Bringing Agile into Non-Tech Environments04 Jan 2017
Agile originated in a technical work environment and its likely still its main performance stage. However, that doesn't mean Agile cannot bring success to any other branch of industry.
There are plentiful examples of this being true - with lawyers, journalists, salesmen, financial managers and design professionals using the Agile approach on a daily basis, there is significant potential for the method to be a success, where workflow management and office politics are concerned.
What are some easy ways of using typical Agile traits in a non-technical business then?
Making the team share their agendas, daily work plans and long term business goals brings better understanding of what's going on in the company. Though it will meet with some opposition - benefits are always significant. And - after all - if your team isn't prepared to let you know what they've got planned work-wise - you should really be worried.
It can be surprising how little you know about what fills your team's days. But most of all, the availability of everyone's goals and completion stages of their projects makes better project synchronisation possible and can greatly reduce the communication lags within medium to large businesses.
There is also an added benefit of allowing even the smallest part-takers in the process to see and understand the bigger picture. Knowing how their work fits into it can improve their performance.
Though seemingly, when starting to use the Agile approach, you're managing short-term issues and making really small changes, it is in fact easier to perform large scale alterations once the way you work has grown more flexible in nature, when your awareness of what is going on on each work stage or level is greater.
Priorities on priorities
Quick response to changes in requirements that Agile calls for can be spread over a number of work areas. From keeping a "living" backlog of items to be worked on and knowing how to prioritise them, when to switch from one to another - to being able to easily point to a situation that calls for a complete change in the way things are being done.
So, prioritisation applies on each level: daily work, identification & timely response to what the customer requires and re-evaluating large scale business policies on a regular basis.
Iterations and guidelines
Iterative approach does not only work for a typical technical product development - there are aspects of all businesses that need regular rethinking and analysis. The immediate benefit of periodical evaluations is reduction of wasteful processes and pin-pointing any weak elements of a system, as well as - for instance - highlighting repeating problems, that could be solved once and for all.
Iterating and being able to review past projects allows for an easier introduction of effective guidelines and policies. To put it simply - you do need to know what's been going on in order to know how to improve.
Customer's point of view
One of the key points of Agile Manifesto is bringing the customer's direct demand and opinion into the equation. This is how anything from running active feedback loops, holding regular client meetings or sharing task boards and allowing them to make comments and suggest changes can positively influence the overall satisfaction and translate to business success.
Do keep in mind that there is no need for your team to adopt all of the Agile Manifesto's points at once. Frankly, even starting with one might bring an impressive change and an approach of gradual change introduction might pay off.
The easiest change - which is also quickest at the same time - you can introduce is requesting that the teams start using a shared task board, such as Kanban Tool's - in one go, they will gain access to the big picture, simplify communication and make their prioritisation easier. From there on, further applications of Agile will follow easily.