The way people use agile methodology has evolved over the last two of decades. The term originated in the software development industry around 2001 as a new, better and more efficient method of managing software development.
Today, managers use the agile methodology, also known as ‘agile working’, across many different business functions, including:
Agile working is about considering people, technology, processes, location and time all at once to find the most appropriate and effective way to complete a work task.
What is agile?
Agile is essentially a set of values, principles and beliefs that your business can use to help you and your teams make smarter work decisions in any given situation. As a methodology, it’s extremely flexible in that it merely provides you with a foundation to use for making a particular decision rather than making a decision for you.
The group of software developers who coined the term, ‘agile’ also wrote the ‘Agile Manifesto’. Among a list of twelve principles, it outlined the key values that guide the method:
Value individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Value working software over comprehensive documentation
Value customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Value responding to change over following a plan
Making a shift to a workplace that prioritises agile working values can help your teams serve your customers faster and with fewer headaches.
What is business agility?
Business agility is the ability to quickly respond to changes in the market, customer feedback and opportunities that arise, in an innovative, productive, cost-effective and often digital way without sacrificing quality. Being agile gives your business a competitive advantage and increases your chances of thriving in the digital age.
What are the benefits of agile?
There are four main benefits your business has to gain from adopting an agile way of working, including:
Being more competitive Working in an agile way will help you and your teams spot and make the most of opportunities before your competitors. Plus, you’ll also be set up to tackle those opportunities more effectively to maximise profitability and increase the long term viability of your business.
Attracting and keeping outstanding employees Offering flexible working options as part of your agile workplace culture your business will appeal to more great people and you’ll keep quality employees for longer. A physically agile workplace also helps to show your employees that their work and opinions are valued. This encourages loyalty, a commitment to stay with your business longer and enhanced performance.
Innovating and adapting to change more quickly Working in a less rigid (and more agile) work environment that mirrors how your teams work will help your employees engage more as well as feel safer and more supported when trying new things. This increases innovation, creativity, problem-solving and productivity. Connecting cross-functional teams with technology and the way your office is designed will help people share knowledge and skills more easily to inspire broader and new ideas.
Giving your customers an excellent experience Agile working allows you to design and easily update your products and services so they can evolve and continuously improve to better suit your customers. It also enables you to deliver the consistent and personalised experiences and interactions that today’s customers expect from your business no matter how they begin their customer journey with you.
Your guide to an agile workplace
Follow this simple five-step guide to ensure a successful move towards an agile workplace:
Develop a really well-designed plan Design your agile-working initiative to align with the unique demands of your business (and not anybody else’s). You need to take into account your business goals, financial boundaries, company culture, customer needs and office and remote working environments, when planning the best way to roll out agile working.
Outline your key measurement metrics It’s a good idea to set out measurement metrics before you implement an agile way of working so that you can track your performance. Make sure you clearly define each metric, whether it be quantitative or qualitative, so you can easily monitor success and any challenges that arise.
Give your employees the right tools and technology Tools and technology that support your company processes and collaboration among your teams are crucial. Things like ensuring your Wi-Fi network is stable and secure, offering a virtual private network and investing in cloud services can help with employee productivity when hot desking, remote working and transitioning between working locations. And don’t forget about helpful connectivity tools like universal docking stations, and making sure enough power points are always available.
Communicate clear performance standards Ambiguity and a lack of structure can sometimes permeate an agile workplace. To avoid this as much as possible, guide your employees with straightforward performance standards and policies. This will also help you to manage expectations that your employees will deliver quality and productive work consistently.
Secure buy-in from your managers from the get go Your managers will play a critical role in your journey to agile working. The best way to secure their buy-in from the start is to support them with the tools and training they need to guide the rest of your employees through the transition while managing employee expectations.