NEWSLETTER
Agility, Change management
Agile transformation in 23 steps: Definition, basics & tutorial

Table of contents

Agility and agile transformation are on everyone’s lips for a reason. Here you will learn in 22 steps how to implement a change process towards agility in your company.

 

On the road to adaptability

Günther’s agile transformation

Günther is the managing director of a company with 1,200 employees. He is actually quite happy with the way things are going. However, he is feeling increasing pressure from outside: competitors have brought new products and standards onto the market. Günther’s company is not thinking about that at the moment. It is difficult enough to keep up with customer demands, which seem to be constantly increasing: Recently, he has missed out on some big fish because his employees were simply too slow.

And that’s not all: when he asks what the problem is, he is met with a great deal of dissatisfaction from his employees, each of whom places the problem somewhere else. “People complain everywhere,” Günther thinks to himself. “Our employees get good money, they should do a good job for it. I can’t take care of their sensitivities as well”.

Something is wrong…

The fact that he is increasingly receiving complaints from his customers makes him sit up and take notice. Günther has become quite good at ignoring grumbling employees – but dissatisfied customers, that’s not an option! He has a customer survey carried out and faces a lot of criticism as a result: Customers find the company’s processes and responses too slow, the competition has a more innovative product and, moreover, complaints about the service provided by stressed employees are gradually piling up.

Guenther is annoyed. Of course he wants to satisfy his customers. But he has his hands full keeping the company on course and thinking about how to deal with the ever-increasing competition. He quickly realizes who screwed things up with the customers: his employees, of course! – Let them try a little harder. After all, that’s what he does. But as much as he appeals to his employees, things don’t seem to be getting any better.

We have to make fundamental changes!

He realizes that there is a need for action and that some processes need to be optimized… To find out at which points in the processes there are obstacles, he asks his employees. And again, bad news awaits him: His employees are fundamentally dissatisfied. They are also annoyed that they have not received several orders – and blame the long decision-making processes in the company. If they had not had to wait for answers from their superiors, the customers concerned would have received an offer quickly. They say through the grapevine that there are so many regulations that, to be on the safe side, they only work according to the rules.

Günther wonders how he can motivate his staff again so that his company can elegantly turn the corner. More comprehensive changes are imminent, otherwise the problems that lie ahead cannot be solved sustainably.
He read something about agility. Many people are dealing with this right now. But what is that again and what does it have to do with his company? And could that help him too?

Agile transformation problems

Agile transformation: definition and basics

Definition: Agile transformation – what is it?

Agility means the ability to adapt to the respective context. The aim is to act faster, more flexibly and closer to the customer in times of rapid change. To be able to do this, a company undergoes a change process known as “agile transformation”. This means structural change, adapting processes and procedures, building up expertise within the company and changing the corporate culture.
An agile transformation enables the company to react quickly to internal and external changes in order to remain successful in the long term.

Günther’s agile transformation

Günther’s gut feeling that agility has something to do with his situation is therefore quite right. The structures and also the distribution of responsibility in his company seem to limit employees’ ability to react. Decision-making processes are slow and inflexible.

 

The goals: Where does an agile transformation lead?

What needs to be achieved in the company in order to develop agility and adaptability:

  • Faster and more flexible response to changes (for example, faster and better perception and satisfaction of customer needs)
  • Greater decision-making authority for teams and employees(empowerment)
  • Improving communication / networking within the company and externally
  • Reduction of hierarchies and more self-organization of employees
  • Flexibility, for example through shorter and more frequent planning phases (working in iterations)
  • A corporate culture of trust, openness and transparency, the prerequisite for a learning organization
  • Strengthening the company’s ability to innovate

Quote:
It’s not the big that eat the small, it’s the fast that eat the slow
Jason Jennings

Vuca

Agile transformation – why actually? The background: Environment, inner world & VUCA

Why do many companies feel the need to become faster, more flexible and more customer-oriented? Quite simply: to remain competitive or to become competitive again.

The environment

We have all noticed it for a long time: our world is changing rapidly. The next version of our cell phone is only a few months away, new products are constantly being launched on the market and we have long since lost track of them. The next innovation is waiting around the next corner. Developments are becoming faster and faster.
Companies are suddenly faced with competitors they didn’t even know before, who are completely new and different. For example, in the automotive industry: suddenly Apple and Google can make cars.

We know the cautionary tales of companies that were not agile enough, that slept through a disruptive innovation and thus failed miserably: Kodak, which underestimated the possibilities of digital photography. Or Nokia, once the world’s largest cell phone manufacturer, which failed to recognize what the smartphone would become. Whoosh – gone! This can happen quickly. Even if a company is doing brilliantly at the moment, things may look different tomorrow.

This means that it is not only important to recognize trends, but also to be able to act quickly accordingly.
Incidentally, this rapid and permanent change, which entails the need for new ways of working for companies, has been given its own term: VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity). We take a closer look at VUCA in our article.

The customers

People and their demands are also changing. Just a few years ago, people were content to send a letter and receive a reply two weeks later. Today, many people are already drumming impatiently on their desks if their e-mail has not been answered within an hour.
The same applies to complaint management or other problems: the customer expects an immediate response. If your company is unable to react, the customer will soon try his luck elsewhere.

Customer service

 

The inner world

Things are also changing in companies. Until not so long ago, you could place a job advertisement and expect a rush of applicants. But those days are over: the shortage of skilled workers is rampant in more and more companies; HR managers are desperately looking for suitable employees.
The latter can choose where they want to work and naturally prefer an attractive employer. The younger generations in particular prefer eye level, independent thinking and action. For them, an attractive employer includes a positive corporate culture, decision-making authority and independent work as well as flat hierarchies – all characteristics of an agile company.

Megatrends

In summary, it can be said that megatrends such as

  • Globalization and urbanization
  • Climate change and the increasing scarcity of resources
  • demographic and social change and the associated shortage of skilled workers
  • the changing demands on life and work of generations Y and Z
  • and, last but not least, the ever faster pace of technological change and disruptive innovations ensure and will continue to ensure that the world remains in a state of flux – and that we cannot predict or even plan the course of all the changes coming our way.

So instead of making plans for a change that will come one way or another, it is necessary for companies to position themselves in such a way that they can react quickly to sudden changes and provide solutions; in other words, to be prepared for any kind of change. This constant willingness to change is called agility.

Why agile transformation

The benefits of an agile transformation: What’s in it for you?

As we wrote at the beginning: Agility and agile transformation are on everyone’s lips for a reason. Agility has advantages and shows success. This is proven, among other things, by the study
Agility as a competitive advantage: the Agile Performer Index
by Sebastian Olbert, Hans Gerd Prodoehl and Christopher Worley from 2018, which found that the more agile a company is, the better its financial performance.

But there are also other advantages:

  • Optimized processes produce better results after just a short time
  • The company is able to react quickly and gains confidence in dealing with complexity
  • Transparency, self-organization, agile corporate culture and flat hierarchies make employees more motivated to work
  • Customer and benefit orientation ensure satisfied customers
  • The agile corporate culture makes the company an attractive employer, attracts new employees and retains existing ones
  • Ultimately, optimized processes, motivated employees and satisfied customers lead to considerable cost reductions.

 

Günther’s agile transformation

When Günther reads this, he is intrigued and decides to call a management meeting to discuss whether this could be the right direction for the company.

Change management

 

Who needs an agile transformation?

Which companies are affected by this issue?

The stories of our customers are similar: many companies, SMEs and especially corporations have tried to manage the increasing complexity of the world with increasingly complex sets of rules in recent years. Detailed processes, rules and specifications for every possible turn and approval procedures that could hold a candle to the bureaucracy of the public sector are sometimes the order of the day. The employees prefer to back up their actions several times, exceptions are unpopular, because if a case arises for which no rule has yet been written, then things get really complicated… The company realizes: “We have become very slow, decisions take an incredibly long time, we can’t go on like this!”

How a lack of agility can affect the customer:

A true story:

Thomas buys two identical pairs of headphones online; one from a large American online retailer and one via the miles program of a major German airline. Unfortunately, he has the same problem with both headphones. So he wants to exchange the headphones. It’s quick these days. Thomas thinks so… When he tries to do this, he encounters two completely different approaches:
He has a 10-minute phone call with the employee of the online retailer from Silicon Valley. Within a short time, his conversation partner says: “All right. I’ll send you a new pair of headphones straight away. They’ll be with you tomorrow at the latest”.

But when it came to the airline, he was in for a shock: he was told to get a transferschein first and then send in the headphones. The case would then be examined. No sooner said than done, but even 2 weeks after he sent in the headphones as instructed with the relevant paperwork, there is still silence. Thomas begins to call at regular intervals and grudgingly make enquiries – but to no avail. Only after 5 weeks, several annoying phone calls and the loss of a considerable amount of nerves does Thomas hold the headphones in his hands. You can guess that this will not be the beginning of a long friendship. What use is an elaborate advertising campaign if the customer then has a bad experience when they contact you? – And reported about it on the Internet…

Thomas’ story is a wonderful example of the customer experience that results from whether a company focuses on the customer or on its own needs and rules.

Change management

So who needs an agile transformation?

  • Corporations whose bureaucracy and hierarchies are like sand in the gears
  • Medium-sized companies that have traditional structures, tend to practice a classic management style in the sense of command and control and realize that change is necessary
  • Companies with a lack of innovation, demotivated employees, falling sales, dissatisfaction in and around the company
  • Organizations that want to react faster and more flexibly to customer needs and market conditions
  • Companies that want to become more attractive to young employees in particular in order to stay ahead in the “war for talent”

 

For whom is an agile transformation less important?

Many start-ups, i.e. smaller and young companies, can do without agile transformation in the direction we have chosen here. Why?
Young companies are often not agile in the sense of the definition. Agility means striking a balance between structure (alignment) and flexibility (autonomy) in order to be able to act and react in the best possible way. In fact, many start-ups are already very flexible and decentralized. Here it is more a question of first forming and generating stability and structure. They tend to come to us with classic growth issues. First of all, the ground has to be created under the feet.

You can find out more about the balance between alignment and autonomy in our article: Agility: Our company is becoming agile – Where do we start?

The beginning of agile change

Do we all have to become agile now?

While it makes sense for every company to address the topic of agility in order to remain responsive in the long term, not every department needs to work with agile tools and methods; not every area needs to become fully agile. And not every project should be implemented in an agile way.
It is worth examining in which areas we should act faster, more flexibly and more customer-oriented in the future and in which areas the traditional approach is better.

Take, for example, projects that take place in the highly regulated area and where you are very sure that the specifications are firstly fully known and secondly stable. Where you also know that the customer wants exactly what they have received in the past. The routine process is more important here, good planning at the beginning, rather than frequent iteration to see if anything has changed in the requirements.
Looking at where agility makes sense and where it doesn’t is already a first component of an agile transformation.

 

Günther’s agile transformation

Once Günther and his management team have decided on the change, they are faced with the question of which department they should start in. Accounting, for example, seems to operate in a relatively stable environment with equally stable legal regulations, in which an iterative approach is not necessary.
But the potential seems to be much higher in customer service and in the department that implements projects for customers. In addition, the colleagues who expressed the most pain in the employee survey work here.

Change management

Agile methods

The use of agile methods / frameworks is more than useful in an agile transformation. These form the basis and set the pace for designing agile processes in the company. But beware! It is not the case that the use of agile tools makes the company agile. However, working in agile tools supports the process. Especially if something is not working properly when applying agile methods, this point will show you where there is still a need for change in the company.

We have written a comprehensive article in which we briefly describe and compare the agile frameworks: Agile Methods: Design Thinking, Design Sprint, Lean Startup, Scrum

Günther’s agile transformation

Günther reads up on the subject. He is particularly enthusiastic about the description of how to conduct a retrospective meeting.
He spontaneously wants to carry out a retrospective with the key account managers in his company. Only… When it comes to giving feedback and naming what is going well and what is critical, the conversation doesn’t get going at all. Afterwards, a long-time colleague lets it slip that Günther can’t expect the employees here to be honest when the management is in the room.

This is a typical example of how corporate culture can influence the application of agile methods. Günther could now use this situation as an opportunity to talk about precisely this reticence. Often, conducting a retrospective more frequently results in a little more openness each time, when employees realize that feedback is possible and useful. But whether Günther should be the one to moderate it remains to be seen…

 

 

Our video: How to achieve an agile transformation

Agile corporate culture – foundation and goal in one

As we have just shown, agile transformation is about much more than just using agile methods. One important goal is to develop an agile corporate culture. This is the basis for remaining agile in the long term.

In the beginning, structures are agilized and agile methods are used, i.e. actions and changes are made that work towards agility.
Ultimately, however, agility is not a method, but a mindset. Once this agile mindset has become established in the company, an agile corporate culture will emerge. This promotes speed, flexibility, innovation and customer orientation. For this to work, values such as trust, openness and transparency are crucial. Be patient! Cultural change is a long-term process that takes at least five years.
Our contribution to the topic of corporate culture.

Generation y

Preparations for the agile transformation

How does a company come to this decision?

An agile transformation is a major change: the basic structures of the company will change, everything will be turned upside down. Even if agility promises worthwhile changes in all areas, companies do not make this decision lightly.

HR has often been dealing with this topic for some time and recognizes the need to put the company on the path to adaptability. The difficulty for HR lies in winning over top management. A determined top management is essential for such a comprehensive change.
Ideally, this decision should be made directly by one of the top managers, as they are in the best position to exert influence.
Sometimes an employee survey is also an indicator that something needs to happen.

This was the case, for example, at the Upstalsboom hotel chain, today a prime example of customer orientation and a positive corporate culture: it was only through an employee survey that the owner realized that many things were not right for his colleagues and that there was a need for action in many areas. A signal that ultimately did more than just solve acute problems. Find out more about agile transformation at Upstalsboom here.

Who should drive the agile transformation?

Agile change initially needs a lot of impetus. So the question arises right at the beginning: Who owns this process? Who is driving the process? We will address these questions in steps 1 and 2.

 

Agile change

Step 1: The kickoff – Involve the management level!

Start with top management!

First of all: nothing works without top management.
It is simply impossible to change an organization so comprehensively without the management being totally behind it. Regardless of who brought agile thinking into the company, the first and fundamental step is that top management must be convinced of the need for change and see themselves as the owners of the transformation. Others can certainly take on the concrete task of driving change forward, but top management must always be part of this process.

As top management usually has a lot to do anyway, they will not be able to spend time and energy on the details. However, it is up to top management to release the budget and appoint a competent department within the company to deal with the issue.

Involve all management levels!

Of course, it would be possible to pursue a guerrilla strategy for a while and inspire more and more people, but ultimately such a change must be supported by management. And that means the entire management: top management as well as middle and lower management.

Beliefs

Nothing would be more of a hindrance than managers who put the brakes on because their actions are based on mindsets such as: “I have to secure my position of power”, “I have no trust in my employees, if they get up to mischief, it will cost a lot of money”! Especially in top management, such -unagile- beliefs are the most dangerous.

Role model function

And of course, managers act as role models and should exemplify the agile transformation. Their mindset, their culture and ultimately their actions are what have the greatest influence on whether change succeeds or fails.

Inform the managers!

So what is to be done? First of all, managers need to know what an agile transformation is all about: what it is, roughly how it can take place, what opportunities it opens up and what the change means for them.
It is not a good idea to give managers a book or a presentation and then simply ask them to get started with agile after reading it. No, it is advisable to communicate all information on agility in an agile and practical way.

Günther’s agile transformation

The first step for Günther and his management team is a management meeting at which Günther shares his ideas and openly obtains feedback from his management team. It turns out that many in this circle have been thinking for some time that something has to happen. Unfortunately, no one has really dared to say anything yet. It is important to Günther to name the critical issues without accusing anyone. Rather, he has learned that the fish stinks from the head, and by head he can only mean himself. He also says this and credibly asks for feedback and support for his own change. This creates a certain openness and colleagues begin to talk about the challenges in a self-critical way, but without finger-pointing.

Preparations for agile transformation

 

Step 2: Write your change story!

Initiate a management workshop!

We start with our customers with a management workshop: The management completes a design sprint within a few days. During this design sprint, the managers develop their company’s change story together as a team. Questions such as: What is our vision – where do we want to go? How do we want to get going? This collaboration creates a commitment so that everyone is on board, not only in terms of information, but also in terms of motivation.

What is your change story? The Why.

Every change process needs a good change story!
But what is it? A Chance Story is the explanation to the following questions:

  • What is our goal? Where do we want to go?
  • Why do we want to change at all?
  • Why are we changing in this way and not otherwise?
  • What is the need of our company?
  • What are the other options and why did we decide against them?
  • Why do we want to start now?
  • We have already initiated some other changes – what about them?
  • How do we want to shape our change? What will happen?
  • What does this mean for the company’s employees? Which ones for the managers?
  • What’s in it for the employees?
  • What are the consequences if the change is not successful?
  • What are the expectations?
  • Where can I find resources?

 

Why a change story?

Like all changes, the agile transformation raises many questions. These should be answered by the change story. There should be unity about this story, because it would be extremely unfavorable if different stories were to circulate.
Of course, the story should correspond to the facts, and it should also sound authentic and open. Your role is to motivate your employees, to whet their appetite for change, but also to make it clear why the company cannot avoid the transformation. This is expressly not about stirring up fear, but about presenting arguments that show that it is really fundamentally important to tackle agile transformation now.

Change story process á la berliner team

Here is a change story as we use it: similar to a business model canvas, our change story is quite condensed and fits on a single sheet of paper.

  1. This is our story so far:…
  2. But things are changing (right now) because…
  3. That’s why we should now…
  4. What will it look and feel like?
  5. It won’t be easy because…
  6. But we have to be successful, because…
  7. What we should do immediately / our next steps are:
  8. And remember that…

Agility

What is a design sprint?

A design sprint is an agile method that enables a team to develop a prototype for a product, a service – or in this case a change process – within 5 days. We have dedicated an entire article to the topic of agile tools, where you can find more detailed information about Design Sprint.

Why a design sprint?

We have had good experiences with the sprint at the start of an agile transformation. On the one hand, because the process, the method itself is already agile and thus enables experience with agility instead of just talking about it. The creative exploration of the topic of transformation during the design sprint also allows managers to have a great new experience – and this alone makes them want to work in an agile way.
And secondly, customers are involved in the design sprint process. In this case, the customers of the process are the employees. They are involved by being consulted before the change process starts. You can also test the change story: you check the vision, the communication strategy and so on before they are communicated to everyone in the company and let them know how they are received.

Managers can further develop the change story based on employee feedback. This way of working is user-centered – and user or customer orientation is one of the basic principles of agile working. For many managers, this is a change of perspective and therefore an important experience in the direction of agility.

 

Günther’s agile transformation

The first concrete step towards change in Günther’s company is for the transformation team to propose a design sprint for management and the transformation team. At first Günther is surprised, as he has mainly applied this method to product design. But the result convinced him. Never before has a team in this company worked together with so much power and energy, never before has there been so much discussion at eye level. It is as if a new spirit is blowing through the company. When, on the penultimate day, colleagues were invited to give open feedback on the results, Günther was completely blown away: “It feels new, somehow strangely unfamiliar, but right!

 

Team agile change

Step 3: Set up the “Agile Transformation” team

Who is driving the transformation?

Who takes care of the details in an agile transformation?
Various options are conceivable here, for example a type of project management: many companies have a transformation team that takes care of all matters. People from different areas of the company come together here and work together as an agile team at eye level. After all, nothing is more convincing than exemplary change.

A staff position to the management is also a frequently chosen construct. Of course, the HR department can also take on the transformation process, as can someone from the upper management levels if they can really devote their full attention to the topic.
Agile transformation needs commitment!
And this is an important issue: such a fundamental change takes time, resources, budget and, above all, commitment. There is no point in fiddling about with half measures here. That wouldn’t work, but it would cost money and resources…

 

Günther’s agile transformation

Günther has an HR manager in his management team who has been thinking about developing the company in an agile direction for some time. Her team also includes two younger employees, who she can well imagine would like to support her. There are also two or three colleagues from other departments who are known to have already dealt with agility. When everyone agrees to work on making the company agile, it is decided that a team consisting of the HR department and employees will be the operational driver of change. It is also agreed that there will be strategic meetings in which the direction will be worked out together. These meetings should be attended by a representative group of management and employees.

Team Agile Transformation

Step 4: Analysis – How are stability and flexibility distributed in your company?

When you go on a trip, it’s always a good idea to take a map with you. When embarking on an agile transformation, it is also advisable to first get an overview of where you are with your company at the moment and where you want to go. Agility means having a high level of responsiveness and mobility. Therefore:

Analyze!

Analyze how your company is currently positioned in the areas of dynamism/flexibility and, on the other hand, control/stability.
You need both elements! If one of these predominates, then difficulties are inevitable.

Control and stability

If your company is set up in such a way that every last detail is managed and controlled, then your company will become slow and bureaucratic – as we have already seen above.

Dynamism and flexibility

However, if your company is exclusively flexible and lacks stability, chaos is already lurking around the next corner.

Flexibility Stability

Step 4: Decide what else you will need!

Once you have carried out an analysis of your company and know what stability you have in your company and where, you need to decide what you want to keep.

Step 5: Identify where you can promote flexibility!

Once you have decided which stability you want to build on in the future, find out where you can promote flexibility!
In many companies, flexibility must first be seen as permissible: if your company used to have a lot of rules and predefined processes, then your employees must first internalize that there will be more than just this one way in the future – and that they can decide.

The analysis is an important basis that gives you an overview of where you can start an agile transformation. If you want to delve a little deeper into the analysis at the start of an agile transformation, read our article: Our company is becoming agile – where do we start?

Flexibility

Step 6: Choose which area to start in!

Which areas of the company does agile transformation cover?

All areas? Yes, exactly: all of them.
Not every department in the company has to use a lot of agile methods or completely change the way it works. That is not necessary.
But everyone should know what agility is, what agile transformation is good for and what mindset and attitude is behind it.

Where do you start now?

It is best to start the agile transformation in one area first and then gradually expand it. Departments that work openly anyway, such as research or IT departments or project management, are ideal for this. Here, it is easier to use agile methods such as Scrum because it is already part of the work of the employees there to react to change and adapt to new things. The opposite of this would be a department that is very rule-compliant and where you often hear the sentence “But we’ve always done it this way!”

Of course, it is also possible to start with the management and gradually add employees. Ideally, one area should be open and curious about agile transformation, for example HR. Whichever area you start with, the most sensible approach is to begin with a single impulse and then spread the agile transformation throughout the company.

Which areas do you leave out?

Does it make sense to leave out some areas completely if they have nothing to do with the areas in transformation and if it would not add any value for the department to work more agilely? Yes and no: agile methods should only be used where they bring added value. However, we believe that the values of agility are actually worth striving for everywhere today because they encourage people to think for themselves, increase commitment and motivation and promote personal responsibility – and make you an attractive employer.

Agile Worker Kanban Board

The implementation of agile transformation

The three phases of agile transformation

Perhaps you know this from tidying up? If you want to rearrange your home, there’s no point in ripping out all the cupboards at the same time. Chaos would ensue, you wouldn’t really get anywhere and you would in all likelihood be overwhelmed and downright frustrated. It is much better to start in a cupboard, in a room, and enjoy how the new order slowly spreads. This way you can see your successes and look forward to letting them grow.

The process of agile transformation is very similar: nothing is rushed, but one area at a time starts to become agile so that a positive energy can develop and gradually spread.

Pulse Wave Resonance

We use the metaphors for this process of slowly spreading out: Impulse, Wave, Resonance.
This means that we look for one or more individual points where we can start and create momentum. This is where our change starts. These impulses send waves through the company and the transformation spreads. And finally there is a resonance, the change becomes visible, people are motivated. Ideally, an agile transformation is the opposite of sweeping with an iron broom: a positive epidemic that matures and takes hold. You don’t need a total change from one day to the next.

We often experience in companies that we are allowed to accompany on their path to agile transformation that employees are gripped by a positive, stimulating energy and are happy that something new is happening, that things are getting a little exciting.

Fears

We do not want to conceal the fact that there is also the opposite reaction. Of course there are! There are also employees who are initially disoriented and ask themselves: “Is this still my company? Am I still in the right place? Can I manage that? Am I still suitable in the new world? Perhaps I’m no longer needed?” That is normal. Uncertainties and fears arise with every change.
The more employees engage with this change and try out new things, the more motivation there is among colleagues to simply try something new and play around. After all, you have the opportunity to help shape it yourself. In this way, an agile transformation becomes a positive topic in which the works council also realizes that it does not have to oppose this change because the employees want it.

In this respect, an agile transformation – if it is done right – is a good example of a WElutionThe company gains competitiveness and motivated employees, and the employees also have more fun at work because they can focus on the things that really make sense with joy and vitality.

Fear of becoming agile

Phase 1 The impulse – How do you get started?

Step 7: Communicate the agile transformation to your employees!

You developed your change story together with your management colleagues and tested it with some employees. This puts you in the best possible position. Now comes the big step: you approach your entire workforce with your desire for change, with your change story. So think carefully beforehand about HOW you want to communicate with your employees!
What is the best way to get your message across?
Think about it: Is it really enough for your managers to pass on the message? Will the news be presented in the same motivating and committed way? Or should you think about an event?

The starting signal

It is important that there is a clear starting signal! And this starting shot should be right.
The result you are aiming for is a big “Wow!” from your employees; the feeling: “We are going on a journey together! We don’t know exactly what’s coming, it won’t always be easy, but it makes sense and it’s fun!”

Possible communication channels

What options are available to you for such a kick-off? Depending on the company, there are various options. We have already seen many possibilities:

  • An event, a town hall meeting, at which everyone is present.
  • A roadshow of the management team from location to location
  • The Board of Directors records a video
  • There is a video conference in which everyone is present if possible
  • An information cascade from the management downwards

Communicate on as many channels as possible!

Of course, it makes sense to use many channels at once, i.e. the information should of course also be communicated on the intranet. On top of that, in meetings, in team development, offsite and, of course, again and again via managers.
Find out which starting signal and which other communication channels are suitable for conveying your change story in the most motivating and even rousing way possible, so that a consensus can emerge.

 

Video conference

 

Special video conference

At this point we would like to talk briefly about the possibility of video conferencing. There are companies that have special rooms for video conferences and where such a video conference is a real happening where everyone is present. This creates a great sense of togetherness. When the employees then see the employees from the other locations who are also sitting together in a team meeting, a “we” is created. That is important!
A video conference would certainly be an option here.
However, if employees sit alone in their dreary office and receive a message from the computer, which they have to stare at all the time anyway, then neither the feeling of “We are a team!” is conveyed, nor is it likely that the happy news will motivate the employee to get out of the office chair. You guessed it – a video conference would be less appropriate here.

Günther’s agile transformation

Günther and his management team have decided to hold a general staff meeting with all 450 employees. It is less challenging than we would have thought: The employees meet half an hour before lunch. The company will provide a lunch afterwards. The large auditorium at the company’s main site is packed, while smaller sites have ordered their own catering and join in via video conference.

Günther starts the presentation, but the content is presented alternately by the management team and the transformation team. First, the results of the employee and customer survey and the changes in the market and environment are communicated. The management is authentic and approachable. It admits that it realized very late that they had to change something.

The management invites people to participate and expresses the wish that as many people as possible will do so. “It’s a company for all of us! Let’s make it a place where we all enjoy working!” On the way out, employees can write their ideas on large sheets of paper attached to the walls. The transformation team has set itself the task of summarizing these contributions and picking up on good ideas.

Employee meeting agile transformation

 

Step 8: Set the first impulses, make the change visible!

It has been said, now it must be done! The first signs of change should be visible soon after the announcement!
The management team and the transformation team should consider what the first actions will be that will show employees “It’s really happening!”
What would promote the feeling in your company that something is happening, that progress is being made?

Positive start

It is important that these first actions should always be positive. You don’t want to turn the whole company upside down at this point or create an unpleasant situation for your employees – on the contrary: you want to send out signals that clearly show the employees “Something good is happening here”.

Possible actions

There are many ways you can get started. Here are some possibilities from companies that we have supported:

  • Transform a room into an agile working environment! (e.g. colorful seat cubes, sticky notes…)
  • Transform a conference room!
  • Integrate playful elements into everyday business life! (It doesn’t have to be the famous foosball table…)
  • Invite employees to informal after-work or break events, organize a lunch around the conference table or a discussion evening on an exciting topic…!
  • Convert a lighthouse project to agile project management!
  • Give employees a higher budget allocation in certain areas, which they can use to make their own business decisions!
  • Introduce flexible working hours!

As you can see, many actions are conceivable. In one of the companies we worked for, the board of directors took off their ties and only wore turtlenecks or collared shirts.
Which action you choose ultimately depends on your company. It’s about sending clear signals so that everyone realizes that something is really changing.

 

Günther’s agile transformation

Günther’s company has always had a “dress code”, which was drawn up at some point to ensure that all employees look “decent”. Employees have long felt that this is outdated and are annoyed by the tie requirement. As the first sign of change, Günther officially announces the abolition of the dress code at the general staff meeting. “You are grown-up, responsible people. We trust you to choose the right clothing for the occasion and the clientele. We should have abolished this requirement a long time ago. But from today – as a sign of our change – there is no longer a dress code in our company!” Günther was expecting applause, but he was not expecting the cheers that went through the crowd of employees.

 

Agile working world

 

Step 9: Drive the agile transformation forward!

Make sure that you keep going after your motivated start!
Shakespeare expressed what you don’t want very well: much ado about nothing! You definitely don’t want the agile transformation to peter out after a few weeks of splashing around. – Your company needs more impetus, more action! How do you manage that?

The driver

Of course, the management team also has other responsibilities and cannot focus exclusively on the agile transformation for weeks and months. Nevertheless, someone has to take on this task. And not just in passing.
In the preparation phase, you have put together a team for the agile transformation, which can now take over. If you do not yet have such a team, at least make sure that there is someone to drive the changes forward. A person who will not be deterred and who also persistently drives top management forward. Of course, a team can also drive, but hand over the main responsibility of the driver to someone who also has these qualities.

Equip the driver(s)!

Remember: if these employees are to remain permanently involved and drive further actions forward, then they need more than just the backup of top management.
The driver or drivers need:

  • Time to work on the change/actions
  • Budget
  • A mandate so that they can actually implement things. Everyone in the company needs to know that the people concerned have the full support of management

So – equip the drivers so that they can actually drive the agile transformation forward!

 

Drivers of agile change

Phase 2 Wave – Penetration

Step 10: Ensure a basic understanding of agile transformation

Ensure understanding and knowledge!

Set yourself the goal of ensuring that everyone in your company understands what agility actually is. This also includes a basic knowledge of what agile methods exist, what agile principles are and what an agile mindset means. Your employees should also know why this is important, how agility works and what the buzzwords in circulation mean. – This gives everyone the feeling that they understand what it is all about and can use the relevant terms and methods in everyday life as a matter of course.

Ignorance slows you down

We all know the saying: “What the farmer doesn’t know, he won’t eat.” It is not for nothing that this saying has endured through the centuries, because it corresponds to us humans at heart: what we don’t know seems strange to us at first; we don’t trust it and often don’t want to have anything to do with it.

So why should your employees feel any differently than the farmer in the proverb?
If managers and some employees suddenly start throwing around the latest technical terms from the field of agility, but the majority of the workforce only understands what they are talking about, then this has anything but a motivating effect on the latter. Not only do colleagues then feel left out and inferior; ignorance also often leads to people perceiving things they don’t understand as pompous nonsense. If it is not understood what it is actually about, then the agile transformation is seen as a pig being driven through the village. Therefore: Give your entire workforce the opportunity to understand.

Possibilities

Once people have a basic understanding, it becomes more plausible to them what is going on and why. How can you convey this basic understanding to your employees?

One of our customers used a blended learning concept: videos were made available and managers also provided information on agile transformation. With the help of a moderation guide, they led small awareness-raising sessions within the teams.
Another company offered basic training for everyone. Such training courses do not have to be long. A day and a half is often enough to teach the basics and ensure that agility is fun and enjoyable. This changes the mindset of employees – and that helps tremendously! Feel free to contact us if you need support here. We do this full-time 😉

 

Teaching basic agile skills

Mandatory or voluntary?

If you’re thinking “Well, then we’ll organize a training course. – And then they’ll all have to go!” – Then we would advise against it.
Commitment does not fit here. Because if your employees drag themselves to the workshop as grumpily as tenth graders to school, then they will not enjoy agile change.

And since it is your employees who will be supporting agility, you should motivate them and spark their interest rather than force them. This means that participation in the training should be voluntary. Compulsion does not fit in with agility and would send the wrong signal at this point. If you want the agile transformation to go through your company like a positive wave and for employees to “infect” each other, then you want to make sure that your employees also want to embrace the change. – Because curiosity and fun are a wonderful driving force here!

 

Günther’s agile transformation

The transformation team at Günther’s company has recently started offering “Learn & Lunch” workshops for employees:

In a wittily redesigned conference room, small, three-hour short workshops on agility are held on a voluntary basis – combined with lunch. It is important to the transformation team that the offer is low-threshold, i.e. that employees do not have to go to great lengths to take part. The workshops can easily be attended at the workplace without any travel time, are fun and quickly provide new ideas and insights. Initially viewed with suspicion, these workshops are now so popular that every newly scheduled date is immediately fully booked.

 

Agile know-how

 

Step 11: Bring real know-how about agile methods into the organization!

The good news is out, the management level and some of the employees have gained experience with agility; now it’s time to bring know-how about agile methods into your organization! Your aim here is to impart knowledge and skills to your employees so that you become independent of external consultants.

Let your employees help shape the future!

Your employees and managers should acquire the ability to help shape the agile transformation independently. What can this look like?
The teams should at least be able to organize their own team meetings in an agile way. It is also conceivable to have people from the organization take over the basic training. Ideally, there will be people in the company who want to be trained as multipliers. This means you have agile coaches in the company that anyone can call if they have a question.

Rely on personal responsibility!

It is often not easy to let things go, but this is part of agile change. Therefore: rely on the personal responsibility of your employees!
We have often observed in companies that employees from a wide variety of areas have come together to specialize in an agile method such as design thinking. After the specialization, anyone in the company could ask the employees from this team to conduct a Design Thinking workshop.

Support your employees!

Our experience shows that many employees are keen to train in agile methods. Such motivated employees are the best thing that can happen to you! Not only are these employees multipliers for agile methods, they also help to spread enthusiasm for the agile transformation within the company on an interpersonal level. Therefore: support your employees in this!

  • Make sure that committed employees also receive the appropriate training!
  • Make it known within the company that there are employees with the relevant skills and that colleagues can call on the help of these employees!
  • Use the newly acquired skills of your employees, support them in teaching other employees the first steps or giving a workshop, because this is how the agile transformation spreads!
  • Make sure that these employees have the time, opportunities and budget for these projects!

 

Günther’s agile transformation

Thomas works in Günther’s company. Thomas came to the company from a start-up because Günther pays much better. And since Thomas and his partner are expecting a child, this was an argument for him to change employers. He got to know Scrum as a methodology at his last employer and also worked there as a Scrum Master. He is enthusiastic about this method and was previously very sad that the working methods in Günther’s company are so completely different. The transformation team got wind of Thomas’ expertise and approached him to see if he would be interested in introducing Scrum in a lighthouse project and coaching his colleagues on this method. In the long term, we could also imagine Thomas setting up a kind of competence center for Scrum.

Transformation team

Step 12: Prepare the ground for an agile mindset!

Is there an agile mindset in your company?

One thing should be clear: Agile methods only work in the long term if there is an agile mindset in the company. Working with prototypes, for example, only works in a company where you are allowed to try things out and evaluate them, and where you don’t have to be afraid that it will cost you your head if something doesn’t go perfectly. Transparency in a company only works if knowledge is not used as a tool of power. And such a culture often has to develop first. But don’t worry, you don’t have to develop an agile mindset before rolling out agile methods. The good news is that you and your colleagues can tackle this in parallel. When you start working with agile methods and gain experience with them, an agile mindset develops more and more. Keep an eye on this!

What is a non-agile mindset?

A non-agile mindset pursues values that make agile organizational principles more difficult or even prevent them.
Take the area of feedback, for example.
Continuous improvement is an agile principle. Learning and optimization is ensured in agile units by conducting regular feedback sessions. For example, within the Scrum framework there is the review meeting and the retrospective, two different feedback meetings at the end of each sprint.

For feedback to work, you need a culture of appreciation, respect and trust, in which people do not (have to) feel attacked when there is a suggestion for improvement.
If it has not been customary in your company to exchange feedback, feedback is often a taboo. The underlying beliefs could be “I don’t want to hurt anyone”, “Feedback is criticism and I have to protect myself from it”, “I’d rather not say anything to superiors, otherwise it will come back to me like a boomerang”. This is an example of a non-agile mindset.

 

Agile mindset

How you can counter a non-agile mindset

It is important that such a mindset is addressed together. Provide opportunities for colleagues to become aware of their own patterns and beliefs, discuss them with each other and also share their ideas about helpful ways of thinking and behaving.

For example, start working with the Scrum Retrospective. The Scrum retrospective is a regular meeting of the team at which they reflect together on how the last stage of work went and how collaboration can be improved in the next stage. This type of meeting can also be used if you are not working in Scrum.

In the retrospective, all topics are put on the table: processes, difficulties, experiences, relationships and skills. If this meeting is moderated well (and this can be assigned to one team member at a time, for example), people will hopefully learn that it is okay to give each other feedback and make suggestions for improvement. The team members will learn to appreciate the fact that cooperation is improving more and more. They become more courageous and it becomes the norm to talk openly with each other about issues that could be improved. This will gradually change the mindset in the team.

What is an agile mindset?

An agile mindset pursues values that support agile organizational principles. In the Retrospective example, the values of appreciation, respect, openness, trust…

Beliefs on the topic of feedback in the agile mindset could be: “Talking openly can really make sense”, “Feedback helps us to improve!”, “Issues that are smouldering among ourselves need to come out”, “It’s fun and it makes sense for us”. Over time and with experience, the mindset changes from “taboo feedback” to a more open, solution-oriented and trusting attitude. And this is exactly what agile transformation needs, because it is the only way to make agility sustainable.

Teamwork

Step 13: Convert individual projects to agile methods!

For which tasks can you start working with agile methods?
Now you want to gradually start working with agile methods. Not every task is really suitable for this. So choose a challenge where it makes sense to work with agile methods:
Routine tasks that always run in a similar way are less suitable. Tasks with a project character whose requirements are still relatively unclear and/or where it is not yet clear which methodology should be used are more suitable.

The Stacy Matrix

The Stacey matrix can be helpful in classifying this.

 

Stacy Matrix

 

Check whether an iterative* approach really adds value!

  • Is it already clear down to the last detail what the client needs from you and will this not change over time?
  • Do you already have a precise idea of how you will approach and solve the issue?
  • And is there little danger of something happening that could upset this idea?

– Then this task is less suitable for an agile approach.

 

What does *iterative mean?

Iterative means a procedure in which processes are repeated. This is the case in agile methods, because here we work towards a solution step by step – through repeated cycles of develop – test – reflect – optimize.

You could start by tackling individual problems with agile methods or entire projects. Of course, you can gradually try out different agile methods throughout the company and see which method you can use best where.

New Work environments

Step 14: Create New Work environments!

Redesign the working environment in your company!

This part is often ridiculed and mocked: “Now our company is putting a few colorful balls in the corner and calling it the new Design Thinking Corner. Should we all come to work in sneakers now?”
But it really does make sense to send out visible signals. And you can do this very well by designing working environments in line with New Work. For example, this includes a room layout that is as open as possible. After all, if your employees are all isolated in individual offices, you won’t get the same kind of communication and coworking as in offices with several employees.

Resistors

Of course, you may encounter resistance here. Most people don’t particularly like change, especially when it comes to jobs. But if you involve people and gradually create more and more small islands in the company where your employees feel comfortable, then this will have a very convincing effect. Make sure that the redesign can also be experienced as positive by your employees! Start by creating a coffee corner, for example. If a nice new environment is created there, you can sit there nicely, it looks nice there, maybe cozy, maybe colorful, then such a change is more easily accepted.

We’ve all been there: we’re reluctant to renovate and don’t want to bother with the change, we can do it – but when everything is new and freshly renovated, we feel good about it. And it is the same in the company: When more and more places are gradually designed according to New Work criteria, this brings a motivated spirit of optimism into the company.

Agile methods in all teams

Step 15: Ensure that agile tools and methods are used in all teams!

A lot has happened in your company in the meantime. Some projects are now working with agile methods, the environment has been redesigned, everyone is aware of what agile transformation is all about. Now is the time for everyone in the company to work with agile tools and methods. It is not a question of all projects now being completely converted to agile. It’s more about applying at least individual elements from the agile world throughout the company so that your employees, no matter where they work, get the feeling that something is changing in the company and in the way they work.

How do you ensure that agile tools and methods are used throughout the company?

Again, this is not about forcing your employees. As in each of our previous steps, persuasion works through fun, enthusiasm and effectiveness.
You can achieve this, for example, by teaching small tools and approaches in “agile basics training” that are fun, that everyone can use – and that actually support your employees in their day-to-day work. Teachers of these training courses should therefore include the everyday lives of employees in their teaching material.

Agile task forces

As described above, so-called task forces, i.e. peer groups, teams that focus on topics such as Kanban, design thinking, Scrum or stimulating creativity and ensure that the expertise for the respective tools is easily accessible in the company, are helpful. The task force disseminates methodological knowledge so that all teams have the opportunity to apply one method or another in their everyday work.
An employee from product management wants to do a design sprint and doesn’t know how to do it. – But he knows that there is Sabine, who is part of the “Design Sprint” task force and is happy to support him when he speaks to her. This makes it easier to try out the new methods.

Your goal

As before, your aim here is to make your employees fit so that they themselves become experts in the respective agile method. The method pilots should also come from the workforce. This enables your employees to spread agile methods within the company based on their knowledge of the work processes. Make sure that these employees are given enough time, budget and opportunities to train, instruct, moderate and advise in parallel to their normal job. In this way, agility grows from within instead of being imposed from the outside and this is the only way to create a spirit in your company in which everyone can feel involved and inspired.

Agile structures

Step 16: Introduce agile structures!

What are agile structures?

The definition of agile structures:
Agile structures are project- and customer-oriented, lean corporate structures in which employees and teams are networked instead of being controlled top-down by hierarchical structures. This is similar to the interaction of organs that act autonomously in the body, are interconnected and have the common goal of keeping the body – in this case the company – healthy.

Agile team structure instead of top down

In agile structures, teams are no longer grouped into pillars with the same tasks, such as sales, development and marketing. Agile structures consist of interdisciplinary teams: The teams work together with their different skills directly on the project or on the customer.
This means that everyone involved in a project, a customer or a task forms a team, even if – or precisely because – they come from different fields and responsibilities. In close coordination processes, they design the best solution for the task or for the customer. If a team of sales staff, service partners and technicians are working together on a customer project, this would be an example of an agile structure.

Spotify, for example, works with squads, tribes and chapters… that’s a great example of agile structures.
Here is a youtube video about Spotify’s agile transformation.

Establish agile leadership!

Check how many managers you still need!
Implementing agile structures also means examining exactly where a manager is still needed. Please don’t get us wrong – we are convinced that leadership is very important. However, within agile structures, many management tasks can be transferred to the team.

What would such management tasks be?

The task of leadership is to,

  • to ensure that a certain performance standard prevails in the team.
  • to point the team in the right direction so that it can focus on its tasks and not do whatever it wants.
  • to moderate and help the team to structure itself.
  • to ensure that the desired direction is taken collectively, that a team spirit can develop.
  • support the team in its actions so that it can complete its tasks.

Lateral guidance

Switch to lateral guidance!

In the agile Scrum method, for example, these management tasks have been transferred to hierarchical peers; they take on these management tasks without having a hierarchical level. This type of leadership is called lateral leadership. We have also written a detailed article on this for you. Find out how you can approach lateral leadership.
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We don’t want to suggest that you have to work with Scrum everywhere. Nonetheless:

  • Check how many hierarchy levels you really still need!
  • Take a close look at what the management is actually doing!
  • Weigh up what the team can take on!

Expand your employees’ scope for action!

Agile transformation also involves delegating responsibilities, i.e. significantly expanding the scope of action for each individual. This is about independence and empowerment: instead of decisions being made from above as before, you now support your employees in empowering themselves to drive things forward and make decisions.

Let the processes become radically decentralized!

If the teams and individual employees can make decisions themselves, then the decision-making paths no longer converge at the top like a pyramid. Instead of command and control from above and the safeguarding of even small decisions by employees, the structures become decentralized and therefore lean, responsive and remain directly with the customer or project.
So: Let the processes in your company become radically decentralized!

 

Günther’s agile transformation

In Günther’s company, all financial decisions previously had to be signed off by a department head. If an offer to a customer changed, it needed the signature of the sales manager. If a service contract was concluded, it needed the signature of the service manager. This was to ensure that entrepreneurial decisions were made.

Günther had overheard the following conversation somewhere: “Do they up there think that we can’t make decisions in the interests of the company? After all, we don’t spend all our money at home on the 2nd of the month and then go hungry the rest of the time.” This remark got Günther thinking. And at the end of the reflection, he also decided to change the whole system.

Today, employees are given room to maneuver for decisions and guidelines that provide orientation for making these decisions in line with the overall strategy. At the end of the month, we discuss which decisions have been made and whether they could be improved. Of course, it is important that this discussion is held constructively on an equal footing. This improves the quality of decision-making every month.

Agile networks

Step 17: Establish networks!

Now it is time for the agile people in the company to network so that agility and an agile mindset can spread further and ultimately become established.
The positive consequences of networking: information can flow better and employees can experience that working at eye level is both meaningful and fun; in addition, responsibilities can be decentralized and assumed by employees on their own responsibility.

What are networks?

A network is a type of subsidiary organization within a company, sometimes also called a swarm or chapter (in the case of Spotify): Groups of people come together in a non-hierarchical system on a specific topic in order to drive this topic forward.

 

What kind of networks are there?

Content networks

People from a wide variety of departments with a wide variety of functions come together here because they are interested in a specific topic. They network, delve deeper into their topic, exchange ideas and help other employees with questions and problems in this regard.

Task networks

This brings together employees from all areas who have identified a need for action and want to get involved. For example: “We need an intranet” or “We want to set up a new process”. In this type of task-driven network, too, the hierarchy is removed and swarm-intelligent action is taken. Naturally, the network organizes itself.

Agile swarm

Train employees to lead a swarm!

A swarm, i.e. a group that takes on a topic, first needs some kind of coordination: someone to invite people, organize a place to meet, moderate meetings and so on. You need someone to make sure that things continue after the first meeting, that things are implemented. Here it is good if someone takes the lead in the swarm. It is about non-hierarchical, i.e. lateral leadership at eye level. And this competence usually has to be acquired first.
Therefore, give employees the opportunity to acquire these skills through so-called swarm training!
At Daimler, for example, there is the option of forming swarms. In each area, someone was trained to lead a swarm and drive a troop forward.

 

Build up expertise in your company!

Encourage your employees to develop their own skills in agile methods! The more expertise you build up within the company, the less you will have to bring in externally and pay dearly for. Moderation skills are particularly important, i.e. the ability to guide methods, structure processes and lead a team through the process.

 

Say goodbye to your advisors!

Not quite, of course. Because there are always issues and situations where they can use support from consultants. But make sure that you stand on your own two feet more and more in the area of agility, so that you gradually need less and less support from external consultants!
Although this is not profitable for us consultants, it is worthwhile for our clients in the long term: we used to conduct a team development session with a company’s teams once a year to reflect on what went well and what we would like to improve. Agile teams do this themselves, and not just once a year, but every four weeks, for example.

Can you imagine what a benefit this is for a team and therefore for the company? The fact that the teams stay on the ball and reflect regularly means that there are hardly any major imbalances where we would need to provide support. This is where agile transformation creates a positive effect for companies while at the same time making savings. The advantages are enormous. If you have arrived here, then we would like to say: Congratulations, welcome to the agile world. You have done everything right!

Looking for agile employees

Step 18: Develop an HR strategy that fits the agile transformation!

Make sure that your HR department has also recognized the needs of agile transformation!

What does that mean?
Perhaps your company was previously organized rather conservatively: there were clear hierarchies, guidelines and rules. The employees in your company were able to handle this well and fit in very well with this classic type of management and organization. However, agile transformation is fundamentally changing these structures. This means that your employees must also gradually change their actions, attitudes and ways of thinking in order to be able to work in an agile way.

 

Look for agile employees!

If you now hire employees, make sure that these colleagues can already work in an agile manner, that they have experience with agility and self-organization and that they already have the corresponding mindset. Don’t make the mistake of hiring the same type of employees you have been looking for all these years, i.e. the employees who work well in a conservative structure. No – you now need employees who meet agile criteria!
Ensure that agile colleagues do not remain exotic, but that the critical mass of agile colleagues gradually penetrates the company.

 

Create a new personnel strategy!

Develop a new HR strategy together with the HR department. There needs to be a new awareness of how to select future employees.

  • Who are you actually looking for?
  • How do you recognize whether the person fits into your agile corporate culture?
  • Does the new colleague have the desired mindset?
  • Is this someone who is also driving the agile transformation, i.e. someone who can also “infect” others?
  • Or do you actually like him because he’s just like everyone else?

We are happy to support you in the selection of employees with the appropriate personnel diagnostics!

Develop new search parameters!

In practice, we have often seen that companies in or after an agile transformation approach employee recruitment differently: They no longer look for people with specific functions, but often fill positions with people “of a different kind”. For example, a chemical company is no longer necessarily looking for a chemist; instead, the team is supplemented by employees who work in an interdisciplinary manner, who think in a completely different way and therefore bring new approaches to the table. Especially in innovative areas, employees from a completely different context are an incredible asset, because in homogeneous teams there is a great danger of permanently stewing in one’s own juice.

Your new HR strategy must take all of this into account! Because you want to change and support this change with a new type of employee and a new spirit.

Switching to agile methods

Phase 3 Resonance – Anchoring sustainably

You have initiated quite a few things in your company so far and have fundamentally changed many things. The third phase – resonance – is about ensuring that your previous actions have an impact, that your successes are visible – and that the changes are firmly anchored in your company.

 

Step 19: Spread true stories!

You want to have a positive influence on your corporate culture! Use stories from your company for this. Don’t worry – it’s not about inventing fairy tales. On the contrary: it is about communicating real events effectively. Storytelling helps here, because we often develop a deeper understanding of content and topics through an example, i.e. a story. So here is an example first:

 

A turning point

In a company we worked for, a lady told us about a meeting: managers and employees were present at this meeting; their aim was to find a solution to a problem. There were two suggestions – one came from an employee, the other from a manager. The first tendency was to give the manager the right of way because of their position. Suddenly, someone stood up and said in a calm, friendly tone: “We want a culture here where it’s about the cause and not about hierarchy.” Bam. A brief moment of silence was followed by murmuring. Finally, the manager said: “Yes, that’s right.”

This was a turning point for the company’s culture. First, the participants worked together to develop a method that enabled them to vote on a completely equal footing. And lo and behold, the employee solution prevailed.
This story was passed on within the company. And she encouraged others to see eye to eye, to act in a more non-hierarchical way, to dare to stand up and take a stand instead of nodding off: “I don’t think the path we’re on right now is the right one: it’s the old way and I think the new way is better for us.”

Agile stories

Find stories and spread them!

As you can see, storytelling is a wonderful way to positively influence culture. There are different types of stories that can be told:

  • How did something start?
  • What were your first experiences?
  • How has something changed?
  • How was a problem solved?

Look for such stories within the company and share them!
Some stories are told by the CEO at every turn, others are shown in a short video or communicated in a meeting. Many stories can be deliberately disseminated and at some point they become household names that everyone knows.

Think about what opportunities you have in your company!
And once again, because it’s important: don’t make up stories! If your story is not true, then sooner or later it will come out and that makes a very bad impression…

Find stories

Step 20: Make successes visible and celebrate them!

How do you reach your employees?

Have you also noticed that there is a lot of hype on some platforms? – Some companies never tire of posting about how agile they have become, what great projects they are carrying out and what campaigns and initiatives they are currently running. Perhaps you are now asking yourself: Is this a hype we have to play along with? – No, you don’t have to! You don’t have to trumpet your successes in terms of agility to the whole world, unless you want to. Ask yourself:

  • How do you reach your employees?
  • Where will your employees, your potential employees and perhaps also your customers be able to read or see that you are making a change towards agility?
  • How do they realize that this transformation makes sense, that it is successful and is spreading?

 

What media and possibilities are there?

You have a wide range of options for keeping your employees up to date. Some companies use their LinkedIn page, others communicate via Facebook.
Of course, the intranet is also a good way of making successes visible.
Even if there are sometimes only small successes – focus on them! Communicate clearly that something went well.

Celebrate successes

Celebrate success!

The most memorable way to show success is to celebrate it! Organize parties! Celebrate successful projects!
And on these occasions, tell us how the respective projects went! Show what the agile elements were and what experiences you and your employees have had with them! True to the motto: Do good and talk about it, in every area.

 

Motivate them!

This motivates your employees in two ways:
If your employees feel that they are working well and successfully and that they are appreciated and recognized, they will be motivated to continue doing so. And the employees who hear about the successes of others learn that agile transformation works, that it is fun – and are thus motivated to go the extra mile themselves.
As you can see: Celebrating is not only fun – it can also be very useful.

Personal initiative

Step 21: Support your own initiative!

Try to win over more and more colleagues in the company!

Everyone is a designer! Give your employees the opportunity to try things out. If your employees have the feeling that they can safely try out whether something works, that they are allowed to make mistakes and that they can learn new things, then many of them will set off.
Support employees who take the initiative and assume responsibility! The agile transformation should become a movement within your company in which everyone has the feeling of being involved or being able to participate: Everyone has the opportunity to get involved, gain fellow campaigners and support others – and can and should drive their initiative forward independently and take responsibility for it.

 

The transformation team

Even if you have a transformation team that initially gets things moving, your long-term goal is for your employees to become active in the transformation themselves. The function of the transformation team is to know which initiatives are underway and to disseminate this information within the company. It is intended to support employees who want to become active and provide information on where employees can get involved.

Events

Step 22: Organize Fuckup Nights and other events!

Good event management helps you to keep the topic of agility alive: there are now numerous agile event formats that can deal with agile transformation.

 

Fuckup Nights

Fuck-up nights are very popular. Here, people talk about how they have tried to get things going but have not yet been successful. They talk about what happened to them, reflect on their mistakes and summarize what they learned from them.
This has positive effects: not only can the participating employees also learn from the mistakes made, but they also experience a change in the way they deal with mistakes. Dealing openly with failure and mistakes in this way is a good sign for all employees and changes the corporate culture. Because if nothing bad happens, if you mess something up or something doesn’t work as desired, then you can take a risk yourself and try something new… What could possibly happen to you?

 

Other event formats

There are numerous other agile event formats:

  • Pitch events at which employees can present projects to attract budget and project participants: here, colleagues get an impression of what is currently going on, ideas of what is possible and invitations to participate.
  • Design sprints on specific topics to which people from the entire company are invited.
  • Barcamps, i.e. a conference format with workshops whose content and execution are decided on site by the participants themselves.
  • Hackathons, a format that lasts 24-48 hours and involves working creatively on topics in a relaxed atmosphere, usually with lots of food.
  • A lab: One of our customers has a place, an innovation lab, where people from all over the company can come to work creatively for the company

And, of course, classic events, such as the ones you had before, can suddenly also run with agile formats.
In this way, you can send out a signal that agility is a priority in every corner of the company. And the great thing is that everyone has the opportunity to take part in these formats.

 

Günther’s agile transformation

In Günther’s company, Thomas, the Scrum Coach, suggests a “Story Night”, inspired by the so-called “Fuck-up Nights”. However, not only failures should be discussed here, but anyone who has had a success to report can tell us about it. Initially hesitant, more and more employees are using this platform to report on events large and small.

Staying on top of agile change

Step 23: Stay tuned!

The popcorn principle

Stay tuned!
That is easier said than done. You need staying power for an agile transformation. Because the process of such a transformation is lengthy – much like making popcorn. – But how did we suddenly come up with popcorn?
When you bake popcorn, you turn on the stove and stand in front of the hot pot of corn – but: nothing happens. You heat up and heat up and at some point ask yourself whether you have done everything right. You may peek curiously under the lid and see the corn kernels unchanged in the pot. That takes time…!

And then: bang! Suddenly it pops. They are happy and think: “Finally – here we go!” But then – nothing happens again for a long time. At some point it pops again. “So, is it starting now?” No. Nothing happens again.
This happens a few times. But at some point it pops more and more frequently, there is a real drum roll against the pot lid. Now it’s a no-brainer – you could hardly stop the grains from popping. The time is ripe.
And that’s exactly how it is with an agile transformation: it takes patience.

As you can see, sticking with it is often not that easy. The most important thing:

  • Do not be discouraged!
  • Keep working!
  • Initiate actions!
  • Encourage your employees!

 

The drivers

You will no doubt remember the driver or transformation team that we established at the beginning. This team or this person is responsible for constantly staying on top of the agile transformation and actively spending time on it. If there are several employees, they can support and motivate each other. And they will have a lot to do in the early days. Remember – it takes a lot of heat for the popcorns to transform…
After some time, after many actions, you will eventually realize that there are more and more people in the company who feel responsible. More and more employees will undergo further training, get involved and initiate their own campaigns – and drive them forward themselves. Positive results will become apparent and motivate other employees to try things out. And then:

Agile colleagues

Self-propelled agile transformation

As with baking popcorn, there is a point in agile transformation at which the transformation can no longer be stopped because people want it. From then on, things move faster and faster; the agile transformation becomes a self-runner: it has become decentralized, no more push is needed, because the people in the company drive things forward on their own.
Until then, we have to hang in there!

  • Stay tuned! – We can’t say it often enough.
  • Stay positive!
  • Believe in the cause!
  • Get involved!

 

Günther’s agile transformation

A lot has changed in Günther’s company; a completely different wind is blowing. In the meantime, new products have been developed and customer feedback on the service is now really good. The pressure has eased:

Günther no longer perceives external pressure as threatening as he did before the agile transformation: he has confidence that his employees can respond to challenges and changes alertly and creatively – and quickly. He no longer feels alone with this problem because he knows that everyone in the company is working towards the same goal: to make the company as good and successful as possible, both internally and externally. It was not easy to hand over responsibility, but that seemed to be the case for all managers at the beginning. The teams now largely organize themselves.

And that has also reduced the pressure from within, the dissatisfaction of the employees. It feels good to go to work. His employees confirm this. And not only that – there are new employees in the company, the younger generations are now also showing interest in working in Günther’s company. On top of that, there are new customers. The figures are correct. Günther is satisfied. It remains exciting, but he no longer has to get upset…

 

We wish you every success with your agile transformation!
We are happy to support you!

Further reading

Further reading on the topic of agile transformation

If you would like to learn more about agility and agile transformation, we recommend reading the following articles:

Studies on agile transformation

Study Agility as a competitive advantage: The Agile Performer Index
Study Sustainable Agile Transition: Symbiosis of technical and cultural agility

From the net

Own articles

 

The authors

Oliver_Grätsch_550x550px
Oliver Grätsch
Michelle 550
Michelle Templin
Christian_Grätsch_1_550x550px
Christian Grätsch
Matthias-Beikert-550-550
Matthias Beikert
Susanne_Grätsch_1_550x550px
Susanne Grätsch
Monika Bt 550x550
Monika Steininger
Kai_Hübner_550x550px
Kai Hübner
Philipp Andresen 500x550
Philipp Andresen
berliner_team_Isabell_1
Anna Isabell Arendt
Claudia_Schmidt_550x550px
Dr. Claudia Schmidt
Inga_Kühn_550x550px
Inga Kühn
BT_Web_Team_Knebel_550x550
Kassandra Knebel
BT_Web_Team_Lehmann_550x550
Claudia Lehmann
Komplettes Team

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