If you’ve been around software development or project management circles in the past few decades, you’ve likely been exposed to agile concepts. To make a long story very short, traditionally, teams developed software by using linear processes that involved a lot of upfront planning and left testing to the end. As time progressed and the business landscape changed, problems associated with this waterfall-style method grew, and people started experimenting with incremental/iterative approaches. In 2001, these lightweight methods got a name when a group of experts gathered and referred to them as “agile methodologies”. They created the Agile Manifesto as a way to guide the development of software.
But what does any of this have to do with business? Fast forward to the present…while agile methods came from software development, they didn’t stay there. Agile concepts have been popular for a while and they are being applied broadly in fields outside of technology to help increase innovation and productivity.
So, what is an agile mindset and what does an agile-minded organization look like? We connect with many individuals who have tech backgrounds, but now spend their time as professionals in other fields, entrepreneurs or business owners. What does agility mean to them? Via informal conversations, we’ve found that some have practiced agility in one way or another before it was termed “agile”. Also, many believe that being agile helps them in their day-to-day (even in personal endeavors as a way to organize and prioritize activities).
Here are three ways to apply an agile mindset to business:
- Focus on customers – Customers must be heard and satisfied. In agile software development, this is done by iterating…providing valuable software often and continuously refining. Agile efforts are iterative and incremental. In the non-tech world, a way to keep customers at the forefront is to break down work and implement frequent feedback loops. If you can keep your customer engaged by providing regular deliverables and ample opportunities for input, then you’re on the right path.
- Empower teams – Expecting communication, collaboration and ownership is critical. Agile teams don’t wait for managers to assign tasks. In tech environments, agile teams are keenly aware of the backlog of work and they address top-priority tasks first. They commit to finishing tasks (not just starting them), and they shoot for the highest of quality even if it slows down the process. In non-tech environments, implementing daily standups is a useful way to encourage discussion and accountability (also called “huddles” in some environments). These short consistent gatherings are not problem-solving or status meetings. The goal is communication and commitment. Team members talk about what they’ve completed since the last meeting, what they plan to work on and obstacles. Creating visual task boards in co-located work areas also promotes transparency and shows work progress.
- Welcome change – Having an agile mindset requires an openness to learning and adaptation. Agile technical teams do not simply tolerate change, they welcome it even if it comes late in the game. Welcoming change is a key agile principle…groups must accept input, reflect and adjust. As an e-learning company, learning fast is imperative. We make sure clients react to real courses on a regular basis. Working courses are presented and tweaked continuously to avoid surprises at launch.
We’ve experienced many technological advances through the years. Markets change quickly and business priorities shift. Modern developments have caused individuals to change the way they live and work, and traditional frameworks often are not flexible enough to support the changes. While agile methodologies were born in tech, an agile mindset helps non-tech businesses tackle work in respectful/collaborative ways, and with a focus on customers and improvement.