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The Benefits of Agility in a Crisis


The Benefits of Agility in a Crisis

In this article, Christoph Holle identifies a commonly missed factor when dealing with a crisis.

Over the last few days and weeks I have read many high-quality articles on leadership in times of crisis and my first reaction was ‘everything that should be said has been said’: reflections, practical help, innovative ideas.

But on second glance it felt like something was missing. I read a lot of reflections about individual leaders, on their individual capabilities, their emotional intelligence, and their decisions; all very valuable and yet, at the same time, it seemed like a renaissance of the “leader” – a typical instinct in a crisis.

Questions rose in my head: where is agility in the crisis, where are self-managed teams, leadership beyond the individual leader? Are they superfluous? Harmful? In a crisis of their own? Or are they helpful? I soon became tempted to initiate a debate with a few of my own ideas. Because, for me, agile and self-managed teams are especially helpful in the current climate, forming crucial leadership elements as they provide structural options to react in a crisis, leveraging the many.

A central component of the current crisis is that many of its effects on individual companies are uncertain, unpredictable and impossible to plan for. How long will the measures be in place and how will they be overturned? How are your employees dealing with the situation? How are your customers reacting? How does everyone work together when so many are working remotely or in different shifts?

This uncertainty (“VUCA2“) is actually a very typical context for self-managed, agile processes and structures:

Decentralised decisions enabling immediate reactions specific to the situation.

Small teams that can network well in such situations, can focus on specific topics and working rhythms and in which everyone can contribute with their own specific talents and abilities.

Small teams, in which the individuals take care of each other – both emotionally and with subject matter expertise – and therefore leadership tasks are better distributed.

Creativity, testing and trial and error, because you need to innovate and have no idea if and how a solution works.

Delegation & distribution of tasks to enhance leadership skills: discovering and integrating existing skills is faster than changing individuals.

institutionalised learning within the teams – immediately from the experience and applied to action.

Key points include:

  • Objections to agility

  • Agile sprint mode

  • Clear delegation boundaries

Read the full article, Agility in a Crisis, on