Agile and traditional management approaches – a comparative analysis

Knut Linke, University of Applied Sciences Weserbergland, Institute for Knowledge Management

The digitalization and globalization of work places new and constantly changing demands on trained specialists and scientifically qualified employees. Employees are challenged to adapt changing requirements of customers and employers, to handle new and existing job insecurities and to work decentralized in human teams with the usage of digital tools and if necessary with robots in mixed teams. For the human resource management, which wants to employ and retain well-trained employees, this means that they have to prepare their employees for the changing working world and support them with further (scientific) education offers.

Within the scope of the German research project "Open IT Bachelor und Open IT Master", funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, credit transfer programs for IT specialists with initial or secondary IT training are developed and tested (Städler, von Zobeltitz & Linke, 2018). Students are training through the academic lectures within the credit transfer programs in a way that they can fulfil management tasks after completing their studies.

This includes leadership tasks in the context of personnel responsibility in the form of an organizational, hierarchical role, as well as the assumption of responsibilities in projects - as a project manager or sub-project manager. The aim of assuming management tasks is also pursued by the participants of the study courses according to their own statements (Städler, Linke & von Zobeltitz, 2018). Regardless of the motivation of companies and their sometimes hesitant willingness or even refusal to promote employees (Linke, Städler, von Zobeltitz & Blochberger, 2017), there is a need to prepare employees for the future demands of the working environment. Agile management concepts, which strengthen the self-organization of employees and, in comparison to classical hierarchical approaches, manage with less defined processes, are increasingly cited as a solution of working in a VUCA world (Bennett & Lemoine, 2014, 311-314) in which uncertainty is the only security. Agile management approaches are mostly based on the agile manifesto (Beck et al., 2001) and aim at working in a project-oriented work environment. The term agility also increasingly appears in the context of general terms such as Work 4.0 (Arbeit 4.0) and Compatibility 4.0 (Vereinbarkeit 4.0) and is presented in this context as a solution for "open" organizations.

The scientific article intends to provide a comparative analysis of agile and traditional management approaches. Traditional project-oriented management approaches, such as PMBOK and agile concepts for Lean Management (Brenner, 2018), such as Scrum (Schwaber & Sutherland, 2013; Neumer, Porschen-Hueck & Sauer, 2018), Kanban (Anderson, 2011; Eisenberg, 2018), Objectives and Key Results (Doerr, 2018) will be considered as well as sociocratically concepts such as Holacracy (Radojević, Krasulka & Janjušić, 2016).

The following research questions are focused within the considered scientific contribution:

  • What are the similarities and differences between the management concepts?
  • Are the concepts equally suitable for all organizational areas?
  • How is it ensured that the desired quality and works results are achieved?

In detail, the analysis will take into account the following categories of work organization:

  • Strategic goal and target of the organizational concept.
  • Operational focus of the organizational concept.
  • Implementation and proceeding of the approach within the organization against the background of defined roles, organizational framework and measures.
  • Relations between employees within the organization, employment relations and with (external) stakeholders.
  • Scalability of the compared approaches regarding the possible number of employees and the usage within centralized and decentralized cooperation

For the area of organizational methods, the comparison also serves to construct the requirements for agile work from the theoretical approaches and to support the definition of the term "agile". With this, it should be possible to show differentiations from the traditional non-agile, management methods. Also contents can be defined, which are comparable for all management types. Here the question will be asked if and to what extent agile management methods are equally suitable for each type of organization.

The later results will be used to define requirements for further scientific education, which can fulfill the developed requirements. The contribution is concluded by a reflection in which the compatibility of the different approaches in the context of work and private life is considered.


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