The roles within the scope of agility are Product owner, Scrum master and Development team. The team is not further described, but it often consists of roles like analysts, developers, testers and users, who work closely together. The effectiveness of the team comes from the fact that it consists of less than 7plusminus2 members. The special characteristics of those players are usually not further clarified. And this, although those agile players do the real work and have to be people with special qualities.
Besides the professional expertise and skills, the employees need additional capabilities. Agility gets its advantages from the concentration of the resources to the essentials, the ability to act flexibly, to orientate oneself towards the customer and the results as well as, above all, to decide self-determined. In order to affect, the players need special characteristics.
So that the employees can keep up, they need a fast, intuitive perception. The short cycles of the work packages do not allow lengthy studies. It is about quickly understanding the circumstances and the relationships and to transfer them into solutions. This is not only a matter of technical aspects, but also the cooperation between the involved parties and their personal mood. Comprehension needs trust into the gut feeling.
A sprint is the agile development cycle that takes two to four weeks and creates functioning partial solutions. It requires not only the understanding of the current situation, but also the anticipation of possible future circumstances. The corresponding trend signals can be derived from trend research or from a realistic assessment of the product life cycles. The better you adjust to future difficulties, the faster a measure has an effect. This anticipation becomes possible with the ability to imagine the future subjectively without holding on objective arguments.
In an agile environment, driven by VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity), the basic conditions change rapidly. So that the employees are able to react to the environmental causes at the right moment, they need the ability to adapt quickly to changing conditions. This requires self-confidence and courage in order to dare in the respective situation to act quickly – without the safety net of formal regulations that remove the responsibility for their actions.
As soon as the circumstances are changing, the existing approaches are becoming obsolete. The insistence on the current approach runs counter to the new conditions. The ability to adapt facilitates the players to let go the previous solutions in favor of new, better-fitting ones. The art is to know when the right moment has come to change the approach. To overcome the current standpoint, it helps to be aware that there are always at least three solutions for a task.
- Self propulsion / discipline
To make agility work at all, the players need an inner motive that keeps them moving. Set-up times, dead times and down times are influenced by the individual employees. Central control can not accomplish this. Therefore you need employees who are entrepreneurs. They act as if it were their own company – 24/7. If this momentum is kept continuously, the right activities are carried out appropriately and reliably. This drive is controlled by every employee. In the best case, these forces can be released by appropriate work conditions (e.g. flexible working hours, a pleasant workplace, and no disturbing influences).
Bottom line: Managers are focused on the Product Owner and Scrum Master. But the actual work is done by the development team. The management of the heterogeneous team members is not further described and lies in the hands of the Scrum Masters. He keeps the team together, keeps the momentum and takes care of problems. But to really ensure agility the team members need a quick comprehension, an early anticipation of changing conditions, quick reaction and adaptive abilities as well as a disciplined self-motivation. In the long run the agile organization only functions, if the agile players are people with special characteristics.
In retrospect, it was always difficult to recognize the valid set of rules in large enterprises. In the best case there was a list of officialized guidelines. In the respective list the first guideline was always the explanation of how to make a guideline. In some cultures it is crucial for the declaration that they are only obeyed, if they are integrated into the official list and are accepted in a meeting with a ritual by the concerned people. However, these regulations are only the tip of the iceberg. Besides, there are a vast number of additional conventions. Wouldn’t it be practical to make all rules visible to everybody? By regulating, what we regulate.
Regulations are continuously revised and simplified. But somehow people forget to abolish the outdated regulations. As a consequence the bureaucracy explodes. Autonomous actions have not enough elbow space, since a violation of existing rules leads quickly to contract termination. How could the regulations of an enterprise become more effective?
- Clear definition of the rules
Actually all involved people should have access to all relevant regulations, which they have to follow. That begins with laws, which have the strongest legally binding character. In large companies, which act globally, it is important it to clarify, which laws are valid in which country. Beyond that, the law with the ultimate binding nature has to be defined. The official company guidelines are the next level of bindingness – even if some people believe that they could override the laws. It should be clarified that the laws stand above everything. Anything else is illegal. The next stage is formed by the work instructions, which are specified by the individual areas following their strategy. They must fit to the superordinate ones. However this is rarely checked due to the absence of an overview. The simplest regulations are the algorithms, which are part in IT-programs and operational sequences. The longer they exist, the fewer people know the actual regulations, which are specified by the procedures. In these cases is no more transparency. At the end some programs run like a black box, without anybody being able to change anything.
- A comprehensive register of all rules
Today only a few rules are attainable in one directory. If you consider the many levels of specifications, it becomes clear that you act in a bureaucratic corset that you do not have under control. For this reason a first step is to describe them as good as possible and to make all relevant laws, guidelines, work instructions and algorithm available for all employees. At least the laws and company guidelines should be reachable at any time. A smart register of the work instructions is the next step. The algorithms you can only control, if the respective programs are switched off. Anything else would be guessing without guarantee of correctness.
- Accessibility of the rules
The accessibility of the rules should be no problem via the appropriate company network, the Intranet. It will be more difficult for the particular user to correctly interpret the rules without an appropriate consultation. At the same time you should be aware that rules, which someone does not understand, do not result in the desired effect. As soon as the employees do not begin to give attention to rules you loose. Compliance remains in this case an unfulfillable desire.
- Consistency of the rules
The valid rules should be consistent. No guideline should be written that contradicts a law. No work instruction should violate laws or guidelines. No software should operate algorithms, which contradict the entire set of rules. In principle the top management is responsible that all employees comply with the rules. Since the observation of all employees is not possible, in practice it became generally accepted to publish an instruction that asks the subordinated areas to follow the rules. That way managers feel relieved. But the rising number of law cases between enterprises and its top management shows that this is a fallacy. Therefore the companies should increase their efforts concerning the regulation of their rules and to ensure that the valid rules are consistent.
- The agile way out
The unsatisfactory effect of a bad leadership results in the attempt of sneaking out of responsibility by proclaiming agile approaches. That way the responsibility for acting is delegated to the employees. The areas have to become more flexible with self-organization. The fatal consequence is thereby overseen. As soon as the employees take over the control and find their way autonomously, the managers become obsolete – at least the middle levels. And thus the agility works smoothly at all; it needs a platform that makes the valid regulations available in a directory (see above).
Bottom line: The bureaucracy is an interconnected system, whose components become over time invisible, since too many rules were and are developed, without ever abolishing some. In order to be able to act really compliant, it is necessary to describe the existing set of rules, to check its meaningfulness and consistency, and, if somehow possible, to reduce them to what is really needed – regulating, what regulates.