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  • AutorenbildFriedhelm Boschert

No plans but making mistakes - the agile Team

Aktualisiert: 4. Feb. 2019


and even a lot of them in our working world. On the one hand, team members hardly take time for personal discussions face-to-face, electronic communication is prevailing. "This saves time," they say. On the other, this "saved time" is wasted again in the course of an endless succession of boring and unproductive working meetings. "Normally, no one is listening - emails are checked meanwhile," this is a very common behaviour during team meetings. Teamwork, itself, is not less contradictory. "We have to become more agile," the bosses claim and often they only mean "faster". And well-intentioned demands for "new work" and "agility" are already doomed to failure in the course of the yearly planning process that has actually remained the same for twenty years. Since it is still the basis of the old corporate control culture.


these are thus the attributes of the new working world. Whether at the office or during manufacturing: Routine tasks will be assumed by learning algorithms in programmes. Up to half of the tasks (and the jobs as well) will be replaced by machines. "Connectivity and interaction among parts, machines, and humans (please note the order!, F.B.) will make production systems as much as 30% faster and 25% more efficient …,“ BCG points out in their "Industry 4.0 – Report. And McKinsey underlines two developments that might increase speed and complexity even more clearly. "Time to Market and customer responsiveness are today's key factors of competitiveness”(McKinsey, Industry 4.0, 2015). Moreover, structural management tasks such as network coordination or complex analyses and planning will be accomplished more efficiently and faster by self-learning programmes. What is our answer? How will we organise our work, our teams? What do we have to change?


Ash Ross, cyberneticist from Stanford, answers the question, how teams and institutions should react to the complex developments that tend to become more and more unpredictable. The more unforeseeable the world is, the more variable we have to become. What we need is a variety of response patterns. Therefore, we don't require a new mindset, but we need a number of mindsets that we are able to use flexibly. This is the basis of agility and finally for the agile team. Sounds good - but how will we put this into practice on Monday morning at 8 a.m., when joining for holding a team meeting?


First, we should free improvisation from the negative image of repairing, of not being prepared. "Only losers need a plan, winners improvise," the Americans state cheekily. Improvisation does not follow a structure, even the result is not foreseeable. And just therefore, unforeseen situations can be responded flexibly. We will have to take more and more decisions faster and under uncertain conditions. Results will be less predictable. Fewer of our actions will thus be able to be planned. We will have to make use of fewer plans. Instead, we must - better, we may - improvise more.

A nightmare for control freaks! But necessary in the new working world. How will we scope with this challenge however? Can we learn it? Yes, indeed! You certainly remember: there is always a mindful solution as well. ACCEPTING is one of the important principles of mindfulness. "Accept what life offers you, in order to create something new, something better," Emiliano Ponzi, an illustrator for improvisation in GEO, formulates extremely clearly. Don't refuse unforeseen things, but accept them as a start, with curious openness. "Yes, interesting, and ..." this is how the mantra of improvisation can be. It stimulates thinking, opens, doesn't lock up, makes progress, doesn't stop. This is, by the way, also a quite important principle in the dialogues of design thinking. Discussions and meetings can thus be activated, thinking spaces are able to be opened. The team leader should however be the first to start this exercise!


Pardon? The old control freak's hair stands on end yet. Since he - as he has always done - requests justification from the responsible person first. "W h y didn't you pay more attention?" he reproaches him. Oh well, to be honest. What can be replied to such a question? Nothing reasonable. In this way, the person is fixed on past experience. He searches and digs around in the past. So, how about the other way around? Actually, ask the question in a forward-looking way: "H o w can we avoid that this will happen in the future again?" That sounds much better and develops the situation further. No one is accused, but thinking opens. And this is exactly, what it should be.

That is, by the way, not only a questioning technique. Therefore, you can create the basis for a productive culture of error tolerance within the team. Do you want that your people will not only acknowledge mistakes, but recognize structural errors as well? Do you want that errors will be dealt with honestly? Then you should abandon the old, backward-thinking control culture as fast as possible. Restart with two major principles of mindfulness. Preserve the "OPEN SIGHT OF A BEGINNER", a curious and unbiased attitude finally. This provides totally new perspectives and insights to you and your team. It is very helpful to prevent the so-called "organisational blindness", one of the most frequent error causes. And even in this case, ACCEPTANCE is key. Accept errors (which have already happened, when you hear about them ...) and use them as source of learning, as part of continuous improvement. And as process of trying solutions in a less and less foreseeable world.


If things become unforeseeable, it is often useful to view them from above, from another perspective, actually. Viewing from above, in order to be able to recognize the essential (again). This is what is often lacking in teams. "Everyone is busily working alone, we have already lost overview a long time ago," a branch employee told me recently. He did not talk about targets. He and his team knew them well. He wanted to say that the direction was not clear anymore, details blurred the vision.

In a complex world, it is more and more important to be able to recognize patterns. As Harald Katzenmair, social scientist and entrepreneur, expressed very concisely: "We don't need only big data, above all, we need rough data. Rough structures, patterns thus. Whether in case of staff development within the company, changes in customer behaviour, market shifts - from a certain distance, patterns can always be detected. Try the experiment, look at the picture. When viewing from close, you will find eight faces, only after looking from a distance, you can see the human figure. #Mindfulness offers you the ability to change the focus - tight focus, wide focus. Agile perception.

So you can see that mindfulness provides you another perspective, another access to problem-solving. And first and foremost, to tackle the problem at source. MINDFUL SOLUTIONS - there is always the mindful solution available as well.

With kindest regards,

Friedhelm Boschert

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