Agile is sometimes regarded as a buzzword that people use walking into a project update meeting. Any person that has worked on a major complex project over the line, whilst having to satisfy multiple stakeholder groups and meet stringent corporate or regulatory requirements, knows that they had to move quickly and easily to get it done.
Delivering new forms of value through a better understanding of your customers
Agile is not merely a management fad reserved for your colleagues who are involved in system development. Over the last few years agile methodologies have spread across a wide range of industries and functions and are even influencing behaviour at the executive level. There is great opportunity, for those organisations that are willing and committed, to take the best from agile and use it to understand their customers better and deliver new forms of value.
Outperforming your competition
When experts comment on the best sports men and women in the world they don't focus on the basic skills and techniques that enable them to play the game, but on the key attributes that these individuals or teams have when they need it the most. That’s how you outperform your competition.
Similarly, adopting agile is not about blindly following a fad in order to please management or making you look as though you’re adopting cutting edge business techniques. It's about remaining true to your organisation’s core strengths and using some proven methods to bring the best out of your employees.
Improving your organisation’s agility
You can adopt agile methodologies without putting undue stress on your organisation through implementing a few simple organisational processes:
- agree and share a set of agile principles with your team. This could be simply assigning specific roles to individuals when working on agile projects to shifting focus on exhibiting prototypes over design documentation and putting customer collaboration at the heart of the project;
- be sure to maintain your existing framework of good governance and control. You do not want people to use agile to shy away from following key protocol and keeping your wider stakeholder community satisfied;
- invest in agile training and development for your staff, initially for those who have the knowledge and experience to understand where and when agile will work and where it won’t. They can then apply the methods in a practical manner and share learnings with other colleagues;
- let people just run with it. This means allowing teams to learn and not be criticised for making mistakes. This can eventually lead to formation of expert teams who can share good practice with colleagues across your organisation; and
- set specific improvement objectives so that you can assess how your agile practices are taking shape and whether they are adding value to your customers. Measure and review the improvement objectives regularly.
Use agile approaches – don’t just follow them
What agile should not be is a polar opposite of your current management processes that already work. Using agile can be highly effective but it does bring certain challenges to management, for example:
- it can be expensive, you might have ‘time-boxed’ sprints and think you have control over costs but you might also need a full range of stakeholders available at the same time during your sprints. This could be a bad use of time or simply impossible to manage in complex stakeholder environments – particularly in the public sector;
- the project’s overall scope can remain unclear for a long time whilst certain ‘features’ are being developed in piecemeal. This means you’ve got limited predictability of your project and are therefore carrying innate risk; and
- people, at all levels of the organisation, can use agile to hide away from providing key project progress information in a clear, concise and timely manner. This means your project board might not know what’s going until it’s too late to intervene.
Understand your capability and focus on those improvements that get the best results
Organisations have to deliver in highly dynamic environments with complex stakeholder groups and ever-changing customer needs. The key to success is to keep doing what you do well and focusing on the application of practical tools, techniques and processes to develop deeper customer relationships. This will enable you to respond quicker and provide greater value to your customers by getting the most out of your project teams.