I have been asked lately about strategies of agile change and both managers in strategy-finding as students in the thesis want to be able to grasp them better. I can reassure you in the first step. This “agile” is not a new witchcraft or calls for a fundamentally new strategy.

Agility is in the rough nothing more than any other change you have implemented in the company for years. So you can also introduce agility with the currently known classic change models. Almost every model has its origins in the deliberations of Kurt Lewin, who in 1943 classified a change into three phases. Basically, there are two forces in organizations:

  • own security aspirations and habits that demand the preservation of the status quo
  • new technologies, executives new competitors who demand change

Kurt Lewin then discovered in 1947 that a change only takes place when the force of the need for change is stronger than that of habit. In doing so, employees go through roughly three phases:

  • Thawing: In the thawing phase, in which the pressing forces gain over, after a shock of the employees starts to perceive the change.
  • Change: Changes are made during the move phase and the new is tried.
  • Freeze: By the third phase we mean the re-establishment and acclimatization to the new situation.
Change Model Lewin
Change model according to Lewin (own representation)

These three phases have been specified by numerous authors. An example of this is Kotter’s Change Model. You can see this in the following figure and I use this model to show how agility can be introduced. You will also find two reading tips for an alternative strategy as well as a practical example.

Reading Tip: Practical Example: Introduction of Agility Reading
Introduction of Agility according to Rogers Model

Kotter’s Change model (own illustration according to Kotter)

1. Feeling of urgency

The first step is quite simple. You have to see that there is an urgency in the company for change. Examples include redundancies, efficiency problems or even loss of revenue. The following applies: Where there is no urgency, usually nothing is changed in the company. Proactive changes are unfortunately difficult to initiate (quote: “Why? We’re fine!” or “We have more important topics”). So, in the first step, present this urgency to top management.

2. Building a leadership coalition

Now you also need the leaders on your side. In my view, this is the most important step, as managers need to support and implement change. If you don’t have this support, you actually need to start because you don’t have resources or important decisions without the department and team leaders. Therefore, talk to all managers and convince you of your plans.

3. Developing a vision of change

Develop a vision for change with key stakeholders and ensure a high level of commitment on the executive floor. To do this, you need a workshop with all decision-makers and you need to involve each important stakeholder in the vision development.

4. Communicating vision

Now you need to communicate in the form of blogs, word of mouth or what I also often see are posters the change to all employees. It’s all about doing marketing for your vision!

5. Removing obstacles

Obstacles such as sceptics or risks must now be eliminated. For this, you need management on the one hand and agile coaches on the other, or act as a coach yourself. In the event of technical risks, you should approach the respective IT architects. In this step, you proceed quite classically using coaching, escalations and technical risk management.

6. Setting short-term goals

In this phase, you rely on so-called quickwins, as the patience of the important decision-makers is usually finite and the motivation increases if you can already show success in the short term. Examples include: introducing dailys or measuring customer satisfaction/employee satisfaction before and after agile change.

7. Consolidating achievements

Now it is important to carry the successes into the company. But how can this be achieved? My tip is: Ask your colleagues: Please keep telling it and write the successes in the internal company blog or an email to all employees. Your successes must be visible! After each retrospective I moderate, I ask: “Please tell your colleagues how great it was here!”

8. Anchoring change in culture

Now it is also important to maintain the change permanently and to make it routine. You will notice that you like to fall back into the old pattern. So look like a kind of “super-teacher” meticulously to ensure that dailys, retrospectives and much more will continue to be carried out months later. My scrum master coach told me:“It’s important that we continue to work agile even after the agile coach has left and it doesn’t mean puh at last the guy is gone and we can work normally again.”

Conclusion: Agility and Kotter

Agility is not a witchcraft and can be introduced using numerous methods. Of course, the way to get there is hard, but the methodology of introduction is often little different from other changes. I think the Kotter model is really great for this. Finally, I would like to summarise the important points and make them available to you as a list:

  1. Awaken a sense of urgency!
  2. Win important decision-makers!
  3. Develop a vision and strategy for change!
  4. Tell each of them!
  5. Secure freedom of action!
  6. Ensure short-term success!
  7. Achievements must be visible!
  8. Don’t let up!
Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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