The issue of agility does not stop at any form of business at the moment. In addition to start-ups, a lot of large corporations as well as SMEs are now also taking care of the restructuring of work and organisation. But whether it’s a modern business start, the transition to an attractive employer or the competitive advantage over the competition, the workforce does not always follow suit. But how does that come about?

Why do many employees initially turn away from agile methods?

Initially, it is usually the well-known problem of “change”. Especially MA, who have been working on a certain and fixed principle for a long time and have coped well with it, are only less willing to leave their comfort zone. Even if agile methods promise real added value and give the employee more freedom to develop and self-organize, not everyone is equally willing to invest the necessary effort. In addition, all workers are different. So while one MA likes to organize itself and take care of tasks, another needs significantly more guidance. It is not uncommon for companies to have parts of the workforce that want to work in the classic top-down principle according to predetermined to-do lists. Especially these MA are usually difficult to convince of a change.

In addition, agility often looks like this in many companies: “Be agile now!” or “the department needs to become more agile!”. Employees are therefore ordered to a complete change of way of working without implementation tools and without background. The employees often do not know what exactly these statements mean or how they can be implemented in concrete terms. Finally, while some are more curious and motivated to rise to the new challenge, other parts of the workforce eventually move to total rejection and acceptance.

But what can be done as a leader against this resistance?

Can agility be commanded?

Of course, companies can simply present a new work and organizational structure to their employees and order their implementation and compliance. So the question that arises much sooner here is:

Does it make sense to want to command agility?

Certainly not. Agility thrives above all on commitment and conviction. Commanding agility and thus going against the will of the employees will eventually meet with resistance. And thus finally lead to a rudimentary implementation or to the complete failure of the strategy change, as the following graphic reveals.

Agility is a mindset – not a command!

Because much more than a new and modern form of organization, agility describes a mindset. So the attitude of each individual employee as well as his convictions and most importantly also: his experiences. And this often leads to a problem: companies that compulsively want to squeeze the stamp of agility on themselves. This is because they often accept bad experiences of their own workforce using agile methods. This often denies employees the opportunity to put their own initial shyness away on their own. So you don’t get the chance to befriend yourself with agility and the associated methods. But this is the only way to create a mentality in the company. This is one in which every single MA ultimately recognizes the added value of agile methods.

But if commanding agility doesn’t work, what are the options?

First and foremost, it is certainly very important to communicate agility and not to present the workforce with a fait accompli. In addition, agile methods should eventually be introduced slowly and gradually. It may be useful to get support from an expert during the realization. Employees should also be prepared for the changes in the form of trainings and meetings accordingly and promptly.

Managers should always be in touch with their workforce during this implementation phase in order to gather feedback and identify and resolve problems or resistance as quickly as possible. After all, if the manager manages to deprive his employees of the often strongly expressed fear of change, the first step is usually already taken in the right direction.

In the end, as a leader, you can also support by acting as a role model and also by practicing things like a culture of error. With the right orientation and the tolerance of mistakes, it is often much easier for the individual MA to engage in the change.

In order for everyone to be able to pull together, it is also extremely important that goals and guiding principles are communicated in a clear and transparent manner within the company.

Tip: Read my book: SMEs in digital transformation at Springer Gabler orbook me for a lecture.

Gender note: I have used the male form for easier reading. If no explicit distinction is made, women, miscellaneous and men as well as people of any origin and nation are always meant. Read more.

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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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