Agile, Scrum and Design Thinking are nothing but speech bubbles now!

Agile, Scrum and Design Thinking are nothing but speech bubbles now!

For many employees the once highly acclaimed concepts of Agile, Scrum, Design Thinking and FedEx days have lost their appeal. Instead, companies therefore need to develop many more methods that fill their employees with enthusiasm for the new, creative working world. It’s time for “Smart Culture”!

Three management trainers who had worked together in a company years ago met by chance at a seminar hotel near Stuttgart. They hadn’t seen each other for a long time, but the familiarity and openness they once shared was still there. All three were working on behalf of different companies regarded as trendsetters in Germany in the management field. All these companies had the concepts Agile, Scrum, Design Thinking and FedEx days in their repertoire, but were searching almost in desperation for methods to manage the digital transformation, i.e. ways to instil enthusiasm in employees for the new, creative working world.

Around 100 books have been written about the various methods in the last five years. Every innovative magazine has described them repeatedly. A whole training branch has sprung up where everyone can become a Scrum Master, Agile Coach or Design Thinking Expert. Consulting firms such as it-agile GmbH in Hamburg have even named their company after the product. And the consultancy department of the Haufe Group in Freiburg, which, in its own words, wants to introduce democracy to German companies, appears to regard agility as a miracle weapon.

Many concepts have exhausted their motivational power of the new

However, despite all the hype, the appeal of the new methods appears to have worn off. This became clear to us when we chatted with other trainers over dinner and when seminar participants reported how concepts once regarded as advanced in organisations are now being parodied by managers, “When managers don’t know what to do, they trot out the line ‘now you need to take an Agile approach’!”, and “when the team is not working, they say let’s have a team meeting and call it Scrum!”, or “When a project has been set up wrongly, then they try to save it at the last minute using the Design Thinking creative method.”

In short, these concepts have frequently exhausted their motivational power of the new that enables change, creativity and innovation to be introduced into organisations. Agile is now a term that is as soft as butter. It stands for everything and nothing. Scrum and Design Thinking are used incorrectly in team development and in project management and frequently waste more resources than they create in added value.

Cultivate employees’ enthusiasm for the new

Apart from the flowery descriptions of methods, many books and articles on management methods are often lacking an evaluation of the benefits. The management legend Peter Drucker summed this up by saying, “What you can’t measure, you can’t manage!”

However, anyone working with these models also has to be able to prove what they can do! The aims of Agile Management and Scrum are to introduce more individual responsibility, self-efficacy and, above all, more self-organisation into companies. In our book “Laterales Management – das Erfolgsprinzip für Unternehmen im digitalen Zeitalter” we show thirty companies who are achieving these goals. However, none of these companies focus on the management methods described above. Rather, these thirty companies have succeeded in generating high added value and in cultivating their employees’ enthusiasm for the new, so that more individual responsibility, self-efficacy and, in particular, more self-organisation is in fact achieved. Particularly more self-organisation actually makes “smart culture” a success.

Supporting the introduction of individual responsibility, self-efficacy and especially more self-organisation in companies means working with concepts that do not run after worthless phrases, but rather listen to the people in organisations. After all, the people who are supposed to take individual responsibility are the ones who can best judge which management ideas actually work.