Hi guys, this week I want to tell you something I have thought of for past years. I want to explain Why Agile does not Work In Germany as it is, for example, in Scandinavia; at least not during the current generation.
I am aware that many people will accuse me of generalising. Let me tell you about my experience…I´ve lived now in Germany for 7 years and this is my personal opinion about Agile Implementation in the country where I´ve experienced this at work.
I also want to add that currently I work in a Swiss/German company and it´s a pretty good place to work at. So if you are interested in exploring job opportunities please let me know, we are recruiting.
Following are the reasons why I think the Agile Software Development won´t be fully implemented in Germany.
1) Hierarchy Is Too Strong For Agile To Be Fully Utilised
As most of you know I am Portuguese but I left Portugal many years ago (more than 10 years) and moved to Finland. After living in Finland for several years the hierarchy is one of the things that frustrates me the most in Germany.
Everyone wants to be a “manager” and everyone wants to receive direct reports to make them feel important. No wonder I see many companies in Germany who have “managers” inside of Scrum Teams, which ends up destroying the teams.
Many different layers of managers in the organisation…more people you have more important you are. Of course this leads to extremely political and slow organisations.
Because the hierarchy is very strong, very few people have the courage to say “no” to their bosses, even if you´re right. He´s the boss so we cannot go against him.
Nobody can take decisions on their own, because the boss always needs to approve everything. These characteristic in the culture are so strong. I saw this happening with the most cool managers I´ve met. I know they would almost always say yes to their teams, but the culture does not allow you to do that without asking the boss.
For me this one of the biggest problems for Agile to flourish in Germany or German companies.
2) The Whole Society Is Structured In Silos
I believe Taylorism is present in the German society. It´s a huge economy based on manufacturing (not only that but it´s a huge part of it). As most of you know manufacturing is a very traditional industry. People work in functional departments with many silos between them. Communication is not their biggest strength.
Some of my colleagues told me the problem is even bigger. The problem starts already in the educational system where kids are “formatted” to think in functional silos. When they grow up it´s really hard for them to think in a different way.
Most of the companies that I know in Germany work with matrix organisations. Some time ago I already explained why I believe that matrix organisations are an agile anti pattern. You can read about it HERE. Having matrix organisations can create huge political problems.
Some years ago I worked with a team where each team member reported to a different manager, totally crazy!!!
It´s very rare to see a team in Germany (maybe i was unlucky) with full stack developers. There is always this distinction between Front End and Backend developer. There are always testers that do the job that is unwanted by software developers. This silos mindset is spread all over the place.
3) Infinite Years Of Planning
I´ve heard way too many times of 3-4 years roadmaps with detailed features deliveries. It happens often in companies here… Even if they work in Agile (at least they think they do) it´s very common to see companies working with these kind of artefacts (long detailed roadmaps).
Few years ago a Board of directors told me : “Luis, we need to spend a lot of time planning to make sure that everything will be perfect”.
This is part of the German culture, they believe if they plan everything in a very detailed way everything will happen as they planned. This leads us to the next point.
4) Everything Must Be Perfect
Germany is a perfectionist culture, which is not a bad thing, that´s one of the aspects that help them to be so powerful. But if you think about Agile Software Development this is a big problem. Companies spend months looking for the perfect solution.
The whole point of agile is doing something small and simple. Ship it to your client, get feedback and improve it… This is the whole point of Agile. Small increments with quick feedback. This does not work in Germany… Everything must be perfect before going out to the market.
People here are afraid of releasing something out into the market and fail. It´s a culture that is afraid of Failure. Failure is almost seen as a disgrace. The popular phrase: “FAIL = First Attempt In Learning” is not very popular in this side of the world. Everyone knows innovation comes from failure and from the learnings obtained by those failures.
Here everything must be perfect before hitting the customer, which is a huge problem for the Agile Mindset.
5) Very Traditional Society
I really appreciate the quality of life that Germany provides. That´s the reason why I am not thinking to leave this country any time soon. But there is one big thing that drives me crazy: traditional society. After living in Finland before it seems that Germany is 50 years behind.
When I left Finland in 2009, I cancelled all paperwork that tied me in Finland just in 3 hours. In Germany everything is so slow and difficult that you need to start 3 months ahead to cancel everything.
When I ask people why it is so slow and difficult everyone tells me: “What do you mean, this is great! This is how it works here, we do not need to change, we do not see the need for the change”. This reflects the whole society.
In companies we have exactly the same problem. Answers like “We always did it like that and it worked for years. No need for change” are heard on a weekly basis. How can you take the Agile Mindset serious where continuous improvement is important if you live in the society that is trapped in their past and do not improve because they believe it is already great?!
After reading this article you might think that I do not like Germany, but that´s not true! I really appreciate living in Germany and I am very thankful for having the opportunity to live and work here. It´s a great country that gives fantastic conditions for people.
I am an Agile Coach and I am involved with Agile on daily basis. It´s my job to help companies to work with Agile Implementation. I have expressed my honest feelings and opinion in this article.
I´ve realised that Germany will always be a great country to live in with great quality of living, but will never be a leader in Agile Implementations, or maybe it will, we never know.
On other hand, I know many brilliant German Agile coaches who do wonderful job. My colleagues and I were also able to transform organisations in a much more Agile way (in Germany).
Maybe at the end of the day what we need to do is to help companies understand how all these factors can impact the Agile Implementation. It´s our job to guide Executive Managers to understand the consequences going into agile path and let them understand the impact on their daily job and their company.