Agile working: 6 methods for successful teams

How can ZEP help your team to utilise short time intervals effectively and focus on important tasks? Use digital support to successfully implement agile working in your team and maximise the profitability of your projects.
Agile working: 6 methods for successful teams

In the age of digitalisation and ever-increasing complexity, agile working methods are becoming more and more essential in order to be able to react flexibly to changes. Agile working and agile teams are the answer to the challenges posed by digital transformation. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the six central cornerstones of agile working and explain how you can successfully implement them in your company. We'll also take a look at how project time tracking software - such as ZEP - can help your team realise your goals efficiently.

What does agile mean? A definition.

The Latin word "agilis" means "agile, active" and is derived from "agere", which means "to perform, to act". Talcot Parsons laid the systems theory foundation for agile working back in the 1950s - long before the digital transformation - with his AGIL scheme (Adaptation, Goal Attainment, Integration, Latency). This describes the capabilities of a self-sustaining social system. A scheme that you can use today to incorporate agile working into your project business. After all, agile working takes place at various levels within your company, from agile teams and agile management through to a fully agile business organisation.

Agile working is not a vague flexibility or acceleration of work processes, but rather a structured form of collaboration that collides with traditional organisational structures, hierarchies and individual professional socialisation. The successful work of agile teams is based on six fundamental cornerstones:

Voluntariness - accepting change

Voluntary participation is crucial for successful agile working. Only if your team participates voluntarily can the joy of co-creation arise. The belief that everyone always gives their best and takes responsibility for their actions goes hand in hand with voluntariness. Team members who feel obligated or have been delegated by you as their superior are not beneficial for your company in the long term. This is because voluntariness and the will to change enable self-organisation and free you from external control.

Formulate goals & mission statements

Agile working requires clear goals and mission statements that all your team members can identify with. At company level, the corporate mission statement or purpose forms the basis from which strategies for your teams and projects can be derived. Without clear goals and mission statements, agile working descends into chaos, as nobody knows how and which goals can be achieved. It is therefore crucial to invest in the formulation of mission statements and goals, as they form the basis for agile working.

Adaptation & Communication

Agile working is an empirical process. Work results are reviewed at regular intervals, requirements are added and reprioritised. Planning is only carried out until the end of the next interval in order to be able to react flexibly to changes. This approach requires the courage to constantly scrutinise decisions. Feedback is an integral component. In contrast to "lessons learnt" at the end of a project, feedback loops are firmly anchored in the agile process. The Scrum framework defines these intervals as sprints, which last a maximum of 1-4 weeks. You discuss the results of your work in reviews and can thus optimise collaboration within the team in retrospectives. Constructive communication at eye level is the measure of all things here.

Customer centricity - customers as an integral part

If you decide in favour of an agile working process, be sure to actively involve your customers. What does that mean exactly? Well, you should analyse, understand and (if possible) anticipate customer problems and needs. Prototypes involve your customer in the development process at an early stage of the product life cycle, so that your customer has the opportunity to provide concrete feedback at an early stage. Agile teams use various methods to record, categorise and process customer needs, such as Customer journey mappinguser stories or the Jobs-to-be-done method in.

Autonomous & self-determined work

Agile working relies on small, autonomous and self-organised teams. Autonomy means that the team makes all key decisions independently. The agreed mission or goals as well as business and user requirements serve as guidelines. This form of self-organisation also means that your team takes responsibility for achieving its goals. Each member plays an active role and contributes to the achievement of objectives. Trust and clearly defined goals are the basic prerequisites for this. Autonomy and self-organisation require that all the necessary resources and skills are available in the team. This is the only way an agile team can achieve its goals independently of other teams or departments.

Value orientation - prioritise, focus, get it done

What do you want to achieve with agile working? Create concrete and measurable value! All tasks should have a clear and measurable value contribution. The value orientation is reflected in your principles, which ensure that customer and company expectations are taken into account in a balanced way.

Value orientation agile working
Customer and company expectations should be taken into account in agile working in a balanced way.

Avoid unnecessary measures and prioritise tasks - so your agile team has a common understanding of the work that needs to be done. Implementing agile working requires a rethink and a change in the mindset of your employees, especially at the beginning. After all, agile working means taking responsibility, setting priorities and saying "No!" from time to time. Transparent guiding principles and goals as well as tangible examples are crucial to promoting the mindset of your team.

Successfully introducing agile teamwork

Now that we have looked at the cornerstones of agile working, it's time to put them into practice. How can you as a manager ensure that not only the terms agility and agile teamwork remain in the room, but that a change and improvement in collaboration is actually achieved? We would like to give you six tips on how you can support your team in actively shaping and successfully implementing the process of agile working:

Tip 1: Create a common understanding

The term "agility" is omnipresent and the desire to work with agile methods is widespread, but also offers a broad basis for interpretation. It is therefore crucial to clarify in your team what ideas and expectations are associated with agility. What specific goals are to be achieved by introducing agile teamwork in your company? What specific added value does agile teamwork offer your company? Creating a common understanding is the first step. One possible approach to understanding agile teamwork is to give your team members the opportunity to react flexibly, quickly and adaptably to changing conditions and complex tasks. Your team members work independently, under their own responsibility and ideally with their own budget. In agile teams, there are no hierarchies, no team leader and only short decision-making paths. It is only envisaged and possible as an exception that the next higher decision-making authority will intervene if unsolvable problems arise that cannot be resolved at team level.

Tip 2: Close skills gaps

The enrichment of an agile team is particularly evident when it comes to solving complex problems. Therefore, put together teams with employees who have a high degree of self-organisation and can act competently and independently. Team members who need constant instructions are not suitable for agile teams. Therefore, carry out an agility competence check to assess the existing skills. The results can serve as a basis for closing existing agile skills gaps through targeted further training measures, for example.

Tip 3: Clarify the benefits

When introducing agile teamwork, the focus is on not ignoring the people - i.e. your employees - and not imposing the working methods as something they are neither able nor willing to do. It is therefore crucial to put everyone involved at the centre and position agile working methods as a means to an end for better results. Involve your employees in the entire changeover process. Be careful not to overburden your team. After all, you have a common goal - to carry out your projects more efficiently and become more successful!

Tip 4: Start with a pilot project

The introduction of agile teamwork can present you with stumbling blocks. It is therefore advisable not to start with a project whose outcome could jeopardise the existence of your company. Therefore, choose a manageable project and inform all departments about the introduction of an agile project team, especially all departments that could come into contact with this project. Every department affected should be informed and it should be clear that this agile project team will operate with its own budget responsibility and autonomy. After all, agile teamwork is doomed to failure if external influence is exerted again. You probably also feel the need to intervene via the budget and influence the team's decisions. But: Trust your team! Provided you have carried out the competence check, they have the necessary knowledge and the determination to bring this pilot project to a successful conclusion! As a manager, you must also learn to hand over responsibility. It is crucial that you as a manager show the inner willingness to allow the agile team to act autonomously.

Tip 5: Evaluate failures objectively

As you can see, you as a manager will also face challenges when implementing agile structures. However, it is crucial for the learning process to actually attribute successes in the team to the team itself. Successes (and failures) are often attributed to an individual employee. You should abandon this approach! It is essential not to individualise successes and failures, but to attribute them objectively to the team and the existing structures that are typical for teamwork. You should recognise achievements that could only be achieved through agile collaboration in your team. Do you have an "employee of the month"? Why not rename this category "Team of the Month"? This way you can emphasise the overall team performance.

Tip 6: Actively support implementation

It is crucial that you as a manager meet your employees at their individual level of agile development. To do this, you should apply different leadership styles depending on the situation and the individual, taking into account the specific context of your leadership. What does this mean in concrete terms? Well, if an employee still needs guidance and control at work, a hierarchical management style is appropriate. With a transformational approach, you lead primarily through inspiration and vision. As a coaching manager, you primarily offer help for self-help. The overriding goal is always to ensure that the team member is able to develop solutions to problems independently.

Project-orientated agile working

Agile working, especially agility in project management, is already highly valued in many project-orientated industries such as software development, engineering and construction as well as management consultancy. The implementation of this way of working is supported by methods such as Scrum, while Software solutions such as ZEP help with practical implementation and documentation. When adapting to agile methods such as Scrum, we support you with the ZEP add-on module Tickets, tasks & to-dos. This allows you to plan and manage tasks in detail.

The ZEP module plays a decisive role in the efficient realisation of your agile team goals. It enables structured planning and monitoring of tasks and to-dos, which contributes to targeted implementation. The clear assignment of tickets to projects and delegation within the team create transparency in communication and promote collaboration between all team members. This transparent way of working not only makes it easier to allocate tasks, but also helps all team members to understand their tasks in the context of the overall project.

Agile teams need to be able to react flexibly to changes. This is where the ZEP add-on module offers you the flexibility you need, as it allows you to easily adjust tasks and priorities. The integration of customer activities and feedback is also crucial. The module facilitates the creation of tickets directly from incoming emails and allows customer feedback to be seamlessly integrated into your agile work process. This not only promotes customer centricity, but also enables a quick response to customer needs.

Actively promote the self-organisation and autonomy of your team. The ZEP module serves as a tool to strengthen the responsibility of your team members. At the same time, the structured documentation enables an easily traceable history of tasks and to-dos. This is particularly invaluable in retrospective analyses and reviews to celebrate successes and learn from failures. Planning the time spent and monitoring processing at detailed task level helps to save time and improve the overall effectiveness of the team.

Please contact our support team personally if you have any questions. Or take the opportunity to visit one of our Webinars about all Functions of ZEP to find out more. Would you like to try out ZEP straight away? Here you can secure your free trial version.

Tanja Hartmann CEP

Tanja Hartmann

Content Marketing Manager at ZEP

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