Agility is the ability of organizations and persons or of structures and processes to act and react flexibly. Unforeseen events, new requirements or deviations are handled constructively, at short notice and in an adapted manner.
A more detailed information on agility you can find in our interview with Mr. Jens Hoehrmann (Link).
If you are looking for an individual and tailor-made solution for your company, we would be happy to discuss it with you and maybe in a first communication we already can give you initial assistance and possibly recommendations for further actions.
In the following we will focus on Agile Organization and Agile Project Management as two application areas of agility.
Agility in the Organization
Organizational structures are usually process-oriented (e.g. in production), project-oriented (e.g. in the development of new hardware or software) or sometimes both. Against the background of an unstable environment, these organizational structures are often only able to keep up with change to a limited extent due to their hierarchy. By using agility, however, an organization gains the ability to operate more successfully in a competitive environment that is characterized by constant, unforeseeable changes in customer requirements.
There are six subject areas of agility:
These subject areas affect all areas of a company from strategy and processes to corporate culture.
All six subject areas are united by the values represented in agility, which form the basic principles together with the core elements (see figure).
Agility has almost become synonymous with efficiency gains. In startups and online companies, agile working is already part of everyday life. In many other companies, however, agility is still rather rare. However, every company can benefit from the increase in efficiency. Agility promises low bureaucracy with few rules and thus increased output with the same amount of resources. The first steps into agility are small and easy to implement. The four topics shown in the following figure must be worked through in customer-specific order.
When a company considers increasing the efficiency of its processes, e.g. in the new/further development of products, there is no way around "agile". At the same time, agility follows an iterative approach. The cycle "plan, build, control, act" (PDCA) runs many times in short time intervals during a project. In contrast to classic project planning, the "plan" and "act" phases play a decisive role as an integrative part of the cycle. The maxim "fail fast and learn" is the focus of agility.
When introducing agility, it is important to ensure that the individual streams interact properly in order to make the right management decisions. It is important always to involve the right people and keep the consequences transparent for the managers in the company.
As HDP, we use our experience from various projects to provide comprehensive support and advice to our customers on and for agile transformation projects. In doing so, we also ensure, among other things, that the six subject areas are properly structured with all their facets. We have already successfully demonstrated in several projects that we know how to avoid pitfalls and exploit opportunities.
Agile Project Management
Agile project management is a procedure that thinks shorter - to put it simply - than classical project management. With agile project management, the way is also the goal to a large extent - and not just the end of the project. The basic idea is that due to permanent requirements and tasks a continuous implementation within the project framework takes place automatically. Work results are accepted after fixed periods of time and in some cases already used, so that in the following period work can already be done on improving or expanding the results. Thus, the focus for agile project management approach differs significantly from the classical approach.
The following figure compares both approaches regarding essential aspects.
Classic project management is very clearly structured. At the beginning goals are formulated and the process is divided into individual phases with intermediate steps. Also, requirements and their implementation are worked out and recorded very clearly while responsibilities are distributed within the team.
Agile project management on the other hand is more dynamic. Approaches such as Scrum assume that IT projects in particular are so complex and quickly changing that they cannot be documented in a completely linear way on the day the project starts. New requirements, which often only arise during the project, require dynamic action and short-term planning corrections.
A combination of both methods is called a hybrid approach to project management. The aim is to combine the advantages of both methods and thus become better at planning and implementing projects. This means that the classical structure of a project is preserved, and only partial aspects are organized in an agile way.
Agile Methods and Framework
Agility in organizations and agile project management are enabled and developed by using specific methods. There are numerous forms of agile methods. Scrum, Kanban and eXtreme Programming (XP) are three well-known methods that are preferred by the HDP because they have proven themselves in practice and have developed a high level of acceptance among customers.
These methods are easy to use in isolated projects, but the challenge is to apply it in organizational units and entire companies. To do this, you have to deal with the scaling of agility. Activities of numerous sub-projects have to be synchronized and harmonized in order to create transparency across all teams. The activities of the players must be directed towards conflict-free goals and there must be no loss of efficiency due to a lack of communication. This requires a superordinate framework, e.g. SAFe or LESS. The Scaled Agile Framework is (SAFe) is one of the most common frameworks for scaling agility, especially Scrum. SAFe is based on Lean and provides an agile framework for the team, program and overall organization level (portfolio level).
The advantages of Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) are
A picture of an agile organization can be quickly created for large development organizations.
The program and portfolio levels are consistently thought through and documented.
Many well documented techniques, roles, meetings and artifacts are included.
Usage of familiar terms that make it easier for organizations to conduct the transition, and at the same time are designed to be agile.
The SAFe framework also offers agile portfolio planning, which allows the portfolio of several agile programs to be controlled using Kanban techniques.
Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) is another method. It offers a consistent agile solution to work with several Scrum teams together on a common product.
Obstacles to the Introduction of Agility
Proximity, openness, and transparency are the central characteristics of agile organizational structures - agility begins in mind. But to acknowledge this and to initiate correspondingly far-reaching changes is a mammoth project that many specialists and managers shy away from. Instead, they prefer to limit themselves to the introduction of agile methods, which they then - quite conventionally - present as the one, salutary solution.
Common obstacles that need to be observed and overcome when introducing agility are the following:
But also here applies: "knowledge is power". If you are aware of potential obstacles, then you can take countermeasures in good time and thus avoid unnecessary detours.
HDP Management Consulting is experienced in dealing with the elements and implementing agility in various forms. We are confident that we can provide you with meaningful support. Please feel free to contact us!