How agility creates a new dynamic in collaboration

In order to keep pace with economic change, companies need to become agile and flexible. This requires reorientation and rethinking.

Many companies today are process- or project-oriented, but up to now, they’re too rarely agile. Agile working is a trend throughout the economy that more and more companies are discovering for themselves and which brings a variety of advantages regardless of the size of the company or the industry. The basic idea behind this is that change is the only reliable thing – and a company can only meet this need for change with maximum flexibility.

But agility is more than just a popular buzzword among managers. It describes the flexible actions of an organization or company – proactive, anticipatory and initiative-taking. The term dates back to the 1950s. At that time it referred to the ability of organizations to adapt to current and future requirements in order to ensure their survival as part of systems theory. Since the dawn of the 21st century, the agile methodology has been unfolding its full force, initially becoming the buzzword of modernity, especially in the context of software development. But agility goes even further and extends to a variety of trades and project-related tasks.

It radically breaks with the old patterns of the classical world of work, calling for cooperation in a much broader way than before. Agility means a new dynamic of interactivity in a novel team structure in which expert knowledge is brought together and hierarchies are largely dispensed with. In this process, projects are split into shorter sub-steps ("sprints") and faulty developments are avoided with the help of regular maneuver criticism and feedback loops.

Agility is often misunderstood

The advantages over the classic waterfall model are obvious: Flexible processes that allow interaction between developers, stakeholders and the team, and frequent updates that can be tested and evaluated in a timely manner by the project participants. Agile processes are ideal when you consider that requirements can change on the hardware and software side and new challenges are added. The fact that project teams work in short cycles here poses special challenges for project management in dovetailing this with the workflows of companies that are often still at home in longer product cycles.

But there are a number of misconceptions that need to be cleared up: after all, an agile company is not a chaotic company that follows no laws whatsoever. On the contrary, agile working requires more planning and standardized rules so that all participants in a project can act spontaneously and situationally. The prejudice that agility cannot be planned is also unfounded, because the planning does take place, but can change as your requirements change. Finally – this brings us to a third widespread misconception: Everyone doesn't just do whatever they want in agile project management. Instead, actions follow precise rules and are easy to understand as a result of detailed monitoring.

5 characteristics of agile companies


Situational decision-making and short decision-making paths in flat hierarchies


Reduce complexity through pattern recognition


More intensive short-term adjustment of the work


Leadership is often more of an impulse generator and participant


Seamlessly integrated technology for improved overview

Rethinking and becoming agile

The system of agility is designed to adapt, absorb and implement changes – in the field of digitalization, but also far beyond that in all decisions of corporate management. While agility was initially in vogue, particularly in technology start-ups, it has now also become commonplace with established companies, although in many cases initially in particularly innovative departments.

On the other hand, agility mostly has yet to catch on, especially in conservative corporations, but also in many established family businesses – out of the idea that the business has been successful for years with the classic waterfall model with fixed release dates to work towards. But companies should be aware that in a digitalized economy of the future, the question will no longer be whether an organization is large or small or whether it acts particularly quickly. The question will be more about whether you are flexible and agile in your decisions – and whether you are able to respond quickly to changes and adapt them for your own business.

And companies should also understand that we are at the beginning of an exponential curve in technology: Developments such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, but also data-based evaluations and augmented reality, will turn our business world upside down in a new industrial revolution. They will contribute to a boost in productivity and ensure sustainable change – and, also because no one can say what the outcome will be, it is essential to respond to it in an agile manner.

Companies still have difficulties in their agile transformation due to the change in corporate culture. (Lünendonk)

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