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  • Agility APPLYING AGILITY WITH SUCCESS IN A LOW-TECH SECTOR

    Keywords: Agility, agile, high-tech, low-tech, sense-making, shared understanding, public

    utility company, software industry, waste management, working in agile ways

    Novalja, May 31, 2018

    Master Thesis in Leadership and Organization -

    Culture, Communication and Globalization

    Birgit Reithofer

  • Many, many times we don’t have the word

    [agile, agility] daily, even if we do it

    and make it happen.

    - Head of Innovation AVV, TN, 00:45 – 01:15

  • Abstract

    “Agility? What is all this about?”

    In recent years, the concept of agility has gained in popularity around the globe and

    therefore are lot of organizations want to make use of this approach – public and

    private companies alike. For whatever reason a company decides to do so, and there

    are many, in the end the organizational members are the ones who have to put it into

    practice, but they often have difficulties grasping what agility is about or how to

    implement it, as the concept originally developed in the software industry. It often

    seems to be unsuitable for other contexts or impossible to achieve outside the IT-sector.

    Thus, the purpose of this research was to find out how a publicly owned company can

    apply agility with success in a low-tech sector.

    The focus was on a Danish, publicly owned waste management company located in

    Hjørring. The primary data for this research was derived from interviews held with the

    director of the Danish Waste Association, the CEO of the waste management company

    and five heads of departments as well as two more employees of the innovation

    department. The basis for the semi-structured questions was literature on agility and

    agile ways of working, information about the waste management sector, a discussion

    about high-tech and low-tech sectors as well as the company profile and strategy,

    whereby the questions varied depending on the person interviewed. Additionally, a

    second set of data was created by asking the two interviewees, the heads of

    departments and the CEO to fill in a checklist about their perception of the current

    agility level at their company. The goal was to find out whether this perception differs

    on the both management levels, but also to learn about potential differences between

    what they do and what they perceive. As the checklist could not be given to all

    employees, the results just show a part of the company’s reality, namely the one of

    people with primarily administrative tasks.

    Nevertheless, the research showed that agility does definitely not belong to those

    concepts where one simply pushes a button and suddenly it works, as people

    sometimes imagine it to be. However, the concept turned out to be an approach that

    is broadly applicable – it is not really bound to any industry nor organization type, since

    also a company in the waste management company could follow all twelve agile

    principles to a certain degree after adjusting them slightly. However, agility is

  • apparently bound to a certain mind-set and a shared understanding when it comes to

    its successful implementation, where also the organizational culture plays a crucial role.

    Interestingly, the case company actually practices agility without being aware of it,

    meaning that the approach cannot only be imposed on an organization, but also

    develop naturally because of the circumstances and how people make sense of them.

  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction .......................................................................................................... 1

    1.1. Problem Formulation ..................................................................................... 2

    1.2. Structure of the Thesis .................................................................................. 3

    2. Methodology ........................................................................................................ 5

    2.1. Theory of Science .......................................................................................... 5

    2.2. Research Design ........................................................................................... 7

    2.3. Methods ......................................................................................................... 9

    2.4. Methodological Issues ................................................................................. 12

    3. Literature & Theory ............................................................................................ 14

    3.1. Literature: Agility .......................................................................................... 14

    3.1.1. Agility in the Software Industry .............................................................. 15

    3.1.2. Working in an Agile Way ....................................................................... 18

    3.1.3. Issues of Employee Understanding ...................................................... 20

    3.2. Theory: Sense-making ................................................................................ 21

    4. Waste Management .......................................................................................... 26

    4.1. Waste Management in Denmark ................................................................. 29

    4.2. Affaldsselskabet Vendsyssel Vest I/S .......................................................... 31

    5. Analysis ............................................................................................................. 37

    5.1. Applying Agility to a Low-tech Sector .......................................................... 37

    5.2. Agility at AVV ............................................................................................... 39

    5.2.1. Customer Centricity .............................................................................. 42

    5.2.2. Mind-set ................................................................................................ 50

    5.2.3. Adaptability ........................................................................................... 58

    5.2.4. Speed ................................................................................................... 63

    5.2.5. Perceived Level of Agility ...................................................................... 68

  • 5.3. Sense-making at AVV ................................................................................. 73

    6. Discussion ......................................................................................................... 79

    7. Conclusion ......................................................................................................... 81

    8. References ........................................................................................................ 84

    9. Appendix 1: High-Tech vs. Low-Tech ............................................................. …88

    10. Appendix 2: Interview Guides ......................................................................... 90

    11. Appendix 3: Checklists and Worksheet .......................................................... 99

    12. Appendix 4: Coding ...................................................................................... 102

    13. Appendix 5: Coded Transcripts ..................................................................... 108

    14. Appendix 6: Scrum, Kanban & Extreme Programing…………………………. 159

    15. Appendix 7: Filled-in Checklists .................................................................... 161

  • Table of Figures

    Figure 1: Research Questions .................................................................................... 3

    Figure 2: Four Values of Agility ................................................................................. 15

    Figure 3: 12 Agile Principles ..................................................................................... 17

    Figure 4: Development Methodologies ..................................................................... 18

    Figure 5: Waste Hierarchy ........................................................................................ 28

    Figure 6: Landing Page Affaldsselskabet Vendsyssel Vest ...................................... 31

    Figure 7: Expectations of the Municipalities .............................................................. 32

    Figure 8: Organizational Chart AVV ......................................................................... 34

    Figure 9: Characteristics of the Software Industry .................................................... 38

    Figure 10: Meeting Rooms at AVV ........................................................................... 49

    Figure 11: Audio Cassette Wall, Cable Wall, Skateboard Chairs & Matchbox Wall .. 61

    Figure 12: Results Checklist ..................................................................................... 69

    Figure 13: Agility at AVV ........................................................................................... 71

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