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Created on 05.08.2019

Agile working also means agile management – a progress report

If a company systematically tackles the challenges of digitization, the style of management changes along with the working methods. Marius O. Dufaux, Head of Software Technology and Process at PostFinance, is leading his team into the agile world. Here’s his progress report.

Change for teams and management

Although we are implementing the changes slowly and gradually, agile working is a change – not just for the teams, but also the management who perform the role of transformer in this environment. They no longer act as bosses authorized to issue instructions, but instead see themselves much more as servant-leaders. Their job is to inspire their team as an enabler, supporter or coach, to eliminate any obstacles and to empower the team to perform its tasks. A key requirement is putting people at the centre and trusting their wide-ranging capabilities. 

Coaching instead of supervising

I also exemplify agile management – or at least try to. This was initially related to certain doubts about their own function. Agility ultimately gives the teams greater autonomy and room for manoeuvre, but also more responsibility and decision-making powers. I have said goodbye to my previous job as a supervisor and controller and instead taken on a completely different set of tasks – I support my team in gradually moving towards self-organization and encourage an open and constructive approach to mistakes so that the team has the opportunity to assume risk and constantly improve. I also consistently encourage learning and the exchange of knowledge in the team and beyond team boundaries – for example, through communities of practice (CoPs). This means there’s no longer any room for lone wolves. We are all invited and encouraged to network – whether as individuals or as a team. Closer cooperation in interdisciplinary teams not only helps the team groove, but also broadens your own horizons and enables you to take on new first-rate roles – such as product owner, delivery team lead or solution architecture owner, to name but a few. 

Smaller stages, faster response time

My experience with agile teams has shown me that agility is not hype but rather the best way to overcome the current challenges facing us. In IT, for example, we are required to deliver software more frequently and more rapidly. We now work in smaller steps to reduce the risk of mistakes while also giving employees greater implementation routines. The long-term requirements are prioritized jointly by various authorities, broken down, transparently presented and planned medium-term so that the team can implement them in even shorter iterations. In contrast to conventional projects, this procedure opens up the opportunity to respond to key customer feedback more quickly or to even abandon a project and invest the capital and energy released differently if it is not going to meet the customer requirement.

Losing track of the overall picture? No problem – that’s all part and parcel of it!

As an agile transformation leader, it can be good to be taken aback by the momentum of the team and feel as though you are losing track. That’s not a bad thing, as you know things are going really well in an agile team when the coach is not involved in every decision, but is instead just called upon for advice when necessary. I’ve now learned to deal with ‘not knowing’ and to trust that employees are giving their all with the collective strength of the team. The key elements of agile management are providing leeway, asking questions along the way and bestowing trust.  

My basic recipe for agile management

If I had to jot down a basic recipe for agile management, it would be called ‘People first!’ and contain the following ingredients:

  • 1 dose of trust and empathy
  • 3 dl of courage mixed with self-organization
  • 500 g of empowerment, inspiration and support for employees during the change
  • 6 tablespoons of room for experiment
  • 1 portion of mistakes allowed spiced with fun

and for dessert a large piece of reflection and learning.

About Marius O. Dufaux

Marius O. Dufaux

Marius O. Dufaux is Head of Software Technology & Process at PostFinance, a trained coach and passionate transformation evangelist. He sees major benefits in the agile philosophy for PostFinance Ltd and promotes and advocates its fundamental values and practices. 

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