So what does it mean to be agile? In a recent article for Quartz, Sol Sender and Ben Edwards look at the topic and there are few key points that all companies and organizations should consider when they are making the effort to be more creative and responsive.
First, what is agile? It is project management where development is done using “sprints” that focus on continuous improvement of the product or service. For a thorough summary of agile, see CIO.com.
That said, Sender and Edwards actually make some great points that are applicable to any business:
Whatever the work is, is there such a thing as “50% dedicated”? Sender and Edwards argue that when using the agile method to fully commit to the process. That said, this is true for all methods. If you are not “all in” are you in at all?
Value the team
Projects generally do not evolve in a vacuum. To break through the silo mentality, meetings, in person, are still important.
“The most highly functioning agile teams aren’t just at the same location or on the same floor: they share the same table.”
It’s also important to bring people of different skill sets and ideas to truly be cross-functional. It also needs to be democratic, with hierarchal structures being checked.
All too often, however, the drive for sales and profit growth gets translated into directives that are then driven through management chains, reinforcing what one organization we have worked with labels “executive-driven innovation” (another oxymoron). This top-down behavior undermines team autonomy, degrades morale…and blinds the organization to the signals from customers they might otherwise become more responsive to.
Small is okay
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” is the old saying. And that should be good for project management too. The goal might be the top of the mountain, but small, incremental, and measurable steps are fine. Putting up barriers to seeing how the customer responds to these small changes can interfere with achieving the larger goal.
Perfectionism is the enemy
A company obviously doesn’t want to present a poor product or provide poor service to the customer, but when developing ideas and innovation, sometimes members of the team can overly seek a level of perfectionism that stifles growth.
“It’s not that craftsmanship is jettisoned; the bar for ‘good enough’ can be set as high as the team determines, but it must be a shared determination and not an overly private one.”
No matter what the process an organization uses to be strategic, basic rules like being dedicated, valuing all members of the team, taking manageable and measurable steps, and avoiding perfectionism are surely helpful reminders to achieve success.