The agile methodology promotes micromanagement

Agility - This is how you start agile work

Is agile working suitable for SMEs?

Agile working is particularly suitable for SMEs. Why? Because in small and medium-sized companies employees are much closer to the customer. Work here is often hands-on and very pragmatic. The added value takes place more directly. She has to stay lean and free from activities that do not add value.

Unfortunately, it is a fact that classic leadership (from industrial economics) quickly leads to a mountain of control and management measures that keep employees from adding value. In this context, agile working and leading is an alternative.

Building an agile company means a change in corporate and work culture. Responsibility, mutual respect and independent work come into focus. This cannot be dictated from above and cannot happen all at once. The change to an agile company requires cautious, but nevertheless courageous steps that lead to noticeable improvements in the medium term. Because although agility may look like a buzzword and trending topic, it actually means a change in work, leadership and organization with the help of many tried and tested and useful tools.

An introduction to agility in SMEs

In many larger companies, agility is no longer a desirable state, but a term for planlessness, chaos and anarchy. Please don't let this discourage you. In most cases it is not agility and its methods, but rather too fast, half-hearted adaptation. The thinking and leadership patterns of agile companies are mostly only applied in isolation in this context.

This is often not the case in small and medium-sized companies because the team is simply smaller and more manageable. The critical factor for success is that everyone involved deals with the issue of agility. The confrontation cannot be ordered, but can only be triggered by trying out, experiencing and adapting. Anything else quickly leads to frustration and a relapse into old behavior patterns.

From our point of view, SMEs have a clear advantage here. By nature, they are already set up to be more flexible and agile. In an unsteady, dynamic and unknown corporate environment, agility means continuously working efficiently and effectively towards goals and achieving high-quality results. An agile company organization concentrates and focuses on the added value and thus on the customer and his needs. All activities that do not serve the creation of value and benefit (audits, reports, micro-management of work) are removed and replaced by agile sets of rules. The agile sets of rules create security that is no longer necessary because there is no bureaucratic "command and control" systems.

Advantages for SMEs when introducing agile working methods

  • The application of agile working methods is much easier in small teams - The framework regulations are easier to apply with a few employees than with many. Agile methods that can be used quickly generate positive experiences much faster and more directly. Discipline and personal responsibility can be lived better and more consistently in a small team. Most of the time, disciplined and self-reliant work is already the rule.
  • Agility fits almost any corporate structure - Agility is a new way of thinking and working. And this relates to ... exactly the way you work. In this way, the application of agile working methods can be started on a small scale, agile values ​​and principles can be lived on the ground. It is crucial that the leadership and management do not act in isolation. Rather, both employees and managers should deal with the integration of agile methods in their work focus. For the employee, this can be the use of tools such as Kanban, daily stand-up meetings and retrospectives. For the manager, it means dealing with the new role model and the associated behavior. For the manager, this may mean that they begin to coach and develop employees and remove hurdles in the employees' work processes. The same applies here: gradually generate positive experiences.
  • Agility means structure and system - Agile methods and working methods work with mandatory regulations. They are well structured and well thought out. Part of the set of rules are activities that improve the process and the rules and adapt them to the company. Once learned, agile methods build security, structure and stability in the implementation of tasks in the company. The safe and precise implementation of agile methods is important for success. Here, too, it is the same as with all other things: Consistency, consequence and commitment are the foundations of the change to an agile company. An external coach can and should help with this. Commit yourself and your team to the precise implementation of the method over a period of 30 days. Adjustments and modifications can then be planned and implemented. The period is of existential importance for a change in behavior through initial results.
  • Agile work can be actively managed - Agility does not mean doing without planning. In fact, a strategic vision is an important building block of agile organizations. Agile work happens in shorter cycles with measurable results. This inevitably forces executives, managers and employees to focus. What contributes to our strategic and tactical goals in the short term? What are the concrete steps for the next 14 days (for example in the SCRUM Sprint). And changes of direction and adjustments are possible in regular cycles. The duration of quiet work on projects is significantly shortened, and the ability to lead over projects and tasks increases. Agile target systems like OKRs help with the objective setting of goals and the control of results.
  • Agile working helps to achieve strategic goals - In an agile corporate organization, strategic and tactical goals are derived from the overarching corporate vision for the next 12 months. Each target is provided with up to 4 measured values ​​so that it can be assessed objectively at any time. The goal-setting in individual departments and teams is carried out jointly. The goals created in this way result in projects and tasks that are processed by each team independently and in recurring, short cycles. After each cycle, the results are checked and, if necessary, the goals are adjusted or redefined. This means that the company can be consistently aligned with the company's vision. The corporate vision, in turn, is flexible enough to take changes in the corporate environment into account in projects and tasks.
  • Agile work releases potential - In agile companies, all managers, executives and employees work together on tasks. They all bring their specific knowledge and skills to the projects and products. This increases the value of the result. It is important to build up this willingness to cooperate and openness in companies. Here, too, we see SMEs at a clear advantage, because the direct line to the boss usually already exists.

How do SMEs gradually establish agile work?

Agile SMEs follow a recurring pattern. We would like to briefly introduce this to you in this article.

  • Agile values ​​and principles - The responsibility for the work is given unconditionally and uncompromisingly to the team. Trust and mutual respect are the basis for agile working together.
  • Exemplary change - One person - ideally the managing director - takes on the role of ambassador for agile work and is responsible for introducing agile principles, values ​​and methods in the company. He obtains the appropriate information, instructions and tools to change his team.
  • Quick sense of achievement - The first step is to convince the employees of the advantages of agile work. What are the advantages of working agile for the individual? How is the work changing? What is missing (e.g. excessive reports)? What are the possible steps and what level of commitment is required of the employee for each step? From a psychological point of view, it is about changing attitudes through time-limited experiments (actions). In this way, methods and tools of agile work can be tested together.
  • Change of behavior at all levels - The employees must be introduced to and supported in agile work. The change to agile work always means a change in behavior. A change in behavior is only possible in small steps. Responsibility and task planning were specified in detail beforehand by the manager. In the future, only goals and results will be agreed jointly. The team is responsible for selecting and performing tasks to achieve the goals. Employees and managers have to get used to this new range of tasks. We have already outlined the optimal steps for this in another article on agile work.
  • Continuous support - A trained agile coach accompanies the company continuously over a certain period of time. In recurring workshops, he shows employees and management the current status of the transformation and provides inspiring insights into the coming development steps. He helps employees to clarify urgent questions directly through accompanying online coaching.
  • Change in leadership role - At the same time, the management is instructed and trained in the application of new agile management methods. The declared goal is to change the management culture from “determining and controlling” to “supporting, leading and accompanying”. Get rid of the idea that employees want to avoid self-determination and responsibility. Qualified and good employees are motivated by the new freedom and strengthened in their professional and personal development. This creates significant added value for the company. As a manager, you will accompany the team if the team wants to deal further and more deeply with agile methods.
  • Willingness and patience - If the team encounters hurdles when introducing agile working methods, the further adaptation of agile working methods can be paused for a certain period of time. Remember, it's not about imposing anything on your team. It is about actively involving the team in the company, promoting responsibility and self-determined behavior.

Conclusion

Agile methods are ideal for SMEs to work more efficiently and effectively. Agility is particularly suitable in dynamic corporate environments and for strategic tasks. In the near future, most companies will have to operate in dynamic corporate environments. Agility is the way of thinking and working to meet requirements. Agile work is not rocket science, but a consistent change in everyday behavior at all company levels. SMEs are particularly suitable for this transformation.

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