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Agile through resilience

Reading time approx. 7 minutes

In a dynamic world where requirements change as quickly as the code we write, two concepts are at the heart of our success: agility and resilience. Our Agile Coaches shed light on the synergies of these two concepts and how resilience helps teams as well as organisations to be resilient and successful in the long run.

The last few years have been plagued by crises. The pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis have had an impact on our lives. Beyond global crises, there have certainly been many more personal crises for some of us - conflicts, losses, accidents, illnesses, major problems of all kinds - that have demanded more from us than we had available in terms of resources or coping strategies. The good thing is, we're still hanging in there. That means we have shown a lot of resilience. We have been resilient and adaptable, we have overcome our crises and we have learned a thing or two. This could be the end of the article - q. e. d.

But perhaps it would be wise to take a closer look and become more aware of what resilience really means.

Before we get started, one more thing: resilience building is not about avoiding crises (because that is impossible) or being invulnerable. Resilience does not develop in a vacuum, but only in dealing with crises, stresses and developmental tasks, and it is about regaining our original level of functioning.

Resilience: The ability to cope with crises and uncertainty

Resilience is the ability to overcome crises, setbacks and uncertain situations and emerge stronger. Resilient people accept reality, are solution-oriented, build strong networks, believe in their self-efficacy and focus on the future and their values. These qualities are crucial in a world characterised by VUCA - volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambivalence. Resilience cannot only be determined at the individual level. A team or an organisation/company can also be resilient, for example.

Team resilience

In a team context, resilience means that the whole team develops the ability to work together to manage crisis and uncertainty. Resilient teams are characterised by clear communication, a strong connection between team members and the ability to resolve conflicts constructively. They can adapt to change and develop innovative solutions. In addition, resilient teams have five key dynamics:

  1. psychological safety: taking risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed.
  2. reliability: trusting that everyone in the team will do quality work on time
  3. structure & clarity: clear definition of goals, roles and execution plans
  4. importance of the work: is what is being worked on personally important to everyone
  5. impact of the work: the work that is being done matters

Organisational resilience

At the organisational level, resilience is about making the whole organisation resilient to crisis and uncertainty. Organisational resilience requires a clear vision and goals that are shared by all employees. It involves the ability to anticipate and respond to risks and opportunities in the internal and external environment. A resilient organisation has an effective leadership culture that enables the organisation to remain successful even in uncertain times. It develops a culture in which values and attitudes are shared that promote adaptability and agility. It also relies on knowledge sharing, learning from experience and building resources to adapt quickly to changing environments.

How does resilience contribute to agility?

By definition, agility refers to the ability to adapt quickly to change and respond to new demands with flexibility. This approach is relevant in various fields, be it project work, business management, personal development or sports. Agility emphasises the need to continuously adapt and react quickly to changing situations, which is of great importance in a complex world. The definitional proximity or connection to resilience is already quite clear. However, it becomes clearer when we look more closely at the key components of resilience and see how they contribute to promoting agility:

Acceptance and adaptability: Resilience begins with the acceptance of reality, even or especially when it is characterised by uncertainty/unpredictability. The ability to accept means being able to face reality and understand it. Acceptance explicitly does not mean approving of everything that happens. It makes it possible to adapt to change, be it on an individual level or in a professional context, as it enables a more objective and holistic view. In an agile environment that can change quickly and is characterised by volatility and uncertainty, the ability to accept and thus adapt is invaluable.

Solution orientation and future focus: Resilient people have a solution-oriented mindset and focus on the future. They actively look for ways to deal with challenges instead of dwelling on the past. These characteristics are also crucial in teams and organisations and find expression in agile Scrum formats such as retrospective or planning.

The purpose of the retro is to reflect and continuously improve the collaboration and performance of an agile team. It is about appreciating the positive aspects and identifying the things that did not go so well. The focus is on self-reflection and finding ways to improve. The participants work together to develop concrete measures to optimise the way the team works. The retro promotes team communication, transparency and continuous adaptation to change.

During sprint planning, the team decides which tasks are to be included in the sprint and how they are to be implemented. The goals for the sprint are also set during this meeting. The meeting helps to create clarity about the work ahead and ensure that the team has a common understanding of the tasks and objectives.

Overall, both retrospective and sprint planning serve to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of agile teams. Retrospective enables continuous improvement, while sprint planning provides the basis for planning and executing the work to come.

Networks and relationships: In times of crisis, strong networks and relationships are crucial. Resilient people, teams and organisations can draw on these networks to mobilise support and resources. In agile teams, the ability to build relationships is important to becoming a high performing team. This network/relationship orientation serves on the one hand to bring expertise into the team as resources, if necessary, as well as to resolve conflicts within the team and create synergies. At the organisational level, network orientation also serves, for example, to reflect and influence the relevant environments of the organisation and to share knowledge and information.

Values and sense of meaning:

Values are crucial in a world characterised by complexity as they provide clear orientation. They are the compass and act as guidelines that bring decisions and behaviour in line with personal or shared beliefs and principles. Values define the identity of individuals, teams and organisations and shape their culture. Clear and lived values create trust and serve as a basis for decision-making and conflict resolution. They promote motivation and commitment and have a significant influence on the success and sustainability of people, teams and companies. Scrum as an established agile working method is a very value-oriented approach and relies on the values: commitment, focus, openness, respect and courage.

Conclusion: Resilience as the basis for agility in a complex world

Resilience is the foundation on which agility is built. In a world characterised by VUCA - volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambivalence - resilience and agility are inextricably linked. Resilience enables individuals, teams and organisations to navigate successfully in times of crisis or simply "just" complex environments and in the midst of uncertainty and change. It is the answer to the demands of a world that is constantly changing and where agility and adaptability are crucial.


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