Agile is a much abused term in business today. What we’re really talking about is a set of principles crafted by a bunch of computer programmers in 2001. This set of principles revolutionised the way software is created and has influenced the way leading organisations work. But is an agile mindset useful for any organisation regardless of whether or not they create software? And how can you use these principles to bring back the human element and transform the way your business works?
Everyone’s talking about agile these days, and it’s become a much abused phrase in business. But, I want to set something straight; agile isn’t a methodology, it’s a mindset – a set of principles that can transform the way teams work together (with or without software). What’s more, it can bring the humanity back to overly mechanised work.
Obviously, the Agile Manifesto, which was created by a group of computer programmers back in 2001, was designed to change the way software was created. And it did. In fact, it revolutionised the way software is developed today and has influenced the way leading organisations work. But how is it relevant at scale for brands that aren’t in the business of producing software?
Is an agile mindset relevant for today’s businesses?
To demonstrate how these principles are pertinent in today’s fast paced business world, here’s four steps towards agile thinking that can liberate your workplace.
1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
In a bid to increase efficiency with processes and tools, businesses need to bring back the human element. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still room for process but it should be defined by the individuals carrying out the work, and not dictated by a manager.
Sadly, political combat still reigns in many organisations. With an agile mindset, however, collaboration replaces this. How? By ensuring individual voices matter and everyone on a team is heard.
2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
Okay, stay with me. This one travels least well out of the software world, but if we replace ‘working software’ with ‘working stuff’, it can take on new meaning.
This is all about taking small steps rather than making grand plans. So that means trying something and getting feedback rather than just believing you’re right and carrying on regardless. It’s the “Just Do It!” of the manifesto.
In an ever changing world, documentation grows stale too quickly and needs continually updating. So, it’s better to start with something that’s intuitive and simple, which can adapt and evolve, rather than designing something in detail that may never see the light of day.
3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Customer satisfaction is as much a priority as employee engagement, and of course, it’s intrinsically linked. The best organisations have great working relationships with each other, their customers, and their suppliers.
These trusting relationships remove the need for legal contracts, and when suppliers and customers share a goal, they can create so much more value. In contrast, contracts tie us to a fixed relationship. What we need are agile relationships that continually grow and evolve.
4. Responding to change over following a plan
Plans are great, right? Wrong! Isn’t the world too complex and fast moving to follow plans? In a culture that allows teams to learn as they go, plans have to be adapted to consider what they’ve learnt. So, the faster you can adapt to change, the greater chance you’ll have of survival.
So what I’m really saying is that plans are still useful, because they provide a starting direction. But you need to stay alert to change and make sure you can adapt quickly.
To return to the original question, “Is agile relevant for businesses today?”, it most certainly is because it’s about continual improvement. An agile mindset is a learning mindset, and the organisations that can learn and use that learning for innovation, will win.
Agile thinking is about continually inspecting and adapting what we do as a business, and collaborating to find the best solutions. If you haven’t already downloaded our latest white paper, ‘What’s the point of innovation without participation?’, grab it now to understand how to unlock a culture of ‘Innovation Everywhere’, without risking it all.