We want to answer this question and show why it is sometimes important to take on new perspectives and apply other ways of looking at things. If you are already familiar with Scrum, you should definitely keep reading…
Why agility is so important in companies
Times are changing rapidly. Not only is our society changing but also the buying behavior and consumption of customers. People have countless opportunities to obtain the perfect product at the right time. The challenges of an (agile) company are to recognize these needs, adapt to them and always deliver the best result to customers.
A particular challenge here is being able to respond to the different needs of customers with a clear product portfolio. Here, topics such as digitalization, globalization, 24/7 delivery capability or response capability should be considered, among others. In the course of an increasingly strong digital economy, companies should competitively align themselves with their value creation processes.
Of course, not all companies need to become agile. For some, reorganizing and developing new process structures is enough. Large automotive companies, their suppliers and software companies are great examples of this. The world is changing fast and the needs of customers even faster. Accordingly, it is particularly important for automotive manufacturers to always adapt their processes and structures to the market and accelerate processes such as automotive development.
For which problem is agile actually the answer?
Customers ultimately do not care what structures and processes are in place in a particular company. They just want the right product at the right time. This is where the real challenge for companies begins: They need to identify their own processes in order to utilize agile organization and agile methods to change the core of value creation such that customers ultimately benefit from it. Agility is therefore not an end in itself, but rather consistent internal positioning in order to achieve the associated goals.
How to make your company agile
There is no blueprint for the path towards becoming an agile company, because it is as unique as the company itself. However, Staufen AG has identified some basic steps that have proven to be useful and will ultimately lead to an organizational form that is suitable for all companies. It is important to walk through the path with customers as a partner, to look for solutions together and develop proposed solutions. These steps may be as follows:
- Step 1: Actual analysis & status quo:
Analysis of the competitive situation, corporate processes, internal structures and corporate culture by using a capability assessment.
- Step 2: Derivation of a clear target image
Where does the company want to go in the long term? Should processes (first) be adapted to be lean, adaptable and responsive in the future, or is the focus more on completely reorganizing the company?
- Step 3: Choosing the right methods
Evaluation of how to best determine what the company really needs. For example, implementing agile Shop Floor Management or gaining initial experience with Scrum.
- Step 4: Evaluation
Evaluating the results shows areas in which the company has already achieved success. This success can be visualized and measured using KPIs and serves as a basis for deciding which steps to tackle next.
- Step 5: Changed organizational design
Focusing on the changed organizational design and optimizing process structures within the company. The results are evaluated and the next steps on the path towards becoming an agile organization are defined together with employees. Not only do professional aspects of employees play a role here, but also interpersonal interaction, corporate culture and the management style of the executives are of great importance and must not be disregarded.
Advantages of an agile company
Faster delivery times through optimized workflows
Optimized processes guarantee a faster workflow. The “First Time Right” system is improved and the error rate reduced. These processes are systematically evaluated and constantly adapted to the needs of the company. Once an agile system has been implemented in a company, it quickly becomes apparent whether the system works and each and every employee knows at all times when tasks are to be completed.
Satisfied and self-organized employees
Satisfied employees form the foundation of a solid agile organizational structure. They help ensure that the company can hold its own on the market in the long term. Transparency of tasks is particularly important for satisfied employees. When everyone understands their own tasks and is aware of the tasks of their colleagues, the foundation is laid for respectful and positive interaction with each other. This transformation takes time and specific implementation. Particularly with existing hierarchies, you have to remember that this entails a complete restructuring for employees as well as the establishment of new work processes.
An agile company clearly benefits from faster delivery times, optimized workflows, better customer retention, more satisfied customers and self-organized employees.
The challenges of an agile company
Leaders must be aware of the fact that the changes towards an agile company will always be reflected in the company’s key performance indicators. It can be helpful to clearly define the interfaces that will remain, which responsibilities, contact persons or factors will change and which will stay. These changes provide structural security, performance security, new responsibilities and product developments. Quality standards are improved and technical verifications are adapted. It is therefore particularly important that the goals clearly defined from the outset and the associated changes are supported by management and communicated to all employees.
If the advantages of an agile organization are clearly and comprehensibly communicated to employees and they are involved in the development of the new collaboration model, it will lead to the formation of new, mutually supportive teams, synchronous cooperation in which all employees can learn from others and thereby an improvement in their personal skills – all while working on specific customer projects. The aim is to give as few instructions as possible from above in order to support the development processes and the self-organization of employees in their teams.
Once the teams understand what the aim is, how they can optimize their own workflows and thus enter into a perfect symbiosis with each other, nothing stands in the way of the success of an agile organization. Employees themselves will quickly notice how much more pleasant, faster and effective their work becomes. In the long term, this leads to employees becoming more independent, taking on more responsibility and realizing their full potential. This process is closely accompanied and supported by Staufen.
Once an agile organization has been successfully established, it is important to stabilize and maintain it over the long term. This works best if management continuously maintains a top-down view and evaluates whether the transformation to an agile organization is moving in the right direction.
The path towards becoming an agile organization is challenging. It takes time and commitment from managers and employees. Nevertheless, the benefits are so great that the challenges fade away. Because at the end of the day, companies not only gain more satisfied customers and employees, but also optimized workflows, better structures, mutually supportive internal organizational structures, and significantly improved KPIs.
Dr. Thilo Greshake, Partner Automotive, STAUFEN.AG
With a doctorate in mechanical engineering and more than 15 years of international consulting experience in lean development, engineering excellence and quality management, Dr. Thilo Greshake has been responsible for the Automotive division at Staufen AG since 2017.
Jörg Faulstich, Project Manager, STAUFEN.AG
Jörg Faulstich’s first professional posts included supervising change processes, supporting specialists and executives and establishing academies and training centers. At SMA, he successfully designed and implemented global leadership programs for all management levels and restructured the training center into a profit center. In addition, he designed the company’s strategy development process and was responsible for implementing the company-wide change management program that he developed in individual areas in the restructuring process. While at Schüco, he was responsible for the further development of the global training portfolio. In addition, he led the implementation of agile methods within product development. Most recently, Jörg Faulstich supported SMEs and banks in the introduction of agile organizational structures and methods.
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