Google the word ‘agile’ and you will end up with more than 13 million results. The word agile is a very broad umbrella term which can be viewed in many ways. Consider the following tips when embracing an agile mindset:
- Agile is a way of thinking. You can’t learn to be ‘agile’ from a textbook. There is no single definition of agile. Today, agile encompasses frameworks (such as Scrum and Kanban), behaviours (like collaboration and transparency), concepts (e.g. working iteratively and incrementally) and techniques (such as burn charts and user stories).
- Agile is not about having to use technology and software. In effect, we often talk about being ‘low tech’ for communications. Think post-it notes and good old fashioned face-to-face communications. Quite refreshing for a change!
- Focus on value. Value can be subjective term (try asking a few people around you to define the word value and you will end up with many and varied interpretations). Value should be viewed from all angles. For example, in a project embracing an agile approach, value may be seen as the ‘net benefit’ (after factoring in expenditure). Consider also value in terms of work being done – will writing detailed requirement documentation at the beginning really add value? (Typically in an agile environment the answer is ‘no’ since we embrace and expect change).
- Understand the power of a self-organised team. The team is in control – recognise that those closest to the work are the best people to know how to do it. Agile means the team is involved in estimating their work (not some manager who is removed from the day-to-day) and as a result, with involvement, people are more likely to own and commit.
- Apply agile terminology appropriately. Be careful you aren’t over-zealous and overdo agile terminology, especially initially with your stakeholders. Consider in the past you wouldn’t necessary talk WBS, CPM or PERT to your customer – don’t suddenly talk epics, backlogs and spiking. (Hint: you may decide to gradually introduce some agile terms but ensure you immediately translate them into everyday business language).
- Start small. Agile isn’t an on/off switch. You can introduce agile behaviours, concepts and techniques incrementally. Be agile – start with one team, experiment, learn, share lessons, grow ‘agile’ experts.
- Agile is not just for IT. Yes, agile began in the IT arena and there are some methods that are particularly for IT. But now agile approaches are used in a variety of industries including construction, manufacturing, healthcare and education.
- Agile is not about throwing away all existing processes. It can start with looking at what works with an agile mindset; it is about adjusting, learning, embracing, and recognising that organisations need to more responsive to change. For example, agile ways can be blended with existing project management methods – think PRINCE2 Agile™.
- Embracing agile in your organisation doesn’t happen overnight. It is a culture change for many – to be successful it needs support from the top; a consistent view of what agile means to your organisation needs to socialised at all levels.
‘Agile should be seen as a means to an end and not an end in itself.’
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