Traditional management methods are falling into disuse as a new trend for agile management has emerged. This flexible form of leadership, which involves applying the principles of Agile software development to management tasks, is based on decentralized decision-making. She breaks tasks down into smaller pieces and integrates planning with execution, which her supporters say helps an organization create a mindset that helps a team respond effectively to changing needs.
Agile management has proven to be a good solution for our age of social distancing, where leaders and their geographically disparate teams must react to rapidly changing circumstances.
Managers – even if they want to – can no longer monitor their teams closely. Their employees are not physically close, and they must balance a complex set of priorities. Agile management produces benefits in two main ways: it empowers workers, and it frees leaders to focus on higher-level tasks, like strategy deepening and development. new business models.
A more difficult transition than it looks
Yet while the benefits of agility seem obvious, the shift to more flexible forms of management will come as a shock to some leaders, who have tended to keep tight control over their people and projects. Learning to let go of control can be difficult, notes Rob Doepel, a partner at consultancy Ernst & Young.
“We should all be a little more indulgent with ourselves as we go through these big transformations to operate in a very different way, because it’s difficult and it takes time and not everyone will move forward. same pace, ”he defends.
So how can leaders learn to let go and create an effective agile leadership style? Two business leaders, who spoke at the recent Innovation @ Work virtual event of The Economist, provide advice on best practices to maintain effective agile management. Here are the lessons to be learned.
1. Knowing how to be of service to others
Mark Evans, general manager of marketing and digital at insurer Direct Line, says the key to effective agile management is what is called leadership in the service of others, a philosophy in which the main objective of the manager is to serve. Rather than commanding and controlling, leaders must delegate the power to make decisions to others. According to Mark Evans, this change in behavior and mindset is probably the most difficult part of the transition to agility for business leaders.
“I went through a curve of change, where I got the idea that I wasn’t really in control of anything and that I was just facilitating and helping to prioritize and maybe set the vision. general. But, honestly, it’s really important to take this step and feel that you still have your self-esteem, ”he says.
Direct Line began its transformation journey nine years ago by leading an in-house technology team using agile methodologies. This unit became part of the core business a few years ago. Direct Line began an organization-wide consultation process last February to promote agility across the company. “It’s been quite a trip,” reflects Mark Evans, suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic has led the organization to accelerate its transformation.
According to him, there is no silver bullet for managers looking to create a culture that embraces agile working methods. However, he believes the rapid response to the pandemic has helped to highlight the connection between the way organizations treat their employees and how they then treat the company’s customers.
2. Adopt “management as a service”
Elke Reichart, digital director of travel and tourism giant TUI Group, invented his own philosophy for effective agile leadership, known as “management as a service,” which is about being available to make decisions quickly. She has used this philosophy for a few years, but specifies that it was even more applicable during the health crisis.
“I think we all have to be captains in bad weather,” she stresses. “Anyone can be a captain in good weather, but I think the health crisis demands that we all be very skilled to be captain in bad weather. And being a bad weather captain means being even more visible to our teams, colleagues, bosses and shareholders. “
Elke Reichart’s approach to “management as a service” means being ready to step in and make effective calls that will support the work of empowered agile teams. According to her, the relevance of this approach has been evident over the past 12 months, especially in her company which operates in a sector which has been severely affected by Covid-19. “What we had to do at TUI, given that we were so heavily impacted by the coronavirus crisis, was that we had to make decisions in a very short time, in a few hours or in a few days. We had to make some very drastic decisions that usually took weeks and months. As an agile leader, you have to be present, you have to be available. “
According to Elke Reichart, the swift reaction to the coronavirus pandemic has helped boost TUI’s confidence in agile ways of working. The company was already using this methodology in its product-oriented teams. The crisis, and its impact on tourism, has prompted a redefinition of priorities. “In the past we usually had an equation, for every euro invested, we generated at least two euros of commercial value – now we are more in a ratio of one to four, because obviously we are even more stringent in the prioritization. But in general, this process has also made more people at TUI realize that IT is not a cost center but a true value driver, a multiplier of activity. “
This change in perception is welcome. When she joined the group three years ago, Elke Reichart acknowledges that there was a perhaps understandable fear that the shift to agile could mean the introduction of anarchy. Today, people understand that embracing agility actually promotes accountability. “Agility makes the employee much more responsible than ever,” she says, before suggesting that companies introducing the methodology need to ensure that they match projects to business results and that tracking this process is transparent.
“We have reports that all of our teams and leaders can access at any time,” she adds. “This saves the team from providing PowerPoint for meetings, which is unnecessary work. It also gives a lot of confidence to the management team – they can always check the progress and see it in a very transparent way. “