Will agile help your teams work better?
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for two decades, you’ll no doubt have heard of agile. A methodology designed to help teams get work done faster, constantly improve their output and be responsive to change, it is now helping even household name Aussie corporates work better.
What we like about agile
The agile methodology has been compared to a religion by some. It boasts its own set of founding principles (more here), rival techniques and insider terms, from the ‘scrum’ and ‘spiral’ schools, to ‘stories’, ‘stand-ups’ and team ‘sprints’ (often advocated for with fervour by different tribes).
For an in-depth dive into the world of agile, Atlassian has a comprehensive resource here.
From under the hood, agile is a relatively simple way re-engineer the way work is done to prioritise iteration and improvement and the ability to adapt to changing priorities. In the sometimes frantic world of operations, it can be a true game-changer. Some characteristics we like include:
The agile methodology breaks larger projects or work down into smaller, measurable tasks, and inserts them into a team ‘sprint’ - a week or two. By focusing on an agreed output over a defined period, teams direct their energies towards achieving results and can easily measure success.
Structuring work into short sprints allows teams to assess their workload at the beginning of a sprint, prioritise new tasks or information, and de-prioritise the rest (until a later sprint). This enables teams to respond on a constant, rolling basis to any changes in the individual project or broader market.
Agile has an iterative approach to quality. It puts a focus on landing minimum viable products faster, in the knowledge these will be improved over time. It exposes work to customer feedback early and incorporates the ability to test and ‘fail fast’ on the fly rather than incurring more expense later.
Responsibility is placed into the hands of smaller, more cross-functional project or work teams. Bringing a wider range of perspectives and skills to the table than traditional silo-style teams, it fosters responsibility in those teams to deliver while sidestepping the risk of tunnel vision.
Agile typically incorporates short, daily ‘stand-up’ meetings of 15 minutes where team members report on progress. Fostering accountability and unblocking barriers in the work, it also makes teams into a more cohesive unit who are all working together to deliver the agreed work volume.
What agile isn’t
Agile is often contrasted with the waterfall methodology, which is a traditional, more structured, linear model for the completion of projects and work. Agile methodologies have been successful in eliminating some of the risk of large projects stalling or failing through the waterfall process.
Will agile work for you?
The short answer is yes (probably). If you have a team of people, projects or work to get done, and operate in a changing environment (hint, we all do), agile is bound to contribute towards organising your work better. With the right tools (you can even make do with the humble post-it note!) you can start experimenting and begin to measure the actual results you’re are seeing in your business.
All or nothing?
The beauty of agile methodologies is you can pick and choose what you think will or won’t work for you right now, and then try, test and fail - just like in an agile project. It’s not an all or nothing journey. It is an iterative opportunity for organisations to improve the way they work, so they get more done, get it done faster, and incorporate the ability to change into their everyday work.