You know it: You have a suggestion for improvement and you approach specialist teams or managers and nobody listens to you. That can be frustrating and as a manager you probably know the problem: You want to make your company more agile, but nobody has time.

I would like to explain in more detail what happens to individual employees when you approach them with a decision or suggestion. To do this, we imagine that our receptivity and stress level is a glass that only has a certain capacity. I illustrate this using the example of the decision: “We are now doing agile!”.

Look at the picture. Our employee (project manager) is currently slightly stressed. He has a lot to do in the project and is a little sick (therefore two stress bars). Now the management announces it: from next week you will do Scrum and will be the Scrum Master in your project.

Mental state of an employee before and after a management decision

After this decision, our employee is significantly more stressed. His health is in poor health, the project is stressful and he has to deal with the agile transformation (4 stress bars). Now the question arises: Was this the right time to announce this decision?

But one thing is clear: You can prepare for a stressed employee who no longer has time for other things. He is currently “too busy to improve”. It is therefore advisable to approach employees who have their heads free for them with suggestions and agile ideas.

Agile transformation – this is how the teams react

Now let’s look at the same representation at the team level. You can see two teams in the picture. One team is not stressed and has air because the customer is currently very calm and another team runs from escalation to escalation. You now announce to both teams: “We’ll be agile from next month!”

Mental state of two teams before and after the start of the agile transformation

Now announce the decision to both teams and notice that the stress level is significantly higher. Team 1 gives full power and can handle the agile change alongside day-to-day business. Team 2 is stressing the transformation so much that all members are very stressed and in good German “turn their heads” and oppose the change. Two of the members are even well above the stress level and call in sick. This means that the agile transformation in Team 2 may also fail.

Conclusion: Too busy to improve

The agile transformation takes strength and is usually carried out alongside day-to-day business and can overwhelm the organization. There are therefore 2 tips for you as a manager or change agent:

  • Start with teams that have low stress levels.
  • Make sure that teams with high levels of stress are given time.

Finally, I will give you two reading tips on how you can concretely tackle agile change with the help of existing frameworks.

Reading tips :

Image source: Business photo created by jcomp –

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I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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