …you realize that you do not have the employer appeal on the market that is needed to attract enough applications.
  10. …at the end of your planning horizon, the planned topics are no longer relevant at all and a lot happens because it is in the target agreement, although it no longer has any benefit.

 

Definition of agile leadership

 

Definition of agile leadership: What is agile leadership?

Many people ask us for a definition: Agile leadership – what is it actually?
To be honest, it’s not so easy to define, because agile leaders don’t always act in the same way, but in very different ways. He or she is very changeable and can adapt well to which type of leadership is appropriate in which situation. Sometimes he is directive and sometimes he is not recognizable as a leader at all, but lets the team do it.
Nevertheless, we have chosen a definition of agile leadership that differs from the approach of classic, non-agile leadership, even if an agile leader can fall back on classic leadership methods if necessary.

Definition of agile leadership

Agile leadership means always working to ensure that the company can adapt to changes as quickly as possible. It supports employees at eye level in finding the best solutions to challenges together. The needs of all stakeholders are taken into account. The core values of agile leadership are openness to new ideas, communication and flat hierarchies.

The characteristics of agile leadership

Agile Leaders…
…can lead well in a wide variety of circumstances, especially in new, changing situations.
…have a mindset (values and principles) that supports the agility of the organization.
…know the most important agile methods/frameworks.

 

Agile leadership versus non-agile leadership

 

Agile leadership versus non-agile leadership – a comparison

What exactly are the differences between agile leadership and traditional leadership as it has been practiced up to now? Here are a few examples:

Classic management

Agile leadership

  • The boss is the person who can best provide professional and personal guidance.

 

 

  • The world is changing too quickly and the tasks are too complex for managers to have the highest level of expertise in the tasks at hand. Employees therefore often know better than their superiors what is going on.
  • Decisions are therefore made by the line manager.
  • Decisions are therefore made by the employees.
  • The line manager determines the strategy, the goals and the approach, because he knows best what is needed.
  • The strategy, objectives and procedures are discussed together in the team so that all points of view can be incorporated.
  • Specifications are detailed so that the task is implemented in the way the supervisor wants.

 

  • Managers define the general direction, i.e. the guidelines within which employees make their own decisions. This is faster and the decisions are closer to reality.
  • The line manager conducts important discussions because he or she is also responsible and can make decisions.
  • Employees are at least present at important meetings, if not conducting them alone.

 

  • The supervisor controls what happens. This means that they make sure that goals are achieved, desired behaviors are demonstrated and guidelines are adhered to.
  • The line manager trusts the team and lets them get on with it. However, he ensures that the team regularly reviews the results and decides together what needs to be adjusted.
  • If there is a deviation in the employee’s behavior or results, critical feedback is given so that the employee learns the correct behavior.
  • Deviation is possible, usually even necessary, and is seen as a valuable learning experience. Try and error is an important procedural principle.

 

  • Procedure: The goal is defined, a plan is developed, worked through and monitored.
  • The procedure is iterative, only the next steps are planned, then feedback is obtained and the course is adjusted if necessary. Course changes are possible at any time.
  • The quality of work should be high and is targeted at 100%.
  • A “definition of done” is developed together – what result do we need here?
  • Communication is objective, fact-oriented, sober and serious.
  • Communication is emotional and inspiring, “playing and spinning” has a place in working life.

 

Agile leadership practice

 

Agile leadership in practice : The 10 most important principles of agile leadership

We have identified the 10 aspects that we believe are most important for good leadership in rapidly changing situations. These are aspects that promote an agile mindset and support work with agile methods.
  1. Welcome change!

Accept paths other than your own!

What does flexibility mean?

Flexibility means: You are flexible if you are open to new ideas and suggestions and do not allow yourself to be restricted by strong structures and systems or stick too closely to your ideas or plans.
– And that is a major challenge for many managers! Why?

As previously managed

Most of them got into leadership because they find it easy to define a goal and work out a plan on how they and their team can best achieve the target. This requires a clear idea of the goal and the necessary steps. And persuasiveness, so that the path and goal are accepted. And there are also managers who don’t take the time to convince people, but simply tell them what to do.

Agile, flexible leadership

This has worked well in the past, but is no longer the best way to lead in many areas today.
In a situation where requirements change very quickly, plans must also be able to adapt very quickly. It is quite possible that the ingenious plans that have so far led to the goal are no longer the best. As a manager, you should be able to allow your employees to reconsider whether the solutions you have come up with still work and change them if necessary. That takes effort.
And not only that: you should be open to the fact that your employees have other ideas that may work better than your own plans. It is not easy to accept other ideas and resist the temptation to use authority to put your own plan in the foreground…

The self-image of agile leadership

The self-image of agile leadership is completely different from before: if you as a manager used to lead the way and always had a plan of what to do, you now have to be able to withstand great uncertainty – without your plan. And if you have defined yourself by your ability to always come up with the best ideas, then your ego may be in trouble in the face of all the questioning of your ideas and all the new solutions from your employees…

Agile leadership as a challenge for managers

This is a paradigm shift that does not come easily. That is human. We see this very often in practice: managers who have understood very well in theory what flexibility means in agile leadership have great difficulty remaining open and allowing other solutions in everyday life.

 

Changes in leadership

 

Be open to new ideas!

Agile leadership thrives on questioning the status quo. To develop new ideas, you have to leave the old ways behind. Only if you as a manager are actually enthusiastic about new things and dare to leave the realm of “we’ve always done it this way” can you inspire others.

The need for security

There are many people for whom their routines give them security. They like clear rules and procedures so that they can foresee what will happen, so that they can prepare and control. You no longer feel comfortable with innovations and changes. After all, they are exposed to risks, they are no longer operating in safe territory, they have to move around and have no security. Most of us humans are more focused on such certainties.
Of course, there are also the adventurous ones who prefer the open terrain to the beaten track. These people like to try out new things, pursue ideas and are attracted to situations, things and people that they are not yet familiar with. With too many regulations and too much security orientation, these people feel trapped.

The agile leader

Ideally, the agile leader should be very curious about other ways of doing things, other approaches and anything new in general. He is willing to take risks and is good at getting involved in open-ended situations. He puts things to the test and looks for improvements. If he is on a “track”, then he tackles the topics with motivation without brooding indecisively for too long.

How can you encourage such openness in yourself if you weren’t born that way?

As I said, the majority of people prefer security. There is therefore a good chance that you, as a manager, are one of them. This raises the question: can you train a more innovative approach, an agile attitude?
Yes, you can! Whenever you enter a new situation or approach things in a completely new way, the synapses needed for such an agile attitude are also linked. Once you leave your comfort zone, you train your brain to find new ways. They get used to dealing with new things – and gradually gain the security and self-confidence to be able to handle unforeseen events. However, if you stay in your comfort zone, you train your brain to love routine.

What does that mean in concrete terms in everyday life?

Leave the proverbial old ways behind and take new routes to work or other places! Do your work from different, new locations. For example, simply sit somewhere else first! Gain experience with other tools! Clear out – at home or at work! Learn something new!
It’s actually relatively simple: by exposing yourself to new things, you learn to deal with new things – and sooner or later you will like them. How to train your brain in innovation and agility.

 

Holistic agile leadership

 

  1. Maintain a holistic approach!

What does holistic mean in this context?

– If issues are complex and you cannot predict or calculate what will lead to success, then focus on the essential structures! Concentrate on the big picture rather than on individual details! It’s just important to keep an overview.

The direction is sufficient as a guideline

In terms of planning, this means that you only define a rough direction and do not work out a detailed plan. This means that your employees are not given predefined work steps, but a guideline within which they can look for solutions themselves. Similar to a wide highway, each employee can decide which lane is best for them depending on the situation. And if at some point you realize that the highway you have been on is no longer leading you in the right direction, then just look for another road!
All agile methods work according to this principle. In Scrum, for example, you plan ahead for the next four weeks at most. In addition, concentrate on the big picture, because if you were to go into too much detail with your long-term planning, it could very quickly become as costly as it is pointless.

 

Agile leadership, team trust

 

  1. Trust your team and hand over work!

What does that mean?
Trust here means that you let your team do their job and trust that your employees will act in the interests of the company. This is also known as the “principle of collective ownership”.

Why you should trust your team

When circumstances change quickly, when customer wishes change quickly, who notices this first? – It is the employees who are directly with the customer who do the actual work. They notice changes the quickest – and therefore also the company’s need to change, the need to act differently. And not only that: they are also usually the ones who already know the best solutions.
This is the reason why decisions are made by the team in agile methods.
Agile leadership means this: Empower your employees, give them responsibility and let them participate in decision-making. A nice side effect: this increases the motivation of your colleagues and saves you time and work.

Agile leadership means letting go

It is often a great challenge for managers to simply let the team get on with it. Of course, the manager risks the team finding a solution that is completely different from what the manager would have thought. This is ultimately the solution favored by one or more employees. And even if you, as an agile manager, would like a different solution, you should bite your tongue. It’s all right.
Ask yourself: what is more important in the long term? – That the team organizes itself and finds good solutions or that everything is done the way you want it to be?

One example of agile leadership is Google

Google is a leader in agile leadership. Managers there are told: As long as you have a good feeling when delegating, it’s still too little. Only when you feel uncomfortable and are worried about whether everything will go well, then it is just right.
And Google gives its employees a big leap of faith: as soon as an employee is hired, they are given a credit card with a credit limit of €10,000. Not bad, is it? The idea behind this is that the employee should be able to act in the interests of the company. He should have a lot of freedom to make decisions and not have to ask questions for long. And the employee knows immediately that they are trusted. And that is the basis of agile leadership.

 

Google agile

 

Trust your employees!

You can see from the example of Google that the company assumes that the employee is not throwing money around like crazy. Google trusts that its employees will handle the credit card just as responsibly and maturely as they do their own credit card. Employees who are not trusted to do this don’t even get a job at Google.

What to do if you make the wrong decisions?

Of course, Google does not trust blindly. There is a point at which the employee has to take responsibility for whether he or she has used the money wisely.
And your company should also reflect on the decisions made by your employees. It is possible that paths have been taken that do not inspire the manager.
Weigh up: is the decision within the framework or is it going in a direction that is no longer justifiable? Basically, the greater good is that the employee has decided. If the decision is not acceptable at all, then discuss this calmly with your employee so that they get an idea of which direction to take next time.

One example of agile leadership is Ritz Carlton

Ritz Carlton provides another example of trust. Every employee there has a daily credit limit of $2000 for each guest. This gives him the opportunity to make guests happy and give them wow moments they will never forget. Perhaps you are calculating how long it will take for the company to go bankrupt? Don’t worry. Employees are grown-up, sensible people. Most people also don’t spend their entire monthly salary on useless things on the first day of the month, but know how to manage it. Why should this competence not be available in the company? Of course, not every employee makes full use of the $2,000 daily allowance for every guest. Nevertheless, if the situation requires it, the employee has the option. The company trusts him to make the right decision.

 

Agile decisions

 

  1. Agile handling of decisions: Decide quickly!

We talked about it: let your team decide! As an agile manager, you delegate as many decisions as possible to the team and ensure that you yourself have as little to do with them as possible. However, there will always be decisions to be made, possibly big decisions, which will have to be made by the management itself.
Here you have to decide quickly! Certainly – some decisions require facts and time to weigh them up – but most decisions are much simpler; it’s a question of yes or no, of whether your company is now turning left or right. – And there should be no backlog of decisions. Today’s agile world is fast-paced, and to keep up with it requires equally fast decisions. If in doubt, a decision that you make too late is always a wrong decision.
In most cases, the most you can do as a manager is define the guidelines or moderate the process and let your employees decide. As an agile leader, you only make decisions yourself when it is absolutely necessary. Because with every decision you make, you disempower your employees to a certain extent.

 

Iteration

 

  1. Use iterations!

Work step by step!

Agile leadership means leading by sight. As we have already mentioned above, agile working does not follow a large prefabricated plan. Agile working means taking a step, evaluating it and deriving the next steps from it. Depending on the results of the evaluation, different actions follow.
Basically, it is important to find out whether the steps taken are leading in the desired direction:
  • You find out that the direction is right:

You continue to invest in the direction you have chosen! If the step went in the right direction, repeat the step in an improved form until it fits. Then take the next step.
  • You notice that the direction is not right:

You realize that it is better to take a different direction – then you drop the existing idea with ease and continue looking in other directions.

Iteration

This step-by-step approach is called iteration and is the basis of agile working. Wikipedia describes iteration as follows:
Iteration (from the Latin iterare, to repeat) generally describes a process of repeating the same or similar actions several times in order to achieve a solution or a specific goal.

 

 

Feedback Corporate culture

 

  1. Establish a strong feedback culture!

Feedback is the basis of agile working!

By trying out ideas, evaluating them and then either discarding them or investing more in them, you will eventually arrive at a prototype and a minimum viable product. Here too, feedback determines the direction in which further work is carried out.
This is why Scrum, with its iterations, retrospectives and reviews, as well as Design Thinking and all agile methods, have built-in feedback loops.
As you can see, feedback is the basis for decisions in agile processes. This means that as an agile leader, you should ensure that everyone involved – including you – is able to give and receive constructive feedback.

Feedback from customers and employees

Agile companies are companies that can adapt quickly.
Continuous improvement means that you are constantly improving your team, your processes and your products – and thus adapting to the circumstances. In most cases, the people who are close to the action or to the product or service are the best sources of information for you! For example, customers and employees have an immediate impression of what is working and what is not. It is therefore essential to incorporate their feedback into the process again and again.

 

Giving constructive feedback

 

Agile leadership = being able to accept feedback

Imagine: the employees are called in for feedback and express their opinions, talk about their experiences, give feedback on how things went. Manager Müller listens to the first sentences with a critical look and folded arms and, clearly annoyed, justifies why things have to be done in the same way. When employee Schmidt gives further feedback, he receives a disrespectful side blow from the boss. The employees prefer to keep quiet from now on…
If feedback is not accepted or even has negative consequences for the feedback provider, then it is not surprising that nobody dares to come out of hiding. The same applies if the person who has made a “mistake” is put up against the wall for it. – Who will want to try something out or talk openly about the work of their team?
Agile leadership clearly means being able to accept feedback easily and openly!
If you don’t do this, then you are torpedoing agility in your company enormously!

Agility is not possible without feedback!

Our experience shows that many Scrum projects have failed because nobody opened their mouth when it came to reflecting on the work of the last few weeks. The team feared that teammates could be punished or shown up. Or they realized that the manager would brush off the feedback anyway and therefore nothing would improve. You can see how important dealing with feedback is in agile leadership!

Summary of feedback in agile leadership

We summarize once again:
An agile manager supports feedback by ensuring that
  • regular feedback takes place.
  • Criticism and concerns can be expressed freely.
  • she herself is open to feedback.
  • feedback also results in changes.
  • the feedback participants are happy to be able to discuss the topics.
  • the prevailing attitude is: “Hey, it’s great that this error has come to light, because we’ve learned something from it.”
So: Promote a positive feedback culture!

 

Agile handling of errors

 

  1. Deal with mistakes in a positive way!

As you have just read, it is important to welcome mistakes as learning opportunities.
Have you ever watched a child learning to walk? How often does it misstep and land on the floor again? But it learns from these steps, it seeks and finds its balance – and thus teaches itself to walk. If children were to demonize their missteps, bemoan the fact that they don’t achieve instant perfection and therefore throw in the towel, we would still be moving around on all fours.
We can reflect on this positive approach to mistakes that we all had at the beginning of our lives:
  • Not everything has to work straight away!
  • It is important that you try and evaluate!
  • Accept that things have to develop first!
  • If you don’t try anything, you won’t develop any further!

Where can mistakes happen and where not?

Perhaps you will now say: but we must not make any mistakes! And we completely agree with you: there are situations and areas in which absolutely no mistakes can be made. If a pharmaceutical company releases a drug, it must not be defective under any circumstances. If your company sells cars, the brakes must of course not have any defects! When it comes to safety or even life and death, it goes without saying that no more mistakes can be made.

But on the way to the perfect product, it is necessary to try things out and learn from what has not yet worked. This is the only way to find possible breaking points and sources of error and create solutions for them. This will make you better, more innovative and more creative – and that’s exactly what this is all about.

Trial and error

In some areas, such as the IT sector, it is even common practice to first offer the customer a beta version, i.e. a prototype. Before working out the finer details, the developers check whether the product is actually well received by the customer and what experience they have with it. – Naturally, the developers incorporate customer feedback into further development. And if something doesn’t work, get rid of it!

Cultivate a positive error culture!

Ultimately, the issue of error culture is about having the courage to try things out and allowing yourself to accept that results are not always optimal.
This constructive attitude is particularly reflected in the so-called “Fuck-Up Nights” that agile companies like to organize: At this event, employees report on failures and how they have used them. In this way, all employees can learn from these failures. The fact that mistakes are made openly and publicly, even celebrated, is also enormously culture-building: every employee sees that mistakes are not punished, but on the contrary – courage and openness are rewarded.

 

Communication in the team

 

  1. Initiate contact and communication within the team!

When issues become more complex, individual solutions are often no longer possible. So many aspects have to be taken into account here that the best solutions only emerge when several different minds work on them. Most agile methods are about teamwork. The more diverse the team, the better.
If you now have many very different individuals together, the task of agile leadership is to promote their cooperation. The basis for this is the ability, motivation and sensitivity to get team members to communicate with each other. This can be very challenging, because often completely different attitudes and ways of communicating come together. Strengthening the constructive exchange within the team is one of the primary tasks; resolving tensions and steering the work back in a positive direction is another. The manager needs a penchant for communication and an understanding of how important it is. This is the only way she can create an atmosphere in the team that allows everyone to pull in the same direction and work together to find the best solutions.

 

Hierarchy

 

  1. Change your understanding of hierarchy: servant leadership vs emphasized leadership role

And now one of the most fundamental points in agile leadership: non-hierarchical thinking.
You have already read it above: In today’s world, where issues are becoming more complex and changing rapidly, it is often the employees who know best what is right. The team has the solution, not the boss. You should therefore choose a type of leadership that makes it easy for the team to express ideas for solutions openly and freely. And you won’t succeed with hierarchical leadership.

Hierarchical management

What is hierarchical leadership?
In the old, classic management style, it is quite common for superiors to let their subordinates know who is in charge: The desk, the office, the company car – everything is bigger; honor and respect are expected and it is clear that the boss from above knows everything better anyway. Decisions are made by the boss, there is no room for contradiction.
So if you live this old model of leadership, you will not be given ideas that would help your company move forward; the best solutions will not be chosen, but yours. Regardless of whether it is good or not. It’s not about how effective an idea is, but about who expresses it. You are the boss, there is no disagreement.
And to be on the safe side, employees cover up mistakes and keep them hidden, because after all, they only mean trouble…
The worse solution will continue to exist, the team is not looking for the best way together.

Agile Servant Leadership

Agile leadership is the opposite: an agile leader is not the boss. The understanding of leadership in an agile environment is servant leadership. The manager is not the leader who sets the course and everyone follows. No, the agile manager has a supporting function: they ensure that all options are open to the team, remove obstacles, motivate the team and help with conflicts.

 

Hierarchical structure in Scrum

 

The hierarchical structure in Scrum

In Scrum, leadership is divided between two functions, which, however, have no hierarchical power. Here, the management functions are clearly supportive and structuring, they hold the threads together.
  • The so-called product owner focuses on the customer and the business. He keeps an eye on whether a solution pays off and is economical and whether the customer, the “user”, likes it.
  • The Scrum Master, on the other hand, concentrates on the team. He ensures that the Scrum structure is running and that the process remains on track and obstacles are cleared out of the way.
This means that the most important management tasks are in place, but the disadvantages of traditional leadership, namely that people may be afraid to speak their mind, take a step back or relinquish responsibility, are no longer there.

Do without vanity!

Yes, of course: you’ve spent years working towards a management position and now you’re in charge of an area – you’re supposed to stop doing that again. There is also something nice about it – the privileges, the prestige. But agile leadership means eye level. This is often not so easy for the older generations, who are used to a hierarchically structured working environment. But: the younger generations will thank you for it! Generation Y and Generation Z often have little understanding of why a superior should automatically have the better ideas. What counts for you is professional competence and not the position. As the boss, you are also asked to justify objectively why your solution should be the best.
So give yourself a jolt and try not to be vain, pluck the epaulettes off your shoulder and forget your title. It’s about open collaboration and the best solutions. That also has its appeal!

 

Agile methods

  1. Use agile methods!

And last but not least: an agile leader should of course also know agile methods and be able to apply them!
This does not mean that agile methods are suitable as an approach for every task. The use of agile methods only makes sense if it also brings benefits.
We recommend the Stacey Matrix to find out whether it makes sense to tackle the task at hand with agile methods or whether it is better to fall back on conventional processes.

The Stacey Matrix

The picture shows an example of a Stacey Matrix. As you can see, tasks and work areas can be sorted into the area of tension between the x and y axes.
  • The vertical y-axis stands for the requirements of the customer, the environment and the stakeholders. From bottom to top: Are they known from the beginning, do they stay the same or do they keep changing?
  • The horizontal x-axis shows the extent to which the methods or technologies with which the task is to be solved are changing. Here, too, the location on the axis shows you whether the procedure is known from the start and remains stable or whether the way in which the task is to be solved still needs to be found out or keeps changing.

 

Stacey Matrix

Example of a Stacey matrix

 

Where the use of agile methods is appropriate

The use of agile methods is always recommended when one or even both values are in the variable range, i.e. when requirements and/or methods change. Then you can use agile methods to solve the task efficiently. Not only that: this is the only way you have a chance of solving the task at all.
Why is that? – With constant change, you need iteration; you need regular check-ups to see whether you are still on the right track and you need feedback to help you take the right next steps.

Our video: How to decide whether classic or agile?

Agile leadership and agile methods

If you practice agile leadership, iteration is part of it. As described above, this is the basis of agile working. And of course, as an agile manager, you should be able to differentiate which agile methods make the most sense at which point in order to achieve the desired result. Agile management does not focus on agile methods, but they are part of it.
To help you find your way around agile methods, we have written a comprehensive article that explains and compares the most important agile methods: Agile methods: Design Thinking, Design Sprint, Lean Startup, Scrum

Agile methods in detail

The Scrum Guide: What is Scrum and how does it work?
Scrum in practice – advantages & disadvantages of Scrum
The Scrum retrospective – explanation and practice
How to create a persona in Design Thinking & Marketing

Support in becoming agile

If you are looking for support with agile leadership, we are here for you! We offer consulting, workshops to gain initial experience with agility and, of course, we are happy to help you set up the right solution for an agile leadership program for your company.

 

Become agile

Further reading on the topic of agile leadership

Studies

Own articles

If you are interested in reading more about agile leadership, take a look at the following articles:

On the subject of agility

The authors

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Oliver Grätsch
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Michelle Templin
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Christian Grätsch
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Matthias Beikert
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Susanne Grätsch
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Monika Steininger
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Kai Hübner
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Philipp Andresen
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Anna Isabell Arendt
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Dr. Claudia Schmidt
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Inga Kühn
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Kassandra Knebel
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Claudia Lehmann
Komplettes Team

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