Agility? What it means and when I need it.

In part 1 and part 2 of our 5-part tutorial we’ve introduced you to the general ins and outs of job interviews and highlighted the importance of soft skills. Today, we look at the agile world. Working in an agile environment requires a certain mindset. Jobseekers are increasingly asked whether they are dynamic, and we find that many candidates struggle to answer. Are you unsure too? Read what Katharina van Zeller, DreiKreis co-founder and director has to say. In this five-part tutorial she shares a decade worth of expertise and experience in the field of IT-related recruitment consultancy.

Do you know agile?

Especially in the IT sector, from which working agile has evolved over the last 2 decades, companies increasingly focus on adaptability and flexible collaboration between their professionals. Buzzwords such as dynamic networks, lifelong learning, self-organisation, empowerment as well as methods like scrum are widely used, especially in project management.

The term agility comprises values, principles, techniques, and methods. These lead to a drastic departure from how we used to work. Hitherto, companies had a set framework of processes and comprehensive planning. Staff would carry these out according to fixed instructions/requirements. Companies working agile on the other hand, centre around people and their individual competencies and interactions.

Agile is a radical departure from how we used to work!

In place of long-term planning there is a dynamic process, within which tasks are described only rudimentarily. Sometimes even the target evolves continually.

Employees, instead of fulfilling allocated tasks, decide independently who does what when – outside of classic organisational structures and across departmental boundaries. Processes are broken up into individual sections, prioritised, and implemented and the entire team meets regularly to assess the current state of the project.

Decisions are made fast and carried out instantly, with the team members rather than a superior bearing responsibility. Away from the classic hierarchy, a dynamic, flat permeable structure is created with open boundaries. This requires transparent and open communication. And when knowledge is spread fast, resources can be utilised optimally.

Knowledge is shared, so is responsibility.

Agile organisations importantly have a special learning culture. Both successful and unproductive decisions are shared among the team, possibly the entire company. This is supposed to lead to the dynamic development of all stakeholders.

Changes both outside and inside the company (for example customers, market, or employee structure) can be considered early as agile individual and superordinate units adjust fast. This adaptability can help an organisation to thrive and – in extreme cases – to survive.

Do you have an agile mindset?

Are you looking for a new challenge and asking yourself whether an agile organisation would be just the ticket? There are some characteristics you should ideally have. The good news: there is no age limit for agility. Good self-organisation and initiative is called for. You should be able to define your tasks and duties yourself and put them into action reliably.

Agility has no age limit!

A good example, van Zeller explains, is the frequently used software Jira. A central pool contains all tasks, from where team members proactively pick what they want to do. “Working like this, requires a certain mindset and isn’t age related,” she says and reveals: “we interview lots of young people who haven’t got it.”

Agility is more than a buzzword. It requires different thinking. (c) DreiKreis

Working agile further requires you to dare make mistakes, learn from them, and continue developing yourself. Sharing insights that you have drawn from weaker decisions with your colleagues is expected, so that the entire team, department, or company can grow.

Agile methods you should know.

Agile methods flooding the market have grown exponentially over the last years. In order to impress your future employer, you should know the most important ones. Widely used is scrum, which you should have heard of. But you should also be familiar with Jira, Kanban, Unified Process, Design Thinking und Xtreme Programming.

Candidates applying to a company that is known to work agile, we recommend they familiarise themselves with the used methods. Even if you are a complete novice to agility: show the willingness to embrace a new mindset.

Scrum is one of many different ways to approach agility (c) DreiKreis

“You could certify as a scrum master,” says van Zeller, “or explore the many pertinent forums.” However, companies nowadays don’t usually require work experience with scrum. “Where openness and the willingness to learn are demonstrated, companies trust candidates to acquire the necessary skills.”

Be open and willing to learn.

Agile or traditional?

There are plenty employers that don’t use agile methods. “Some customers specifically search for a communicative, dynamic person, who brings an agile mindset and flexible thinking,” van Zeller says, “but lots of companies look for traditional software developers. Here at DreiKreis we match candidate and company, not only according to hard skills but also with regards to the mindset.”

Here’s what you can do on your own: carefully read the advertisement. There are clues about whether the company works dynamically. Also, certain positions typically require agility, e.g. project manager.

“Per definitionem, these need to communicate with people and bring them together. The situation is,” explains van Zeller, “quite different for developers. Check the homepage, whether scrum or other agile methods such as Kanban are used. And the younger, hipper, and more dynamic a company presents itself, the more you should watch out.” Ultimately, there’s a good fit for everyone, we can help you find it!

In part 4 of our tutorial we look at the second round. We offer helpful tips and tricks and interview a candidate, who has won the job not just with success but also with pleasure.