We are in a complex environment with rapid and profound changes, which in the current literature are understood as the concept of the VUCA world (Vulture 2016). According to Petry (2016, p. 11), an essential driver of these changes is the exponential technological development, which is described, among other things, with the keywords “digital transformation”, “digital age” or “digital change”.

In Germany, economic growth is mainly driven by corporations and medium-sized “traditional enterprises”, which are an important support due to their innovative capacity and technology competences (Ludwig et al. 2016). Behrendes et al. (2016) have found that current traditional approaches in such traditional companies are not always optimal in the context of digital change. For example, Arnold (2016) recommends the values of these traditional companies, i.e. their focus on sustainable company growth, long-term and close customer and supplier relationships, and the satisfaction of their employees, to be successful in moving into the digital age. The major challenge of this change is the conflict of objectives between the long-term strategy of traditional companies and the high speed and complexity of innovations and change processes of digital change (Köffer & Urbach 2016).

Geissler (2016) sees an approach to respond to the aforementioned “VUCA” characteristics of digital change in increasing a company’s ability to act flexibly and quickly. Urbach and Ahlemann (2016) also see increased agility as an important prerequisite for digital change in traditional companies.

Concepts to promote agility in companies are already numerous in academic literature and many “agile” case studies can be found in fast-growing technology startups that are pushing themselves into the market of traditional German companies with agile methods (Oesterle 2016). However, the applicability in “traditional companies” is still insufficiently clarified, as there is no comparable change in startups and therefore no transferability can be guaranteed (Oesterle 2016). For this reason, this research focuses on agility both in the context of the digital transformation of traditional German companies.

Arnold (2016) recommends concentrating on the important areas of companies, because not all areas need to be changed forcibly in the context of digital change and certainly many areas will continue to be successful without increased agility. The comparison of current practical and overarching frameworks such as Holacracy (Robertson 2015), Management Y (Brandes 2014), evolutionary organisations (Laloux 2016), complexite testicles (Pfläging 2015) and Management 3.0 ( Appelo 2010) shows a focus on the structure, leadership, work, environment, personnel processes and culture of companies. However, the aspect of culture is included in each of the sub-items and is therefore not examined individually. In addition, there are numerous other specialized frameworks (Figure 1) that are grouped under the keywords Digital/Agile Leadership, Work 4.0, NewWork, FutureWork, Agile HR, VUCA, etc. Thus, the consideration of agility in traditional companies is limited to the above-mentioned areas.

Research   question: What impact does digital change have on the agility of IT companies in the selected areas of tension in work, leadership and organizational development.

Read more about the digital transformationor participate in   the agility roundtables.

Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

Appelo, J. (2010). Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders. Boston: Addison-Wesley Professional.

Arnold, H. (2016). Digitisation of the management of the group. Guided Tour + Organization, 5, 330-336.

Berendes, K., Kumpf, J., & Delarue, M. (2016). Strategic Human Resources Planning and HR Analytics. HMD Practice of Business Informatics, October(5), 10.

Bölzing, D. (2016). Digital transformation. Leadership + Organization, 2, 91-99.

Brandes, U., Gemmer, P., Koschek, H., & Schültken, L. (2014). Management Y (Vol. 53).

Geissler, P., & Kruse, P. (2015). The connected company. Norderstedt: Books on Demand.

Grandpierre, D. A., Segle, P. D. T., & Zeiner, D. R. (2016). E-Health – Digital Leadership. Pharmind, 78(7), 939-948.

Köffer, S., & Urbach, N. (2016). The digitization of knowledge work – recommendations for action from business informatics research. HMD Practice of Business Informatics, 53(1), 5-15.

Laloux, F. (2015). Reinventing Organisations. Munich: Vahlen Verlag.

Ludwig, T., Kotthaus, C., Stein, M., Durt, H., Kurz, C., Wenz, J., … Wulf, V. (2016). Working in SMEs 4.0 – SMEs in the area of tension of digital change. HMD Practice of Business Informatics, 53(1), 71-86.

Oesterle, H. (2014). Business or Life Engineering ? HMD Practice of Business Informatics, 51(November), 744-761.

Petry, T. (2016). Digital Leadership: Successful leadership in times of the digital economy. Munich: Haufe Verlag.

Pfläging, N., & Hermann, S. (2015). Complexittestes: Clever ways to (re)revitalize companies and work in complexity. Munich: Redline Verlag.

Robertson, B. (2015). Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World. New York: Macmillan USA.

Urbach, N., & Ahlemann, F. (2016). The knowledge workplace of the future: trends, challenges and implications for strategic IT management. HMD Practice of Business Informatics, 53(1), 16-28.


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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