Agile management – old in a new guise

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Working agile, overcoming traditional project and organizational hierarchies seem to be cool, especially for youngsters. Assumed freedom for independently picked tasks and self-organized implementation. No one is allowed to delegate or to set boundaries, everyone is responsible to help each other to improve and self-development. The last is mainly requested from senior professionals.

Quite often older team members are being perceived as unable to work in agile environments since it’s been considered that they are usually coming from waterfall organizations. Hence, they should/sometimes would like to sense intuitively how teams are working today, in addition they should set good examples.

So far, so good. But, is it really true? I don’t think so. Agile does neither mean absolute freedom, nor missing hierarchies, nor must be learned by only senior people while younger are living already agile. Every generation must build agile skills, preferably in teams. Failure acceptance on the path of self-development is part of the game. Each individual is responsible for development, there is no way to wait for others.

Let’s have a look into the agile values, what they are telling us.


Be open and curious for the New, the Unexpected. This also requires to handle unplanned topics that never came up before. This can be more easy for younger people as they might bring less experiences from similar situations than the more senior. However, being open is mainly based on individual characters which is part of every generation.

Openness leads to courage, the next agile value.


Either you are courageous or not, predisposition can be helpful at least. You can learn to be courageous: the more positive experiences made in uncomfortable situations where you needed to stretch your personal limits, the easier it will become to be open for any new situation and fear to lose control will be reduced. This is verifiable independent of age and generation.

Once this is confirmed, the next value follows consequently.


Every interaction in a society, a team or 1-to-1 requires respect. Respect for new ideas, different thoughts and mainly that the other is there to make a difference. Also this attitude is totally independent of age but mainly formed by education and society or community. This makes this value that complex, because we can’t change where we are coming from but only our individual behavior and view on others.

Changing yourself refers to the next value.


The primary goal of an agile environment is to add value. Focus is one tactic to succeed, focus on what is needed in a particular situation. Adding value to a team, requires that you predominantly need to know yourself. Hence the need to focus on you, your attitudes, your knowledge and goals. Usually, it’s said that older people are more patient which might be helpful for self-reflection. However, I met many people of different ages with high self-confidence in agile environments who also rate others, unfortunately very often as worse and less „perfect “.

All of you experienced in agile management will now raise your brow since this behavior is not at all following agile. Nothing is final/perfect in an agile environment – all is in change to stay flexible for the new, unexpected.

And here is where the 5th value joins the game.


Agility assumes that everyone is committed to provide the best solution. Does this only relate to agile businesses? Every individual is usually committed to the best result, even for creating an adorable birthday cake. In complex environments it’s just more visible when someone in a team is bringing less commitment. Everyone is required to fully take responsibility for the task chosen so that the final product can be ready and usable. If there is only one in the team less committed, the entire team will suffer. Taking responsibility, so being committed, leads also in detecting individual failures and the actions needed for improvement. Missing success is not always the others‘ fault but often a bit by each individual in the team – sometimes more, sometimes less. See also respect and focus.


In a time where globalization is still under process and new, digital work is being created, it’s essential to at least consider new working models. Agile management will cause disruption. Hence, it’s recommended to take small and gently steps toward it. At first hand, you need to understand the current situation of a company but even more about each individual in the organization. There are many helping tools, such as the Agile Affinity Model which uncovers unconscious assessments and concerns to be discussed amongst the team.

The results should be prioritized and broken into snippets for immediate implementation by small teams. Scrum, Kanban or other agile methods can provide helpful frameworks. However, the organizations’ characteristics will define which of those methods might fit the best. Some questions can help to identify: Are your processes already transparent? Are there already some agile methods in place? How deep is the agile knowledge? How fast can value be produced? You can either get first insights either online or by such a service provider.


I tried to use open ratios, since every society consists of agile people but also those who prefer living in pre-given environments. I don’t believe in right or wrong, every individual should have the freedom to choose how to live. Only than sustainable, healthy and successful societies will remain. Every individual can learn from each other, independent of age, race, gender, etc.

Following these thoughts, I believe that also so called agile companies should randomly review their agile health related to the agile values. Agility also means to learn from each other, accept news/new people and to consistently work on improvements. And this relates to youngster as well as to oldies.

August 15th, 2018 by