An analysis

The German Duden dictionary defines hype in three ways:

  • particularly spectacular, intoxicating advertising (that causes euphoric enthusiasm for a product)

  • a deception carried out for the sake of publicity

  • a wave of superficial excitement

These criteria serve well to describe the agility hype.

  1. Spectacular, intoxicating advertising that causes euphoric enthusiasm for a product
    The concept of agility originated in software engineering, where it had gradually developed throughout the course of many years. Initially, this mainly meant testing, learning and adapting. Over time, agile approaches evolved, and an agile mindset was established.
    With the Agile Manifesto and the Scrum method, the concept of agility spread to other areas. Publications by famous agile pioneers in the software industry had a spectacular, intoxicating advertising effect far beyond the world of IT. Enthusiasm continues to be impressive. Is this the solution for the challenges of our time?
  2. A deception carried out for the sake of publicity
    Savvy consultants took advantage of this enthusiasm and started to sell agile methods as quickly effective instruments. Customers were buying optimistically. The most impressive examples thereof are glorious events where agile hype superstars – often referred to as Agile Evangelists – advertise the benefits of agile solutions. This is where deception comes into play. Not everything labeled ‘agile’ is actually agile. It takes some in-depth examination to properly identify the difference.
  3. A wave of superficial excitement
    Both on a customer as well as a consultant level, this examination is often conducted only superficially. This leads to a rather mechanistic application of agile methods that does not consider the underlying fundamental principles. With much ado, companies announce their agile transformation. After a while, all that’s left is disappointment or even cynicism.

Down-to-earth agility

Are agile methods just for software nerds? Do they lead to a dead end if universally applied? Is there no future for agility in companies? My answer to these questions is clearly no. We are currently experiencing a certain disenchantment after the initial hype. And that’s good. Only with a clear vision, a critical, differentiated approach and a holistic understanding can we assess which approaches are actually valid.

Don’t fall for the hype

I’ve put together a quick guide for you to avoid falling for the hype with all its disappointments.

Consider agility as a means to an end

Agility is not the solution. It’s only the path. It helps you to consistently and sustainably create results that focus on customer benefits. The question of “Why do we even need agility?” should therefore be answered before choosing appropriate approaches. The higher purpose and strategic orientation of a company provide the framework for this decision.

Adopt an agile mindset

Think about which attitudes and mindsets will be required to make your company agile. Are your current principles very different from that? If so, you will need to specifically work on changing them. This change may involve substantial effort and time, but it will create a fertile breeding ground for agile methods.

Use the right dose

Agile approaches work well for complex, uncertain and highly dynamic situations. Beware of trying to apply agile methods everywhere and anytime. Learn to evaluate situations first.

Avoid blueprints

Examine carefully which agile methods are appropriate for your company. Don’t be blinded by famous names. What matters is your individual situation, not some glamorous best practice example..

Create framework conditions

Agile work is based on cross-functional, self-managed teams. Your job as a leader is to provide the right framework conditions for these teams. This may involve creating purpose, structures to facilitate implementation, as well as processes and practical knowledge within your team. You will need to work toward a common goal.

Lead by example

Examine your own mindset. Can you question the status quo? Are you ready to let go and trust your teams? Can you accept leadership as a service-oriented role? Are you willing to hand over the power of decision-making?


Replace hype by common sense

Bottom line: Agility requires acumen and common sense. Use your judgment when it comes to agile transformation. With the right mindset, agile approaches can create valuable and highly useful results – off the beaten track of hypes and magic bullets.