Does agility require recognition?

In the latest edition of the launchlabs podcast, social philosopher and business ethicist Dr Dana Sindermann and launchlabs Managing Partner Dr Simon Springmann examine agility and recognition. Together with podcast host Laura Chiesa, they elaborate on what lies behind the terms and how agility and recognition are connected. The episode was recorded in German.

Why agility?

Dr Simon Springmann: Why and for what purpose should we concern ourselves with agile ways of working? Just because everyone’s talking about it these days and others are doing it too, or because we don’t want to be labelled old-fashioned? That would be a weak argument. From our point of view, there are a number of far better reasons for adopting agility.

To sum it up in one word: Complexity. We live in a world in which we have to deal with increased complexity and accelerating, permanent change – most experts and practitioners agree. 

What are the drivers of this complexity? Two main causes are the megatrends of globalization and digitalization. This will certainly come as no surprise. You can find these two factors in almost every second slide deck. Moreover, they also shape our everyday life: we travel to distant countries and enjoy our holiday reading on an eReader. Globalization and digitalization have led to increasing competitive pressure and rapidly changing customer expectations. This results in a need to be faster, more efficient, more flexible and more innovative than ever before. This poses enormous challenges for companies and their current structures.


What is agility?

Dr Simon Springmann: Commonly, we understand agility as the ability to adapt quickly to changing conditions. Agility is often used synonymously with flexibility, speed, etc. In addition, agile typically means being proactive and innovative, i.e. not just adapting, but being one step ahead of the competition and actively shaping trends. 

In our view, the “agile family” includes a number of frameworks such as Design Thinking, Lean Start-Up, Scrum, scaled forms of Scrum (such as SAFe, Nexus and others), or Kanban.


What are the values of agility?

Dr Simon Springmann: There is a whole range of agile values, some of which we would like to highlight, and that are particularly important to us. Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate these values is through the behaviour of people who have internalized an agile mindset:

  • Human-centricity: They consistently put people at the centre of complex problems, i.e. they empathically put themselves in the user’s perspective, identify their needs and pain points and thus formulate concrete challenges. This is an enormous reduction in complexity that is needed to be able to act.
  • Iterative approach in solution sprints: They work in fast cycles in order to learn quickly from drafts and prototypes to optimize the solution.
  • Experimental approach: They learn under unclear conditions with the help of hypotheses and tests, to identify which solution approaches are most valuable.
  • Thinking in systems: They understand challenges in a systemic context, i.e. they can take the perspective of different stakeholders, users, customers, etc. and classify them holistically.


Why recognition?

Dr Dana Sindermann: Everyone needs recognition in order to lead a satisfied life and develop a well-rounded identity. Whether in friendships, in family, in love relationships or at work. We humans are highly social beings and require positive feedback from others. This feedback encourages us to keep at it, to try things out, to explore new territory and to grow. By developing with others in the spaces with share, we also shape the spaces themselves. So our behaviour not only affects and advances us individually, but also others and our environment. 


What is recognition?

Dr Dana Sindermann: In any case, recognition means more than praise or an appreciative gesture from the boss. Rather, recognition means that we respond to each other. Isn’t that what we want? That we meet each other attentively and really see the other person. In their abilities, their interests, their wishes or needs. This idea of really seeing and being seen is already included in the word “recognition”: we recognize something in the other, and they recognize something in us.

For example, Ada recognizes that Bibi is super talented at app programming. And Bibi has a super talent in designing interactive apps. Then they both say, “Cool, let’s work together!” They each accept each other’s ideas. This is where recognition comes in. And they enrich them with their own ideas and skills. So they create something together, both self-develop and, at best, they publish an app that is also of value to others. This special form of cooperation is an immaterial form of recognition; the value, in this sense, consists of fulfilment, feelings of success and the feeling of contributing to something important.

In addition, the material form of recognition is of course also essential in work life, i.e. appropriate pay. Ideally, by the way, there is power symmetry in recognition-relationships on the job. The people who work together should therefore be on a par in their positions. 


Values and recognition

Dr Dana Sindermann: I would say that recognition is itself a kind of value. That’s why I’ll skip this point. 


How are agility and recognition related?

Dr Dana Sindermann: Recognition in action means being in motion. We cooperate with each other in a dynamic way. Because we adapt our behaviour, our actions, agilely and constructively to the behaviour and actions of others by engaging with them, by taking what they offer us and developing it further. 

A prerequisite for us to be able to recognize each other is that the person with his or her ideas, interests and abilities is at the centre. This human-centricity is what recognition and agility have in common. The human being is the centre. People are the point at which companies, if they want to create a culture of recognition, align their organizational structures, processes and tools. This also means that the structures and processes invite employees to proactively shape the organization. An inclusive working environment is a natural part of a culture of recognition, just as it is part of agile working. 


The Answer: Agility needs recognition to be truly successful.

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