In order for companies to successfully cope with unknown, changing challenges, they must be able to adapt strategies, structures and processes to the actual circumstances at short notice. To keep dynamics and stability in balance in a changing environment in such a way, that the business mission can be fulfilled in the long term, requires a new way of thinking and working at all levels of the company. Agility is asked for.
The origin of agility lies in the systems theory of organisations of the 1950s. According to this, the functionality of organisations is based on the AGIL -scheme : Adaption (the ability to react to changing external conditions), Goal Attainment (define and pursue goals), Integration (creating and securing cohesion and inclusion), as well as Latency (maintaining fundamental goals and values)
The concept of agility was further developed in three directions:
1. Agile manufacturing
The concept, which emerged in the 1990s, is based on a quick product development (Simultaneous Engineering), multi-functional teams and the continuous improvement of the production process. The idea if industry 4.0 is also based on this approach: processes are interrupted and adapted, projects are repeatedly restarted, taking for example changed customer wishes and market requirements into account; processes and projects can also be questioned and eliminated, or terminated.
2. Agile software development
Since 2001, according to the manifesto for Agile software development, the individuals and interactions are super-ordinated to processes and tools: working software is more important than comprehensive documentation, the collaboration with customers more important than agreed contracts, reacting to changes more important than following a plan. The incremental delivery of results enables feedback and correction. A lean method that is widely used in this context is Scrum.
3. Agile organisation
Agile organisations are based on transparency, dialogue, trust, freedom of decision-making and short channels for feedback. Knowledge is openly shared, mistakes are constructively addressed, and status symbols are eliminated. Employees are involved in personnel planning and staff development is not just based on specifications, but also on "peer feedback" from the teams. The agile organisation does not only refer to production processes or software development, but focuses on the transformation of company divisions or the entire company.
In order to develop and strengthen agility within the company, the following aspects have to be considered:
- Creating framework conditions for agile approaches
- Focussing on results, not processes
- Creating a corporate culture, that allows errors
- Encourage the strengths of employees.
- Building trust among employees
- Delegate responsibility to employees