Agility brings change. Try to get inspired and approach solutions differently.
It is understandable that companies in the VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) are looking for new approaches on how to be better and faster, how to outperform the competition. They also need to retain their high-quality employees because loyal, skilled employees are hard to find and retain.
And then there are (sometimes) “amusing” situations: a company starts implementing everything that’s currently trendy and talked about, regardless of whether it’s possible to fully implement that “brand new, 100% tried-and-tested method.” Often, procedures are copied from another company because “it worked for them, they’re really doing better…” Standards are set, people are trained, and the goal is marked as achieved, and everyone looks forward to the results. Then people start to rebel because the new system doesn’t suit them. Problems arise in quality, communication, and often, qualified and experienced employees start leaving because “I won’t do something that doesn’t make sense just because the management has come up with something new again!”
Today, many companies end up implementing agile management in this way. Yes, it’s true that it’s a good path to making a company function and ensuring its survival. However, it’s never just about implementing tools and a flexible approach. It’s necessary to explain it correctly to people, motivate them, and above all, build what is called an agile mindset.
We are talking about agility, education, and simulation games with Zuzka Kubisova, a senior consultant at FBE, focused mainly on optimizing and improving soft skills and personnel.
Traditional leadership styles are often replaced by agile management techniques. What’s the difference?
Agility is a concept that is becoming more and more common in our context. While the term itself is relatively new, the principle and essence of agility are not. It involves what we call flexible management, adapting to the situation. In agile management, we emphasize greater flexibility and a willingness to change based on existing needs. It’s precisely this openness and a fresh perspective on things that often help in adjusting standards and rules that no longer make sense or are insufficient and ineffective.
Of course, companies perceive the need for change. For them, a synonym for change is the implementation of agile principles, which they expect to improve results. However, many companies today have failed to implement agile management. What do you see as the cause? Do you have specific experience with what helped to implement agility successfully?
Agility brings about change. When companies aim to be agile, it means they must also be prepared for changes in processes and established procedures. Therefore, agility needs to be given space in the organization – and I don’t mean space for training. We can’t just say, “we will operate in an agile way,” and then, when faced with a request for change, rely on a system or process that doesn’t allow for that change or significantly delays us in its implementation. Agility is not about words, posters, or changing the name of a job role. The essence of agility is the so-called agile mindset.
Yes. The word agile mindset appears in “recipes for agility”. What is it actually and how can companies work with it?
It’s a path, a process of moving from “agile” theory through training to implementing agility in practice. This means not only “doing things agile” but also “thinking agile.” In practice, there are no miracles – neither half-day nor week-long training will turn your people into agile employees. The success of a company is not in whether your people know agile; it’s about how well you know your people.
How does agile thinking affect (team)work?
Autonomy and sufficient authority are important. In our simulations, we also emphasize team self-organization. A task is assigned, and the team seeks a solution, regardless of established processes or set rules. All of this can be changed and adapted.
The team’s outcome and the organization as a whole are important. When achieving a better outcome requires changes in approach, they should be made! An agile approach, when properly understood and when space is created for it within the organization, enhances team dynamics and changes its orientation toward greater efficiency, autonomy, and, of course, higher performance.
What methods and principles of agile management can we be inspired by directly in the field of HR?
Absolutely everyone. HR can significantly influence how agile principles are adopted in the organization. An agile organization requires agile HR. And it’s not just about implementing agile principles. HR should be a change agent, contribute to inspiration, hire great professionals, energize and develop people, and lead them to embrace change.
HR should be one of the accelerators of agility. It should understand what’s happening in agile teams, what their daily work is like. When HR isn’t flexible enough, it will slow down the organization. Agile HR seeks solutions, while non-agile HR will always look for reasons to reject a particular request.
Many companies have problems motivating people to be agile. Is there a best practice for this?
It’s natural for people to fear new processes and changes. This also has to do with our personality types. Some people, on the other hand, seek change because it’s exciting, and they enjoy innovation. Then there are people who prefer traditional, proven methods. They stick to established routines and are content with how things work. The idea of moving from a place of certainty to something new and unknown scares them. Motivation within companies always requires an individualized approach based on the company’s culture. But what always works is presenting and communicating the results that an agile approach will bring.
You yourself also focus on the development of simulation games in your practice. They say that simulation is brain stimulation, and activities that force us to “get out of the chair” are generally good: the body moves, the blood pumps throughout the body, the brain is oxygenated and thus works better. Today, in addition to physical games, online simulation games are also often used. Do they have the same added value? When is it better – if it is possible to say it this way – to use face-to-face, when online simulation?
The conditions and goals of a simulation matter when determining its effectiveness. It can’t be divided into a one-size-fits-all approach. I worked on developing a simulation game specifically for an online environment. I was inspired by the COVID-19 situation and the related limitations. Many teams needed training, but it had to be done online. Overnight, we all had to change our paradigms regarding development and embrace new challenges and functions offered by online platforms.
Metaphorically speaking, we had to learn how to fix a car while driving. Everything happened so quickly. We felt that we were missing a lot. Not everything suitable for in-person training could be used online. This (online) world has its specifics. But thanks to online simulation, teams learn to work (together) online.
The scope is even broader now: online simulations are also valuable for teams that collaborate remotely, sit in different locations, or even on different continents, and therefore physical meetings are not possible or are financially costly. Such online simulation helps them understand the principles of remote collaboration and eliminate errors. So, there are situations where it’s better to use online simulation, and of course, there are situations where the in-person format adds more value. The most important thing is to define our expectations correctly right from the beginning.
We hear managers say that the agile approach is a revolution. But when the project slows you down even as you add more and more people to it and devote more and more time to it – something is wrong. And long sessions in meeting rooms or online meetings certainly won’t solve it.
The Beatles set musical trends that are still followed today with their relentless innovation. They never rested on their laurels and constantly pushed the boundaries of pop music. In doing so, they guaranteed their immortality.
Try to be inspired by them as well when approaching solutions differently – abandon paradigms, clear your mind, and start anew.
The agile approach will help you with the development and implementation of new systems, and when you complement it with Lean (Lean philosophy – minimizing waste, increasing added value, and process efficiency), you will achieve excellence even in new structures.