Is agile the future for project management

Agile working - does that have to be?

Spotify and Apple do. Coca-Cola is betting on it. The direct bank ING too. Many start-ups, small and medium-sized companies have also opted for it: for agility, for agile work. They all notice that this new way of working makes their companies more flexible, faster and more innovative.

This change began in the software industry. Seventeen developers published the Agile Manifesto in the USA in 2001 to give their work more focus, more freedom and more meaning. The way of working can now be found in all industries. Because agile work promises new success against the background of new tasks.

Agile, as it is called in English, changes the way we work sustainably. Another aspect is crucial. Agile changes our focus in the workplace - for whom we work today: for the customer. Not for the boss, not for the plan, not for paper. The employees in the self-organized small teams concentrate on not creating more work, but more value. The authors already formulate this in the four guiding principles of their manifesto. You appreciate

  • Individuals and Interactions more than processes and tools
  • Working products more than comprehensive documentation
  • Cooperation with the customer more than contract negotiations
  • Respond to change more than following a plan

The advantages of agile working for companies

Agile - the concept for digital transformation

But what does that mean, agile working? What methods and tools are there? Where does it have the strongest effect? In product development, management or accounting? And what does the change to agile work cost?

The answer to this is simple: It takes courage, ideas, trust, patience and a lot of time. The most difficult investment is to bring yourself, your ideas and your valuable time into this new way of working. To do this, employees and managers have to unlearn some things that many still consider to be a standard today. But the series nac

1. What does agile work mean?

So far, companies have operated according to the waterfall principle. There is a set plan that defines the entire project from start to finish. One department after the other does its job. The organization is structured hierarchically. There is always someone who makes the decisions and is responsible.

Agile working is completely changing this practice. Employees with the most varied of qualifications work equally in small teams on a project until it is finished. You define the goal together and decide for yourself how to achieve it. They break the task down into parts and work on them in short periods of time.

Not the boss and not the boss, but the team is responsible for success. It starts with a short meeting in the morning in which everyone reports on how he or she is getting on. Feedback is just as important for communication. The team regularly talks about what works how well, what doesn't and how the members want to improve it together. In this way, everyone can react more quickly to changed conditions and new ideas.

2. What agile methods and tools are there?

Agile work doesn't work at the push of a button. It is important that everyone, from the boss to the intern, understands why the company needs agility. Because not only the team, but also the structures change in the agile organization. When curiosity and the need to work in an agile manner are aroused, you decide which method best suits your company.

There are many books, guides and tutorials on agile transformation. But there is no hammer that hits the nail, the methods are frameworks. They do not want and should not be rigid rules, but rather provide a framework. Within this, each team works on its own agile practice. The four most important frameworks are:

Scrum:
The term comes from rugby and means that a cross-functional team works together according to certain rules and in defined roles. The focus is on the daily exchange and on the flexible re-evaluation of plans. The work takes place in short cycles, so-called sprints, which are repeated over and over again. Constructive feedback, error culture and a retrospective of one's own work are also part of it.

Kanban:
The method was originally used to optimize production at Toyota. Here, too, the focus is on the self-organization of the team. On the Kanban board, post-its make it clear what needs to be done, who is doing what and what has already been done. The employees choose their tasks. The aim is to avoid unnecessary work, identify bottlenecks and set priorities. These measures are intended to increase productivity and encourage constant improvement.

Design Thinking:
This approach creatively solves problems and helps to come up with good ideas. The concept is supported by three pillars: team, space and time. The aim is to develop meaningful, relevant products for customers. An interdisciplinary team embarks on the open process, which consists of the following steps: Understanding, observing, finding ideas, checking / prototyping, improving, implementing and learning.

Lean Management:
This management and organizational concept is about the efficient design of the entire value chain in companies. It strives for the highest quality and the least amount of waste. The focus is on customer needs. A lean organization, customer-oriented structures, quick reactions to errors and a high level of personal responsibility help to meet customer requirements as efficiently as possible.

3. Where does agile work have the greatest effect?

Agility is standard in software development. In this way, the teams react faster to new developments and exciting changes and can take them into account in ongoing projects.

Companies are also increasingly using agile methods for project management in marketing, sales and human resources in order to be quick, flexible and creative. It is important that the tasks can be broken down into individual steps that are useful as partial results. The tasks should not be routines and should not be standardized. That is why there is less need for agility in controlling and accounting.

However, companies report that the effect of agile working is only really strong when the entire company is agile. For example, the Dutch bank ING set up its software department to be agile for a number of years, but no other. The effect within the team was good, but the success was not measurable for the company. Only since the entire organization started working in an agile manner did the balance sheet look significantly different.