What’s up … Chief Agile Officer?

Name: Dirk Jäger

Position: Chief Agile Officer

Company: Shopmaker

Age: 42

What are you doing?

This is an equally legitimate and welcome question. Because as a CAO today I am still a very exotic bird. I consider and steer the progress in the agile way of working from a management perspective and thus also from a certain altitude. That helps a lot sometimes. Ask Astro-Alex on the ISS …

Concrete questions, which concern me with the agile transformation, sound however far less lifted, than the whole technical terminology lets assume. I initiate agile methods with and with our teams that aim to make it into the minds of colleagues. So I set a framework for the entire organization where an agile mindset can emerge and prepare the ground for self-organization in the teams.

In daily practice, I check the progress and, of course, the benefits of the initiated processes. What works well, what less well, what maybe not? There is also that. Which procedure brings the desired results in the sense of the given company goals? At which points are we fast and good, at which slow and inefficient? And of course, my task is to recognize weaknesses: with which steps can we quickly become better and more efficient here?

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In short: I initiate new processes and observe, measure and evaluate the success of the introduced agility on the basis of concrete key figures. Because who does not measure, advises only.

How did you come to this task?

Over two years ago, our management decided to transform the company agile and installed me as the overall responsible for this agile transformation. This had an enormous signal effect – especially inwards: with the onset of a CAO, we demonstrated to our employees that we are serious about changing to agile.

After the basic decision for the agile way, I first worked out a way to this goal, defined appropriate methods and, of course, accompanied the entry into operations. Operational tasks then quickly moved into self-determined teams. The assessment of the efficiency and the control of necessary readjustments naturally remain a management task – that is my task. And this job never ends in our fast-moving business. That is clear to us. In daily business is sawn vigorously. OK then! And one has to make sure that the saw always stays sharp. This is me.

Which feature helps you the most in your everyday life and why?

That’s three: curiosity, doggedness and a healthy Trial & Error mentality.

Curiosity, because I am interested in everything that happens in our company and above all in the market. Our environment is so dynamic, our market entrants are so smart. Since you can learn a lot, if you remain curious.

Perseverance is a prerequisite for wanting to find out why something is not or is not working or is not functioning optimally. Then you have to, even if it does not sound nice, biting into the context and look hard, where it hooks.

Last but not least, the healthy Trial & Error mentality. It is one of Jeff Bezos’ philosophies that mistakes are great as long as you learn from them and come back stronger. Of course, I do not care to make mistakes. But the freedom and the mentality to quickly implement something without endless philosophical preliminaries and decision-making, I think great. And as I said: If something does not work, then we learn from it. That too is agility.

What is most important to you about your job? What is the most fun?

I think the results are great! I can really get intoxicated with the measurable results of my and our work. Listening to the job title Chief Agile Officer and the topic agile transformation, many are sure to think for now: For heaven’s sake – dry stuff! That’s not true. At the beginning of our journey, of course, everything was just gray theory and future music. But today, after only two years, we measure the efficiency of development and new processes almost every day.

Of course, the champagne corks do not pop up after each measurement, because – of course Trial & Error – of course once less pleasing results are measured. But that’s fine in the agile sense – provided we learn from our mistakes.

Describe as clearly as possible a project that has particularly impressed you.

Switching from one-week to two-week sprints was a huge step, the positive impact of which has inspired me. Initially, we started with one-week sprints in order to be able to estimate tasks as manageable as possible before the start of the sprint. That was right, because we had to practice the treasure first. The better the team estimates became, the more the disadvantages of the short sprint came to the fore. These were, for example, the various meetings around the Sprints, in which no code is written. The teams then decided one by one to increase the sprinting rhythm to two weeks, effectively halving the meeting effort. That had a huge impact on the team performance. Above all, it was great that these impulses came directly from the teams and each team also found their own timing for it. In the end, I just proved the improvement in team performance.

My job is indispensable because …?

Every day, we read countless articles on the digital transformation of the economy as a whole and the associated challenges in almost every business. At its core, digitization means acceleration, ie a change in the speed of processes in companies. And the pace of change does not develop at a leisurely and linear pace, but the pace of change is more exponential. And this development is irreversible. And I think that will never end.

As CAO, I am virtually the change manager. And how are the challenges just described to be overcome without such a change manager – sometimes completely independent of my person?

If you were not CAO, what would you be?

Probably something similar, maybe with a different name. Empowering people to find their way has always inspired me. I would probably be a teacher or lecturer, or coach or Zen master.

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