Agility means adaptability. First and foremost with regard to the product being developed. Step by step, usable interim products are created, which help to explore the problem domain and the possible solutions. However, adaptability not only covers the product, but also the way the team works. “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.” Among the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto this is one of the most important. Agility is therefore much more than just a method, but rather means taking responsibility for the product as well as the way people work together. However, especially the latter requires the right stance to be successful and not to end up in blaming. It is exactly this stance that Norman L. Kerth beautifully described as the Prime Directive in his book “Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews” (Amazon Affiliate Link).
How to eat an elephant? Exactly: In small slices. With this salami tactics you can master big tasks. Many recognize the iterative-incremental nature of agile methods like Scrum and therefore feel reminded of this elephant carpaccio — a fallacy which is based on the fundamental confusion of complicatedness and complexity.
While trying to do concentrated work amidst colleagues on the phone or in discussions, I regularly wish to return to the quiet library from my student days. With all due respect to collaboration and teamwork, but there are times when people need to think and work alone and quietly. Until now I attributed my inability to work effectively in open-plan offices to my more introverted nature, but now it is scientifically confirmed that the concept of open-plan offices is fundamentally flawed. Studies by Ethan Bernstein of Harvard Business School and Stephen Turban of Harvard University clearly show that, contrary to popular belief, open-plan offices do not promote, but rather impede face-to-face encounters between colleagues. So it’s not (only) me.
Without a culture of trust, no agility. Cargo cult yes, but no agility. And without agility there is no chance of at least surviving digitalization, let alone benefiting from it. In an agile organization, responsible and empowered people can quickly make customer-oriented decisions in decentralized structures. This requires trust. They make these decisions in complex and uncertain environments, validate them through rapid implementation and learn particularly from failures. And that needs even more trust.