acondas on the move (2): To provide their customers optimal support in upcoming transformation processes, the consulting firm is preparing for a new, more agile set-up – which employees will benefit from as well.
Seven years after it was founded, acondas, the consulting firm specializing in implementation projects, is preparing for its own strategic development process: “Our aim is to focus on digital transformation and organizational development in synch with the strategic life cycle of big companies” explain Andreas Florissen and Jörg Fengler, the founders and managing directors of the consulting firm in Düsseldorf. “These two issues will be front and center for our customers over the next ten years and we want to support their transformation processes as well as possible. In addition to acondas‘ proven strength in project and change management methods, we want to further hone our existing expertise in this knowledge area and apply it more purposefully to support our customers.”
The green light for the start of the journey was given at the kick-off meeting in the Dutch university town of Leiden. Since then, the topics agreed on there have been systematically developed by agile teams with wide-reaching autonomy. One thing that makes the extensive restructuring project challenging for the successful consulting firm is that it is happening alongside ongoing business operations: “Of course our customer projects on topics such as post-merger integration, carve-out or digitalization have absolute priority”, Florissen emphasizes. “That’s why we decided to strategically develop our consulting approach using an agile team set-up.”
So what exactly is agility? Is all the hype around it justified or is it just a new industry fad? What is are the benefits of agile teams in further developing existing business models or reinventing your company? And, last but not least, what new challenges does it pose for consulting firms?
Agile project management is a project set-up that enables teams to act flexibly, proactively and anticipatorily in order to achieve results quickly. At least that’s how popular management textbooks define it. From a different angle, agile means being able to react to customer wishes and needs not only rapidly, but by foreseeing them before they are voiced, if possible, and having new offers ready for market at the right time.
In mature structures, however, this is easier said than done, because existing hierarchies can act as brakes. Where changes in demand need to be communicated up five hierarchical levels before top management can approve supply adjustments which are then communicated and implemented down the same cumbersome hierarchical levels, the race with a faster, i.e. agile, competitor is lost from the start. This is why agility is impossible without dismantling existing hierarchies and spreading responsibility onto many shoulders.
The question of the challenges involved for consulting firms remains, and they are bigger than many established consulting firms want to believe. In fact, for the most part, the industry adheres to hierarchical structures which have hardly changed in the last decades. In other words, many of the consultants assigned on agility projects are part of complex organizational matrices. This can roughly be compared with an interior architect who is supposed to develop future-orientated living spaces, but who himself lives in a Gelsenkirchen Baroque style apartment.
Florissen and Fengler have recognized this shortcoming and have decided to embark on their own strategic development journey. “It’s about purposefully further developing our offers to customers through agile organization”, the two acondas managing directors explain the goal of the journey starting in Leiden. “The core of the development is an even stronger specialized orientation towards implementation topics in organizational development and digital transformation. We can only help customers achieve greater agility if we set an example ourselves.”
What does this imply in practice? “As an agile organization we can react better and faster to our customers’ needs”, promise Fengler and Florissen. This requires both a stronger technical orientation as well as faster application of existing knowledge to respond to concrete customer questions. In order to provide customer-specific content more quickly, we will develop technical topic areas in greater depth in short so-called sprints. This implies a new model of team set-up.From now on, we will work in agile and interdisciplinary teams across locations with business owners and products owners. This will also enable better and faster exchange of experiences and competencies across employees.
Florissen and Fenlger are convinced that the customers will benefit – but not only them: “Our employees will also benefit from the agile work environment”, the managing directors say. “In the new set-up, they will enjoy more freedom but also take on more self-responsibility. Ultimately, stronger team work and better communication strengthen the motivation of and solidarity among team members”, Fengler and Florissen are convinced. This also reinforces the acondas values of openness, team spirit, freedom and development.
“To sum it up, agile acondas adds value for customers and gives employees more freedom”, promise Florissen and Fengler. This step will mean a lot of work for them both, but the journey will pay off. Once it reaches its goal, acondas would be the first implementation consultancy with a 100% agile team set-up, hence actively exemplifying what its customers are striving to achieve. What is the next leg of the journey? To be continued – soon…