The word ‘agile’ conjures up images of lightning-fast, nimbly flexible gymnasts or mountain goats leaping effortlessly over rocky outcrops. But when applied to a business - as it is increasingly frequently - what does it mean? 

In short, it's a way of operating that empowers an organisation to adapt very rapidly and flexibly to external or internal changes to gain competitive advantage. 

ibex agile (1)

Here are five simple ways to make your business more agile:

1. Set objectives

Start with a clear list of why you are thinking of implementing agile working in your organisation along with key issues to consider. For example, review:

  • What do we want to achieve by adopting an agile business model? What benefits will it bring?
  • How will we commit to agile working throughout the business?
  • What changes will we need to make to adopt this new way of working?
  • How will it provide more value to customers?
  • How can we help existing staff and new recruits to adapt?
  • Where shall we start? Should we try to implement it across the organisation or just initially with one department?
  • How does this way of working fit with business objectives and company values?
  • How will we communicate our reasons for this change?
  • How will we measure the results and over what timescale?
  • Will we need to change our reward model – if so, how?
  • Who will lead the process?

Then, in line with overall company aims, set your objectives for agile working, including overcoming any potential hurdles.

2. Automate processes

The term ‘agile’ in a business context once mainly described a type of software development methodology. Now, as a software company, we’re no strangers to the origins and formulae for agile working. However, it’s exciting to see that today it can apply to the entire culture of any type of business, drawing on the creativity and rigour in the IT world.

While maximising the productivity benefits that effective IT can offer is certainly part of it, recent news promotes agile HR as the new way to work and improve performance in your team. Like its name suggests, agile HR can help companies adapt to improve efficiency by automating more time-consuming processes.

Some agile teams make use of agile project management software in order to share tasks and ensure they are on track. Others may opt for the simpler method of a noticeboard and different coloured inks to allocate activities among the team members. Work is typically broken down into manageable ‘chunks’ and reviewed at each stage before moving on.   

Top tips:

  • Identify tasks that take time.
  • Embrace the change.
  • Allow time for appropriate training.
  • Communicate with your team. What do they think?
  • Hold regular reviews and use surveys for feedback.
  • Monitor analytics and prepare to adjust.

3. Set priorities

Ruthless prioritisation is key to the agile business. As tasks on the team to-do list are completed, new ones rise to the top in response to a company’s drivers, aims, strategies and new events, whether external or internal.

The process of moving to an agile environment also requires clear priorities, so prepare for change. Don’t try to do it all at once – it’s a good idea to schedule in time for reflection.

beam agile 5 ways to an agile business

4. Plan for the unexpected

When considering your issues and objectives, the actual process of making your business more agile may throw up the unexpected.

However, like the adage ‘failure to plan is planning to fail’, those leaders who’ve already planned and anticipated challenges, will most likely find it easier to deal with any issues further down the road.  

Most businesses work to a plan over a specific time period. However, an agile business ensures it can factor in unforeseen opportunities as well as dealing effectively with the unexpected. This allows it to move quickly, to capitalise on the positive and deal with the negative. Think back to our mountain goat, consistently adapting to navigate and survive on changing terrain.

In an agile business, team performance and outcomes are more important than when and where people work. Thanks to the increase in IT tools that are supported by constantly-improving cloud technology, employees can operate flexibly and efficiently to meet customer needs. Managers will need to carefully consider how much flexibility can realistically be achieved in each role.

Top Tips:

  • Organise soft-skills training.
  • Encourage teamwork and collaboration:
    • corporate team days;
    • social events; and
    • department-specific days out of the office.
  • Make the most of available services and support. Our support team are there to help you manage and streamline your employee admin. Remember this is included as part of the package, so speak up if you’re stuck.

5. Hire for cultural fit

Agile working relies on a culture of trust, teamwork and innovation. Your people are therefore vital for a successful transition. And, if you’re like us, you’re already engaged in the race to find – and then keep – the best talent.    

Bear in mind that moving to an agile business model may unsettle team members who are more accustomed to traditional ways of working. This is where communication is key. Reassure your new members (as well as established employees) and organise face-to-face meetings, surveys and regular, open conversations. This will help with employee and manager relations as well as encouraging a growth mindset. Afterall, it’s all too easy for people to feel insecure in an unfamiliar environment.   

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Character traits that thrive in agile workplaces:

  • Goal driven. An agile business often breaks down long-term objectives into tasks that can be achieved relatively quickly in ‘sprints’. These may only last a couple of weeks. Candidates that enjoy meeting short-term as well as long-term goals are likely to enjoy agile working.
  • Adventurous. Agile thinking is about controlled innovation, testing out new ideas, and responding to results quickly and effectively, not just slavishly following a long-term plan.
  • Chameleon-esque. Comfortable in a role that is not too precisely defined and where change is constant. Bear in mind that candidates who prefer a rigid job description may not enjoy a culture that encourages them to adapt, tackle tasks collaboratively and requires them to trust the whole team to complete the work.

By recruiting candidates with the potential to flourish in an agile environment, the task becomes much easier.

In a fast-changing and increasingly global world, businesses of all sizes benefit from becoming more agile. The good news is that you can transition gradually rather than all at once. 

Knowing what you want to achieve and deciding how you will know when you have got there is a good first step.    

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