"Agility extreme" in 7 hypotheses

Up to now, agility was regarded as the main key to meeting the challenges of digital transformation. Today, however, many companies require “extreme agility”.

The last meeting of our Great Women network was therefore dedicated to this important topic, where we discussed the different facets of agility, its possibilities and limitations. What soon became evident is that the discussion in companies often revolves around agility as a method. Yet in many cases, the problem is more a matter of cultural issues or a lack of clarity about the actual goal – the purpose – of the respective organization or unit.

When introducing agile methods, processes and organization structures, it is important not to underestimate the fears that often go with it. This is rarely a question of age, origin or gender, but rather a question of attitude. “All users must be aware that agility is neither an end in itself nor a universal remedy but can very well be a key success factor”, says Katrin Lumma, Partner, zeb.

Companies nowadays want to be:

  • goal-oriented
  • customer-centric
  • adaptable and resilient
  • yet proactive
  • interdisciplinary

And, of course, agile. We understand this to mean that organizations, teams and individuals work flexibly and fast and are capable of change.

As Europe’s leading consultancy in the financial services sector, zeb has taken a look at reality with its Agile Readiness Study. This study, however, reveals a different picture: in many cases, agility only exists in individual projects. Only a few companies have addressed the agility issue on a broad basis and across the entire organization. Many are still seeking the right approach or the right goal.

Granted, (digital) transformation is complex. First of all, the goal must be defined. This goal orientation must come before the selection of methods. In the ongoing process, this goal must always be kept in mind – as a compass to see whether the company is still on the right track or whether a change of direction is needed. This requires courage: both for pursuing ambitious goals and for making corrections. And also for new methods.

Find out more about new methods and other innovative approaches in our interview with Vera Schneevoigt, Chief Digital Officer of the Bosch Building Technologies division. On the topic of courage we had a chat to Anja Blacha. She is an extreme sports and endurance athlete and knows from her own experience that agility starts with the inner attitude.

Dr. Katrin Lumma, zeb

“Only a short while ago, we would have talked about living in fast and disruptive times. Then came the coronavirus pandemic and in its wake, a tremendous acceleration truly set in.”

Dr. Katrin Lumma, Partnerin

Thesis 1

Widely, the targets are not clear. Two-thirds of all the banks surveyed say that agility is important. However, only one-fifth have a clear picture of what agility should achieve for the institution.

Thesis 2

The organizational structure itself is not the key. It is about a change in will, in leadership practices, in the mindset of leadership.

Thesis 3

Agility is not a cure-all. There are also good areas of application for classic methods. And agility is not always a contradiction to hierarchy. Agile can also be used in a hierarchical framework if the mindset is right.

Thesis 4

Agility does not mean the elimination of leadership. On the contrary. It is precisely these processes that require guidance from managers. Leaders must be prepared to lead without hierarchy if necessary. It is less and less about making announcements and more about convincing.

Thesis 5

Leaders and employees need new competencies for agility. Above all, they need the ability to take responsibility for themselves. In other words, "nine-to-five" will no longer work.

Thesis 6

Agile methods create transparency about performance and actual performance. In reality, however, this is not always desired. How to deal with this is an important challenge for managers. Consistency and openness are new requirements for managers.

Thesis 7

Such transformation processes take time. An organization's behavior cannot be expected to change fundamentally in twelve months. Such a process takes years. There will always be frontrunners. There are also many potential leaders who are only discovered during the ongoing process.