6 Pro Tips for Implementing Agile Business Practices
Updated: May 3
As one of the most popular methods for managing projects, agile can significantly increase your team’s success prospects. Read on for an overview of the main benefits and top tips for moving your company to agile.
Businesses today face ever-increasing pressure to produce, innovate, and transform faster than ever before. COVID-19 only exacerbated the issue, accelerating technology adoption and digitization across all sectors and forcing companies to keep up.
To answer this challenge and improve productivity, team leaders from several industries, ranging from healthcare to finance, have begun using agile business practices and project management methodologies, with incredible results.
Research shows that agile companies have outperformed others in adapting to COVID-19, thanks to the benefits of more flexibility, higher productivity levels, increased transparency, higher quality deliverables, a decreased risk of missed objectives, and a boost to stakeholder engagement and satisfaction.
Here’s how to apply agile business practices within your company and claim those same advantages for yourself.
Understand Agile and Adapt It to the Business
As a project management methodology, agile is highly interactive, allowing rapid adjustments throughout a project’s lifespan. It supports repeatable processes, reduces risk, embeds immediate feedback, allows quick turnaround, and reduces complexity, so it’s incredibly attractive for most companies.
While it’s not a one-size-fits-all practice, various frameworks are suited to different businesses and projects, such as scrum, lean development, and Kanban. Make sure to choose the proper agile framework for your business, which will be crucial to successful implementation.
Scrum is the most adopted method and focuses on empowering small and cross-functional teams to solve problems or reach a target. Short iterations of work, called sprints, and daily meetings, called scrums, are used to tackle discreet project segments successively until a whole project is complete.
Other methods include Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), the hybrid form between Waterfall and Agile, and the Large Scale Scrum (LeSS).
Start Small and Get Everyone on the Same Page
Collaboration and teamwork are central to an agile working style, so it’s vital to get everyone on board before you start embedding the practice across all functions. Be aware that adapting a business’s operating practices will require time, effort, and patience.
Start by embedding agile in individual departments before cascading to other areas of the business. This first team can then act as coaches for the rest of the organization. Alternatively, you could start with a small pilot project, gather feedback, implement improvements and then apply it steadily to other projects.
Remember to engage with key stakeholders early, explain the benefits, answer questions, and be sure to address all concerns transparently. Your teams will thank you for it later.
Re-Evaluate Your Approach to Meetings
Agile meetings allow teams to focus on speed and productivity, so conduct an audit of all your meetings, stop those wasteful hours, and try introducing a daily stand-up meeting—and yes, everyone should stand up, for real!
Stand-ups can be anywhere from five to fifteen minutes in length, depending on team size. They’re essential for covering individual updates, team plans for the day, and any blockers to progress. You could choose the “Three P’s” structure to provide a framework – Progress, Priorities, Pinch Points.
Abolish any meetings that are redundant and consider deep-dive team sessions for meaty collaborative planning and development.
Prepare Teams to Solve Problems and Challenges Together
Agile allows for a bottom-up approach that advocates autonomy, self-organizing teams, and collaboration. Leaders should provide space for innovation and creativity while incentivizing teams to work together towards specific goals and challenges rather than siloed tasks. Make it clear that the team is collectively responsible for the final result.
Before you go agile, remove barriers to efficiency to improve morale and prepare them for a less-hierarchical agile future. Design a reward system that places team outcomes higher than individual work. Simultaneously, position the business outcome (including customer satisfaction and team happiness) higher than team utilization (how busy people are).
Success hinges on the team’s motivation and commitment, so you have to encourage people to adapt to the new agile reality.
Start Changing the Culture
Agile ultimately means organizational change, so management needs to see the big picture and prioritize cultural transformation across departments and teams. You don’t necessarily need an entirely new structure. Focus instead on building and empowering cross-functional teams that collaborate with different disciplines and business departments.
The shift may require some new processes to support changes in thought and behavior, along with a revision of long-standing policies to support agile values. For example, examine current reward programs and patterns of behavior. Ask yourself if these programs encourage teamwork or competition, if they promote sharing or protecting information, or foster direct or indirect communication.
As you address each of these points across all teams and programs, you’ll be well on your way to forging an agile business culture.
Leverage Agile at a Leadership Level
Management attitude can sometimes become a barrier to successful agile working, so getting senior team leaders on board is essential.
Once invested, leadership should exemplify best practices during an agile transition. Despite the collaborative focus of agile, team success will hinge on the clarity of roles and responsibilities and the right balance of authority and accountability.
Leadership should also examine the most business-critical issues and eliminate less value-adding activities such as the production of unnecessary reports. In many cases, they’re the only people with authority to do so.
Agile business practices provide plenty of benefits for senior leadership. By joining cross-functional teams, managers can learn about front-line challenges and how to overcome them and get to know customers better by participating in customer sessions. Through stand-up meetings and kanbans, leaders can better share their activities with teams, elevating their purpose and visibility.
Make sure the executives know precisely what agile can do for them and their business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR.
Alan Aldape is the Client Delivery Manager of Zventus, a leader with 19 years of experience in the contact center industry. Zventus provides management consulting, strategic staffing solutions, and managed services that give organizations the power to overcome any business challenges.