New Ways of Working in the Digital Age: A Closer Look at Squads

New Ways of Working in the Digital Age: A Closer Look at Squads

Article

Transformation

Digitalisation has fundamentally transformed market dynamics and consumer behaviour. Businesses need to show flexibility and responsiveness in keeping up with today’s rapidly changing environment. This presents an opportunity to rethink conventional organisational structures and work processes. However, how can companies cultivate an agile mindset? Convidera, a cologne-based consulting company, took up the challenge of building a collaborative and agile working culture by leveraging the concept of squad.

Achieving Agility with Squads

Agile methods, rooted in the software industry, are typically used to handle complex projects. Agility can be achieved by putting in place small, autonomous, and multidisciplinary teams – the so-called squads. Beyond the common mission that ties the team together, the concept of squad adheres to several core principles: a flat hierarchy, shared responsibility and accountability for the project outcome, and complete transparency across the development and delivery process.

Convidera Rules in an agile working Team

The concept of squad encourages the teams to ideate and conceptualize throughout the duration of a project, without the need for a defined scope of work. While the basic idea of agile methods consists of the described values and ways of thinking, the squad empowers organizations to rush through and challenge established processes. Product development goes through an incremental process characterised by early and frequent product releases combined with feedback loops. This reiterative process helps tailor the product offering to market needs. With early product testing, problems are identified and tackled early in the process, which results in tangible time- and cost-savings.

Convidera Process of Small Step Delivery in Agile Work

 

Agile squads empower organizations to challenge their established processes.

For a squad to work effectively, a conducive work environment needs to be in place. A key component of this is a culture open for new ideas and experimentation. This gives room to challenge the status quo and explore unknowns. How would this look in practice?

Agility in Practice: First-hand Learning from a Squad

“At Convidera, we have been making use of agile methods for some time now,” explains Marius Beckers, Developer and one of the initiators of the squad. Faced with the task of developing an exceptionally complex application, an autonomous and interdisciplinary squad was formed. As the team members grew familiar with each other during the first weeks, clear goals and engagement principles were defined. “We decided to adopt transparency and a flat hierarchy – typical for an ‘Engineering Culture’. An open dialogue was encouraged from the start. For some, this was a challenge,” says Marius. Equality is a team principle, yet each team member has their own role and responsibilities. “Because of this, we work conscientiously, are open for feedback and help each other,” remarks Nanosch Adams, Head of Development at Convidera. During the start-up phase, expectations diverged quite significantly. But “we overcame this relatively fast, as we understand disruptive processes and ‘live’ digital transformation,” Marius points out.

The principles established in the beginning were displayed across the walls of the squad’s workspace for everyone to see. Such a visualisation creates shared ownership for the process. Product development follows an incremental approach. “For the development of a multifunctional publishing platform, many components come together. If we were to discover a mistake only at the end, we would be bound to rethink interdependent features too. This would be very time-consuming,” clarifies Designer Manuel Bader. “Mistakes happen more often, but they are smaller and perceived as positive,” explains one of the initiators. Overall, time can be reasonably reduced as different tasks can be run in parallel without the need to wait for input from other teams. “Shared successes are achieved earlier than with conventional work methods. This is motivating,” all squad members agree.

Outlook

Finding novel ways of working that effectively accommodate digital change is an ongoing journey. A forward-looking corporate culture is key to explore what works and improve continuously. Convidera’s Leadership Team encouraged the self-managing squad, thereby enabling its success.

A forward oriented corporate culture is key to continous improvement.

“Based on the insights and learning from our squad initiative, we have now started to redeploy our organization into several collaborative, multidisciplinary and horizontally-minded squads, showing a stronger focus and integration with our clients,” explains Convidera’s CEO Michael Buck enthusiastically. The journey doesn’t end there. An incubator-model is next on Convidera’s innovative marketing agenda. The mechanics and value of this approach will be featured in an upcoming publication.
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