As the pandemic continues to shift and evolve, organizations must do the same. The Agile methodology is widely hailed as a key tool to help companies become more responsive to change. However, not everyone is familiar with the principles of this methodology. Moreover, principles can be hard to translate into tangible practices. In this post, I will explain the Agile approach, its value, and the practices that achieve its ideals.
What is the Agile Methodology?
Originally, the Agile approach was introduced in software development. This article on Agile project management explains some key concepts of the approach. In essence, this methodology encourages “iterative, introspective, and adaptive” processes in the workplace. Let’s take each of these terms in turn. Iterative? This means that the process repeats itself. You set a goal, make a plan, do the work, and then reflect on it. By the way, that’s the “introspective” piece. A key piece of the puzzle here is constantly considering how the work is going. It’s especially valuable to think of what could go better, and what it would take to make that improvement. Finally, there’s the “adaptive” component. One of the main values of this approach is prioritizing responses to change over following a plan.
In practical terms, an Agile team typically takes a big goal and breaks it down into “sprints.” Between sprints, or even on a daily basis, the team meets briefly to recalibrate. In these meetings and other interactions, the team aligns with four major values. One is prioritizing people over processes. In other words, team members are critical to success; the tools they use can change. Second, results matter more than the procedures historically followed. Third, companies try to work with their customers instead of focusing on negotiating the shrewdest contract. And finally, as described above, responsiveness to change matters more than the plan.
These values are reflected in the twelve principles of this approach.
The Manifesto for Agile Software Development outlines twelve major principles. For instance, Agile work prioritizes customer satisfaction. Basically, a company should understand what its customers value and deliver that. Another principle emphasizes that value should be provided frequently, not just on a quarterly basis. Thus, constant improvement becomes the standard of success. In addition, progress isn’t measured by proximity to a distant goal. In Agile teams, it’s measured by work completed. Again, that means constantly executing tasks that bring value to customers.
Another several principles refer to the importance of team collaboration. In this earlier blog post, I outlined some pros and cons to working in a team. Cons notwithstanding, the Agile approach relies on collaboration. In this context, trust is essential. One of the principles emphasizes this. As described in this blog on managing remote teams, team members need trust to work well. Interestingly, Agile principles favor face-to-face communication, but as we know, that’s not always possible. Teams can stay true to this principle even in remote environments, though. They’ll just need to align with these best practices for virtual communication.
The last bunch of principles relates to how the work is accomplished. For instance, less is more. If it isn’t necessary for success, this approach advises against it. In a similar vein, sustainability matters. This means that teams shouldn’t push themselves too hard. Burnout is not the goal. On another note, technical excellence and good design are valued. As requirements change, these principles also encourage adapting, even close to the finish line. That’s accomplished by regularly recalibrating as a team to remain maximally effective. Lastly, Agile principles assert that the best work practices come from teams themselves. I’ll say more on how leaders fit into this picture later.
When Agile Makes Sense
This might seem like a really specific way of approaching a task, project, or problem. Really, though, this approach can work to support just about any team in accomplishing any goal. Think about it. When companies or teams set goals, they always end up breaking the work up into steps. Those are the sprints. What’s key about these steps is that they can lead to a different destination than the one initially envisioned. That has to be okay and part of the process.
As this Forbes article highlights, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the obvious. If companies can’t pivot when circumstances change, they’ll sink. The Agile methodology has really saved the day for many companies during the pandemic. However, it doesn’t take a pandemic for this approach to prove valuable. As this article describes, the world is full of moving targets. Competitors can surprise a company. New technologies are constantly emerging. All of these can change the end goal, even if a team is already working towards it.
In any situation where the context has shifted, teams need to flexibly respond. That’s why I write about new tools and approaches like this one. For instance, in the past, I wrote this blog about how Pyrus workflows streamline business processes. Then, about one year later, I wrote this blog about improving workflows. Best practices change all the time. When teams work in line with the Agile methodology, they’ll be ready for that change. Plus, they’ll save time and money. If you’re always anticipating change, you don’t wait for a crisis before shifting the way you work. You just go with the flow.
Okay, so how does a team implement the values and principles of this methodology? This article has some ideas. For instance, Agile teams tend to conduct regular “stand up meetings.” The idea is for team members to literally stand during the meeting. Generally speaking, that keeps meetings short and focused. However, I have to add a caveat here. Accessibility in the workplace is super important. That’s especially true for companies focusing on hiring folks of diverse abilities. One way to promote accessibility in workplace culture is to rebrand concepts like “stand up meetings.” Team members don’t have to stand to participate in these meetings. Instead, this practice is all about keeping in constant communication without spending hours in conference rooms.
As mentioned above, another key component of this work is collaboration. This means that teams will likely want to use technology that supports collaborative communication. This article makes a case for artificial intelligence specifically supporting the goals of this approach. The Pyrus software certainly exemplifies that. Pyrus focuses on streamlining conversations about tasks in one place. Everyone who needs to stay in the know is included, and all related content is in one place. It also harnesses artificial intelligence to move work forward. Check out this video to see how it works. And keep in mind that Pyrus workflows are easily customizable, so they can adapt as the team does. Plus, Pyrus facilitates smart task delegation, which is crucial to Agile work.
How to Lead in an Agile Workplace
Speaking of delegation, it might seem tricky to be a leader in an Agile environment. After all, this methodology emphasizes the importance of every team member contributing and adapting. However, this Forbes article provides some ideas for the role of leadership within this approach. Specifically, leaders can focus on strategy and building relationships with customers. This article from Entrepreneur also sees the leader as a key piece of any Agile team. That’s because a leader can facilitate group collaboration by encouraging ideas and intervening to resolve conflicts. Leaders and empowered team members aren’t mutually exclusive. They can work together to fuel success in Agile teams.