Developing an Agile Approach

As the new year sets in we are surrounded by people who are working hard to make changes in the personal and professional lives. From practicing mindfulness to changing your morning routine, there are a lot of ways to adapt behavior to produce a different outcome. Over the last few years the tech world has begun changing its entire workflow and methodology with something called “Agile”. We have seen various trends and concepts come and go with regard to how work is done, but as to how technology is created Agile may be the largest shift in process ever seen. Silicon Valley has been overtaken with Agile methodology and if your life intersects much with technology, you have likely at least heard of it by now.

We have probably all within the last week in some way bemoaned to praised the speed at which technology changes. Whether it is your phone, your computer or how you turn on the lights in your house the way we use technology and its many applications continues to expand. For the businesses that deliver these innovations it becomes more critical by the day that they are able to deliver results to their clients better and faster. In order to meet this demand, the process has to change. The old way of project management is too cumbersome and lengthy. If we are working toward a milestone, what happens if the goal changes along the way? What if something crops up that is more important? Choosing to stay on the project timeline can mean alienating customers and missing opportunities.

Agile undoes the project management approach by making the goal about the people rather than the process. While people can be incredibly complicated, somehow placing them at the center of your efforts manages to simplify matters. When you are focused on delivering what the stakeholder is requesting it returns your approach to why you probably started in the first place. Understanding as a team what you are working toward by processing together the customer’s journey to the request through story keeps everyone focused. Agile requires a constant state of alertness and an abiding willingness to call every effort into question as you drive yourself forward to be better. It is for that reason Agile shouldn’t be limited to the world of technology and can be widely applied across companies. It is a mindset that will improve an organization at every level when fully embraced.

The Agile Manifesto has four key values and 12 principles that drive the entire process.

The Four Values:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation;
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

The 12 Principles:

  1. Satisfying customers through early and continuous delivery of valuable work.
  2. Breaking big work down into smaller tasks that can be completed quickly.
  3. Recognizing that the best work emerges from self-organized teams.
  4. Providing motivated individuals with the environment and support they need and trusting them to get the job done.
  5. Creating processes that promote sustainable efforts.
  6. Maintaining a constant pace for completed work.
  7. Welcoming changing requirements, even late in a project.
  8. Assembling the project team and business owners on a daily basis throughout the project.
  9. Having the team reflect at regular intervals on how to become more effective, then tuning and adjusting behavior accordingly.
  10. Measuring progress by the amount of completed work.
  11. Continually seeking excellence.
  12. Harnessing change for a competitive advantage.

Building an organization that is driven by collaborative cross-functional teams working toward a common goal with excellence, is the holy grail. And that is exactly what Agile makes possible within companies who have truly bought into the concept. Agile is not something you can do as a checklist of things to execute, it is truly a different way of approaching how you run your business. But be careful… your life may overtaken by Kanban boards and Scrum. But if you embrace it, you might just be amazed at what happens next.