If your organization is finding it difficult to keep up with rapidly shifting markets and constant technological advancement, you’re not alone: with the world trending more and more digital, it can be challenging to match its pace.
Thankfully, however, there’s a solution: Agile project management.
Even fickle industries can be satisfied with Agile’s ability to switch requirement priorities quickly and easily, and it can also help your team produce faster, while still achieving better products. Unlike traditional project management, Agile is made to keep up!
“Okay,” we hear you wonder. “That’s great, but how do I make my organization Agile?”
You’re in luck because you’ve come to the right place! Let’s now go over the Six Steps for Building an Agile Organization.
1. Remember: the Customer is King
You may have heard the old adage, “the customer is always right”.
While those of you who have worked in customer service may find the saying questionable, you may not know that it actually means in terms of taste. Simply put, this means that regardless of what the target audience wants, that is what should be developed first and foremost. In fact, this is a core strength of Agile: focus on the customer’s desires and change requirement priorities accordingly.
Rather than chasing profits, your organization should put its effort into collecting customer feedback and then implementing it into the developing product.
Constant customer feedback means you can shift your priorities to match the market perfectly. This leads to higher product quality—you’re producing exactly what the client wants, after all!—and more stable revenue. By giving the customer what they want, and always what they want, you’ll develop a sense of loyalty and trust.
Gathering input isn’t enough, of course. You have to listen closely to what clients are saying and make sure to implement your changes correctly. If your clients are having second thoughts about the direction of the product, that’s perfectly fine! Agile can change course quickly, so a shuffling of priorities is nothing to worry about. The next requirement you pull from the backlog can be switched as soon as the start of the next sprint.
Because of these factors, Agile makes room for consistent, continuous delivery of incremental units of value. Your product will only improve with time, always matching step with the whims of the customer. This “drip feed” style of release also keeps customers excited and willing for more and, more importantly, rewards their patience every time—making it the perfect way to build trust among your audience!
2. Use a Team-Based Architecture
Agile is all about the teams.
The teams are the creators, the developers, and the backbone of the organization. Everyone has their own role to play, and while it may shift at times, they each make up an important piece of the project puzzle.
It can be hard to keep a team unified, and that problem only grows when you add additional teams to the mix.
Thankfully, Agile is a scalable framework, which means that regardless of whether a project has one team or many, it’s designed to work on any level. To keep everyone on the same page, the project vision is clearly outlined and reinforced; if everyone understands the goal, it becomes easier to achieve.
Agile also strives to keep everyone updated at all times, whether it’s about roles, progress, tasks, or priorities. The way it achieves this is through information radiators (clear visual indicators of data, like graphs and charts) and daily stand-ups, short meetings held at the start of each day where the team goes over what it’s accomplished, what it’s doing, and where it’s going next. Kanban (task) boards can also keep everyone aware of what they need to do now, how to do it, and what to do next. These also have the handy function of letting team members know which requirements are dependent on other requirements—helping them to avoid dependencies and the problems they may cause later down the road!
There is no traditional hierarchy in Agile; Agile leaders are there to help guide and motivate their team, but they don’t manage. Instead, they remove any obstacles that keep their team from being able to develop, develop, develop!
Additionally, an Agile leader may help the team to limit WIPs, or works in progress. By ensuring that the team is only working on a handful of requirements at a time before moving on, each requirement gets the attention it deserves and the dreaded scope creep—the bloating of a project with unnecessary scope—can be avoided.
3. Invest in Your Team
Speaking of teams, it’s important to place faith in yours. Agile empowers team members to set their own pace, to self-direct and self-organize, ultimately leaving the management in the hands of the people who understand the project most. Everyone in Agile is highly involved in their work, and they’re given the power to make it happen. After all, they’re the ones developing the product—who better to know the best way to do things?
Employee development is highly encouraged in an Agile organization.
Agile leaders help their team bolster their skills and flourish. There is no competition here—only a passion for betterment. Help your organization experiment and grow, exchange ideas, and create a welcoming environment. An engaged, motivated team is a team that will work harder and gain a sense of ownership (and therefore accountability!) over the product they create. Constant learning and empowered decision-making make for fast adaption and proactive solutions. Additionally, a personal tie to the work will make it all the more meaningful and important for the team to see it succeed.
Overall, the most important takeaway is to treat your team like humans.
Your team members aren’t tools, and they aren’t children—they can be trusted to take charge and do what’s right. Celebrate your team’s successes when things go right and be there for them when things go wrong. Collaboration is key, and an uplifting attitude and some creativity might be all it takes to flip a negative situation into a positive.
4. Enforcing Transparency is Crucial
Keeping everyone on the same level means opening the lines of communication. Agile organizations take great effort to improve information fidelity—the degree of one’s understanding of a piece of information. The higher your information fidelity, the more your audience is clear on what you’re saying. To keep a high rate of information fidelity, Agile incorporates things like co-location (keeping team members in the same physical space in order to encourage face-to-face communication) and information radiators (as mentioned above).
Collaboration is the key to success, and the sharing of knowledge in an organization is more important than ever. Practices like pair programming, in which two team members are paired up to work on the same task (and thereby improve their skills by learning from each other), are used frequently.
When you build your own Agile organization, you should make sure to encourage input from everyone, whether it’s positive or negative. No one should be afraid to speak their mind and offer constructive comments or advice.
5. Instigate Rapid Work Cycles
Agile uses iterations, which are short periods of development that focus on only one (or a couple) requirements at a time.
Rather than working for months and months on large batches of requirements, Agile focuses on short increments, typically spanning a couple of days to a couple of weeks; this leads to higher flexibility and better reaction times to changes in the market.
Agile ensures that only the highest priority, most important features of a product are developed first, and constantly updates the project backlog as the market shifts so it can better incorporate feedback and change. Because of this, changes are exciting—not something to be feared!
Agile far prefers soft outlines to concrete, long-term plans; as they say, the best-laid plans often go awry!
It’s better to keep strategies loose and accommodating, rather than overly detailed. This technique is then overlapped with constant testing and retesting to find and fix errors before release. Because only a few requirements are developed at a time, it becomes easier to spot mistakes and their sources. This allows for the constant addition of value—Agile’s primary goal!
6. Embrace Technology
Agile keeps it simple: always use the right tools for the job.
Don’t mindlessly switch to new technologies if they aren’t relevant to the task at hand—this only leads to wasted time that could have been spent on development instead.
This is not to say that Agile is anti-technology: quite the opposite!
Agile encourages the adoption of new technology and of increasing an organization’s reach through the online world. Research and employ the technology that best suits your processes, and make sure to stay up to date with trends in the tech world—you never know what new, innovative tools will appear. You might find exactly what you’re looking for!
Technology has been bringing people closer together for a long time now, and it presents a wonderful opportunity to remove any sense of isolation from your team. Cloud-based sharing means everyone can access the same resources at any time, and video conferencing technology makes for a close second to face-to-face interactions. With new technology, the impossible is becoming more possible every day: take advantage of it!
Looking to bring Agile to your organization? Click here to find out about our Agile certification program, and help your team go Agile!
By taking advantage of the Six Steps to Build and Agile Organization, you’ll be coming one step closer to being able to swiftly match your audience’s whims.
Be ready for anything life, the market, and your business throws at you—switch to Agile!