Why agility is revolutionising work


Do you not know how to motivate and encourage your employees? Are you as an employee fed up with doing soul-destroying work and feel that hierarchical work structures are not very creative? Do you simply not enjoy work? The Barcamp of AGILE.RUHR Camp found answers to such problems. For, at the Barcamp, it was up to employers and employees themselves to decide what subjects should in the end be discussed.

165 people meet in the Unperfekthaus in Essen on Saturday morning to hold a Barcamp. All of them curious, all of them motivated as nobody really knows what will happen. Not even the event organisers. After all, that is what’s special about a Barcamp: it is completely self-organised. It is the opposite of a conference, it’s a so-called “un-conference”. The participants meet without knowing any agenda beforehand. The session board is still empty, but it’s not long before it fills up. With coloured post-its that pool topics and key words – this mind map developed by the participants creates the entire schedule for the day. Each person positions personal topics, needs, questions and challenges in the sessions and hopes that, among the large number of people attending, there will be some who have similar difficulties or perhaps even an idea for a solution. The great thing about it? Everybody who has something to say or ask gets the space to do it. In the theme camps spread over the two days, open discussions develop, a topic is raised and then discussed – openly, honestly, enthusiastically and with a desire for change and staff satisfaction.

Anything you like but please don’t stand still!

What is the most important thing about agility? Not to stand still but to learn, adapt to the environment and develop further. Are you as an employee forever reassessing your own working methods? Do you ask yourself these questions: Where am I now? What are my options? Where do I want to be? No? But you should! For by taking a critical look at the here and now, you can optimise the products you create on a day-to-day basis. Do you as an employer measure staff satisfaction? A modem view of man and staff retention are key aspects of agile management: How should people treat each other? What motivates people? What can be done to improve the working atmosphere? How can I perhaps inspire the “loner type of employee” to work in the team and take on new challenges? There was a lively exchange of knowledge on these questions in the individual sessions. Discussions centred on topics such as “agility & me”, “agile family management”, “relaxed working”, “agile HR management“, “agility & identity” or “what does this self-organisation feel like?”. Employers were able to learn something about successful HR strategies, and employees were able to hear or learn more about the positive factors of agile working.

“Then we start a job and have to stop thinking and only do what we are told.”

The subject of agility has been gaining relevance for years now, especially in the software and IT industry: the focus is no longer on technical working methods but on people and their personalities because agile working is all about respect, giving people room to manoeuvre, responsibility and self-organisation. Markus Igendahl, agile coach at Colenet and one of the three AGILE.RUHR Camp organisers, explains why agile working methods are becoming more and more important to him: “a classic company is organised around the fact that there is a manager. In a traditional firm, for example a large company group, you have the worker bees who are told what they have to do – I think that is a little absurd. We go through school where we each have to learn for ourselves. We may then also do a degree where we have to organise ourselves. Then we start a job and have to stop thinking and only do what we are told. I think every industry that works in this way is wasting great potential. This hierarchical structure is standard for very many sectors and industries here in Germany.” That is probably the very reason why the number of participants at this event has nearly doubled compared with last year. The organisers are not only very pleased about this positive development but also about the fact that the AGILE.RUHR Camp is where many people have their very first encounter with agility.

Increasing staff satisfaction

The modern employer of today knows what is important: developing staff and people. Horst Stoffner, managing director Prosoz, and Andreas Geitner, manager and scrum master at Opitz Consulting, are taking part in the AGILE.RUHR Camp because they feel that the challenge critical to success is to focus on personality development in the company. Horst Stoffner explains: “I think it’s interesting that people are willing to give up their Saturday and Sunday to learn about agility and make this subject their topic. We introduced agility in our company five years ago and for me the Barcamp is a great platform for exchanging knowledge and ideas. Twelve of my employees are attending this year and the idea is for them to help support the topic in the company as potential multipliers.” Andreas Geitner also recognises the empathetic aspect and puts the focus on people and not on technology, which is what everything usually always revolves around in an IT environment.

Barcamp participants Alexander Gülich, Christiane Mehling, Jirka Opalka Horst Stoffner and Andreas Geitner
Barcamp participants Alexander Gülich, Christiane Mehling, Jirka Opalka Horst Stoffner and Andreas Geitner got interesting input and made exciting contacts at the AGILE.RUHR Camp (2017).


The Barcamp – a lively exchange

Christiane Mehling, product manager at a TV station, is delighted with the input from the other participants at the AGILE.RUHR Camp: “Our company is currently finding its agility path and I am surprised at how many of these things we have already achieved in the company, but also at how much we still have to learn. It all depends what people you are sitting with in the sessions and what experience they have – that’s what makes it agile: you are never finished with a topic. When you think you have mastered something, it continues somewhere else. I think agility is very important for the product we create, for the working atmosphere and for greater work satisfaction.” Other participants are also hoping for answers to problems that they can raise in sessions, exciting contacts and inspiration – just like Jirka Opalka, who works in her company in the team for agile culture: “This method of working is more fun and you have more possibilities because it is not just a question of ‘sitting in front of the computer and monotonously running through your jobs one by one’. It’s all about contact and exchanging views, you can contribute ideas everywhere. Even though I am new to the topic, I am a valuable link in the team.” At the AGILE.RUHR Camp , she learned something about “feedback culture in the company” that she would like to introduce immediately: from now on, all employees in her company will have one hour every week where they have no appointments – this hour will be used for a feedback round where everybody can get feedback from everyone else and also give feedback. As Director Agile Office at ista, Alexander Gülich also likes to drive agility forward in the company: “Each one of us faces challenges that have a lot to do with uncertainty, complexity and innovation – this is exactly where agile working comes in and promotes the development of individual personalities and work processes.”

In the Unperfekthaus in Essen, everybody got a chance to speak and actively help shape the individual sessions.
In the Unperfekthaus in Essen, everybody got a chance to speak and actively help shape the individual sessions.

The organisers would also like to encourage agile working methods – self-organisation and self-motivation are very important to Markus Ingendahl as he has very quickly noticed successes as soon as you get a team to work on their own initiative. One of the key points for Jörg Geffert is to make work steps visible: “The work steps must be visible, even with work that doesn’t actually produce a product. In a craft trade where you are constructing something, you very soon see a tangible result but in software development a great deal happens in the background. You have to talk about it. You have to learn to take responsibility.” That is exactly what the “Barcamp” makes possible: people take responsibility by demanding that the focus be on topics that interest them and that they want to discuss in a critical and inspiring dialogue.


photocredits: Ellen Hempel Fotografie, ista