Agile is an approach developed by the tech sector that enables rapid adaptation, efficiency and customer focus. And in today’s environment, every business can benefit from support to keep pace and deliver results. Here, we help you see past the jargon of 'agile' so you can use its tools with confidence, whatever size of business or industry you're in.
Agile was created for the tech sector’s speed and competition
The Agile Manifesto was written by a group of software developers and defines a mindset that prioritises:
- individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- working software over comprehensive documentation
- customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- responding to change over following a plan.
Around this manifesto, further agile principles and methodologies sprouted up with names such as Scrum and Kanban, each with its own set of rituals. They all help teams focus on the work that’s most important and complete it as quickly as possible.
Simplicity and collaboration keep the focus on what matters
Agile aims to get rid of the ‘unnecessary’ work and put customer needs at the heart of everything that happens. To do this, agile draws together project teams that made up of the skills and expertise needed to complete the work. These are often drawn from different business functions or areas. A ‘sprint’ is a period, usually two weeks, where everyone focuses intently on doing their part. In this way, agile is often seen as the opposite of a traditional 'Waterfall Approach’ where instructions trickle down from the top tiers of a business.
Kanban is a method that divides tasks into columns such as 'To do', 'Doing' and 'Done'. This means everyone in your team can see what’s going on at a glance. Many software programmes can help you do this digitally, and most common office systems now have a place to do this in the tasks and planning tools.
The term ‘kanban' comes from the Japanese words for signboard. Toyota popularised its use for managing business processes in the mid 19th Century. To get Kanban working well in your team, ensure it reflects the way work must actually happen by noting interdependency between tasks.
For clarity, write tasks as clear actions by starting them with a verb. For example, ‘Clean the street-facing windows inside and out’. And yes, the Kanban approach also works well on a fridge for managing home chores!
Stand-ups, check-ins, and retros
In agile, ‘stand-ups’, ‘check-ins’ and ‘retros’ are terms that cover ways for a team to keep in touch and improve the way they work. A ‘stand-up’ or ‘check-in’ is a quick-fire meeting to find out where everyone is at and keep things moving. Formats usually include a comment on how you’re progressing and an opportunity to mention any barriers to moving ahead. These happen regularly – often daily – when a big piece of work is underway.
At the end of a project, a 'retro' or retrospective meeting brings everyone together to record what worked and what could be improved for next time. These help ensure constant improvement.
Agile embraces continuous learning
One of the reasons agile is so effective is because it embeds ‘learning’. Retros and fast delivery to customers mean teams avoid repeating mistakes and wasting time on unwanted outputs. These same benefits are what make a Business Mentor so valuable.
Our Mentors come ready to share their experience of what works and what doesn't. They’re aware of potential pitfalls and where time can be saved. Their approach is a supportive one – rather than tell you what to do, they're able to listen and ask questions that can get you thinking about things differently. And when the pace of change is so fast, an objective sounding board can bring peace of mind. If you'd like to know more, contact us today.