New Way of Working

Agile Hacks: Ten impulses for a fresh way of working 

A breath of fresh air instead of old routines, detoxing your own way of working, getting impulses to start the year with new energy: The following agile hacks are ten “minimally invasive” tricks that we can use to challenge and change our thinking and actions. The basis of these tricks are the “agile values”: openness, simplicity, courage, commitment, focus, respect, feedback and communication.

We are convinced: Agile approach is exactly the right thing to do in times of constantly changing framework conditions, in which we sometimes get nowhere with planning. And right now, the circumstances are more unpredictable than ever before. 

Hack #1: leave it out

A large part of our daily work consists of things that we have to do because someone at some point determined it. That may have had its reasons. But maybe it's time to question some of the time wasters.

The hack:

Ask yourself, “What can I (or what can we) leave out?” It could be a rule deadline, an annoying form with 100 useless fields to fill out. Or a rule that everyone follows. Or a process. The exciting question is, “What happens when I stop doing it?” Just try it out. If nothing negative happens - get rid of it.

Hack #2: everybody is giving their best

Who hasn't experienced this? A meeting is about to begin, perhaps on a critical topic. And the other participants? It's never really worked out well with them. That can't really work out... can it? It's really amazing how much your own attitude can contribute to the success of a meeting.

The hack:

Clean yourself up internally before you enter the room and make two basic assumptions:

1. Everybody is giving their best

2. Everybody is acting to the best of their knowledge and belief

Maybe this time it will be different?

Hack #3: ROTI 

Your working time is valuable! And everything you do in this time has a value. If you keep this in mind, you will probably come to the conclusion that not everything has the same value. The hack: ROTI = “Return on time invested” is whether the time you invested, for example in a meeting, was worth it. “Was I just able to add value here or was there a benefit to me/my work?”

If you're in the negative, you probably could have provided more value somewhere else. Draw your conclusions and take responsibility for your time and that of your colleagues. An ROTI can also be done very well together as a team and talk about the reasons for differing assessments.

Hack #4: prototyping

"Fail fast" is what the agiles say. This means: If you're going to fail, fail early, so that not much time and effort has gone into the idea. If you gather feedback on your idea as early as possible, you can also assess early on whether it's worth pursuing the approach further.

The hack:

Faster, more creative and often more efficient than a completely thought-out concept on many slides is a prototype. This can take different forms and represents the basic function of your idea. It can be a sketch or a very simplified, tinkered (yes, real!) model of your idea. Quickly show your prototype to a future user and ask, "What do you think?" 

Feedback Tip: Listen carefully now!

Hack #5:  Keep, drop, try

You can also give yourself feedback from time to time and specifically question a procedure. A good occasion is, for example, the completion of a more complex task or the achievement of an interim goal. You should consider a manageable period of time.

The hack:

Look in the rearview mirror, ask yourself three questions, and write down your answers:

1. what of what I did worked well? This is what I want to keep doing. (Keep)

2. what of what I did I don't want to do in the future because it didn't work? (Drop)

3. What would I like to try to change about what I have been doing? (Try)

This can also be done very well in a team!

Hack #6: celebrating mistakes

Thomas Edison is reported to have said, “I have not failed. I now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb.” Well, it worked out in the end. If you can celebrate yourself for a mistake or a wrong decision (after the fact), you're laying the groundwork for an environment that's conducive to experimentation.

The hack:

Create a small space on the wall in your office (you can also do this virtually, of course). Every time you have dared to do something that didn't work, you stick a note there with your learning. And now you convince your colleagues to join in and share their experiences. Only now does it get really exciting. Let's start a new learning culture!

Hack #7: prioritize

Tasks pile up on your desk and in your inbox. Everything is equally important, what should you start with? Agile works with a backlog, which is a repository of tasks. Consistency is required here.

The hack:

Put the tasks in an order based on defined criteria. For example, put on your customers' glasses: What provides the greatest benefit for the customer? Internal customers are also customers! So this goes right to the top of the backlog. And now it's time to work through the tasks - one after the other and not at the same time! Are new tasks suddenly added? In regular intervals, e.g. weekly, you reprioritize the backlog and can also sort in new tasks. Stick to your criteria.

Hack #8: not yet „final“?

We often spend what feels like an eternity tinkering with the perfect result. But we already have a working solution at the start. “Perfect” takes a long time and is not always absolutely necessary. Often, a less perfect solution also serves its purpose: It already provides a benefit for the customer and allows us to get feedback on the solution.

The hack:

Do not think in terms of finished solutions but in terms of working solutions! Not the “final” version is the goal, but a version that fulfills the essential functions. From now on, constantly develop your result and adapt it to changing conditions.

Hack #9: question of sense

Sometimes you get to thinking. Why is this (stupid) task on me? Actually, I don't enjoy this or that at all. Somehow I lack the motivation.

The hack:

Ask yourself once in a while and as regularly as possible the question: Why am I here? Why am I not somewhere else? Quite difficult. But it will certainly lead to interesting answers from which you can draw your conclusions.

Hack #10: get out of the silo

One thing is clear: You are a specialist in what you do and you can do it really well. Depending on your skills, you will be given exactly the right tasks. However, one characteristic of agile teams is that they combine different knowledge and are composed in an interdisciplinary way. This means that the team members have the great opportunity to get to know other perspectives and learn from each other.

The hack:

For once, consciously take on a task that does not belong to your original area of work and thus gain new experience. You expand your knowledge horizon and can act across topics. You broaden your horizons and can combine your specialist knowledge with new aspects.