Agility – more than the sum of its parts

Agility is a key competence in the 21st century and not only determines projects but also influences ways of thinking and acting of entire organisations in all sectors. It requires openness to new things from everyone involved, awareness of and the ability to recognise and dissolve slowing structures and processes, and also to break down or rethink hierarchies. BFH dedicated its current Hermes conference to this topic.

On 15 June, the Institute of Digital Technology Management, together with BFH-W Weiterbildung and in close cooperation with APP Unternehmensberatung AG, hosted the HERMES Conference 2022: Agility. More than 200 specialists and managers from business, administration and the university environment took part, wanting to further their education and exchange ideas on the topic of agility and project management. After the official opening of the conference by Ingrid Kissling and thematic introduction by Nikolaus Obwegeser, new developments in the field of agility were presented and discussed. Here is a short selection and a recap for all those who unfortunately could not be there.

How the BFH economy became agile, and the role of culture

To kick off the discussion on agility, Ingrid Kissling showed the strategic planning and the agile developments required for this at the Department of Economics. This was followed by a fitting introduction by Nikolaus Obwegeser, who spoke about learning competence as a core element of agility. As part of the thematic introduction, there was a short survey among the participants: What is the biggest challenge in introducing agility in organisations? The answers (161 in total) were clear and underline the role of culture development for success in the implementation of agility (see picture).

New Work – old wine in new bottles?

Sabrina Schell from the Institute for New Work at BFH-W presented the connections between New Work and agility. Although both concepts are more than 50 years old, they are currently receiving a new boost. In particular, implementation and successful realisation require: Autonomy for employees, a corresponding attitude on the part of managers, trust and time, because new processes, methods, values and norms have to be learned and lived.

Agile without a goal?

Dimitri Gebhard from APP spoke about the value of a strategy, also in the agile environment. He impressively showed that agile teams are not located in a vacuum, but within a larger business strategy and therefore require a clear embedding. In the discussion, the challenge of merging agility with traditional organisational forms was confirmed by many participants, a topic that we also recently identified as a frequent area of tension in an article in ZfO (Zeitschrift für Organisation).

Hermes new

As a small highlight, Andre Bürki presented the upcoming new edition of Hermes in the version Hermes 2022. Here, too, special attention was paid to combining the advantages of agile methods with those of plan-based approaches. An exciting discussion on the details of the new version and the ins-and-outs of project organisation, resource bottlenecks as well as implementation planning for Hermes 2022 resulted in numerous valuable insights for the committed participants.

Sociocracy and Agile

In the presentation “Sociocracy Framework: Advantages and Disadvantages to Drive Projects”, Laetitia Henriot Arsever, Head of Technology, Strategy & Steering, Member of the Executive Board of IT, Post CH presented how she used sociocratic structures in her team to optimise collaboration and achieve higher efficiency, impact and transparency. The organisational form of sociocracy relies on self-responsibility and consistent self-determination of teams. Agility, action, interaction and consensus are central aspects of the sociocracy approach and enable, among other things, quick and effective responses to changing conditions, the development of commitment, as well as the use of collective intelligence to make effective decisions. In their presentation, Andreas Liedtke and Jennifer Hehn introduced two of the most important agile methods, Design Thinking and Scrum, and showed how they can be successfully combined. Both approaches are based on open communication, collaboration, transparency and visual management. Design thinking is useful when a team is faced with the challenge of developing new solutions or business models, which can then be implemented iteratively using Scrum. Scrum is an empirical procedure with a defined structure. This development process is particularly suitable for complex problems with changing requirements. Through the combination of Design Thinking and Scrum, solutions can be developed before development begins or adapted during the development phase.


All presentations are available for download on the conference website.

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Further information

  1. HERMES, an open standard of the Swiss Federal Administration, is a holistic management method for carrying out projects in many fields of activity, such as organisational adaptation, IT or the development of services and products. Click here to download the beta version of Hermes Project Management 2022.
  2. Information on the Hermes course offer of BFH Wirtschaft and on agile project management methods is available here.
  3. Field report Design Thinking & Scrum (Deutsche Bundesbank): Jakob, M., Hehn, J. (2022). Platform Design with Design Thinking and Scrum: An Experience Report from Deutsche Bundesbank. In: Hehn, J., Mendez, D., Brenner, W., Broy, M. (eds) Design Thinking for Software Engineering. Progress in IS. Springer, Cham.
  4. SCRUM GUIDE by Ken Schwaber & Jeff Sutherland, 2020
  5. SOCIOCRACY 3.0 – A Practical Guide by James Priest, Bernhard Bockelbrink and Liliana David, (used under CC-BY-SA).

Many thanks to Kathrin Schmidt, Joëlle Simonet and Jorge Parra for moderating and guiding us through the exciting event, and to Olga Vallier for her active support in planning and implementation.

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AUTHOR: Nikolaus Obwegeser

Dr Nikolaus Obwegeser heads the Institute of Digital Technology Management at BFH Wirtschaft. He was previously Associate Director of the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation at IMD Business School in Lausanne and Associate Professor at Aarhus University. His research interests are Digital Transformation & Innovation, Agile Methods and Tools, and Information Systems Development.

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