Nowadays, it’s common to hear of bosses trying to make their companies more agile. What exactly does agile mean though? Originally created for software development, the Agile approach has since been adapted by more than just IT professionals today. The main focus of the Agile methodology is to make processes more flexible and capable of adapting to change quickly by emphasising the creation of dynamic work environments with smaller, more autonomous teams.
Agile also adopts a system of prioritising business deliverables in a simple, structured manner with predetermined timelines.1 This reduces the likelihood of projects not being completed on time, since there is full visibility maintained throughout, and any issue that arises can be dealt with quickly.
It’s clear that Agile relies heavily on the human element – an aspect that is central to all the managing, responding, consulting and planning across the product development cycle. But for the human element to really shine, the proper processes need to be put in place.
Scrums and Sprints
Scrum is a framework that helps teams work together by encouraging learning through experiences, self-organisation and the reflection on wins and losses to continuously improve.2 While scrum is frequently used across software development teams, its principles and lessons can be applied to all types of teamwork, especially through the use of sprints and stand-up meetings.
Sprints comprise short phases of a project typically lasting between one to three weeks and are preceded by a planning meeting where the tasks to be accomplished by a team are determined.3 After each sprint, a review is always done to see what is and isn’t working, so that the overall project can be fine-tuned by making the proper adjustments in line with the original business objectives.
Besides sprints, daily stand-up meetings (also known as scrums) serve as a great way to ensure every project member stays up to date with the progress of the project. Participants are required to stay standing, thereby keeping the scrum short and to the point. Partially validating how project members actually appreciate not having to sit through long, drawn-out meetings that do not contribute much value, research has shown that agility leads to a potential 20 to 30 percent improvement in employee engagement.4
So far, we’ve gathered that Agile methodology can be flexible and concise. Next, let’s take a look at how Lean methodology can dovetail with Agile to enhance productivity even further.
Decluttering with Lean
Lean is a constantly evolving methodology that sets out to help businesses achieve their goals in a smarter, more sustainable manner, without rigid guidelines or rules.5 The ultimate Lean goal is to maximise customer value while eliminating waste. Waste here refers to anything that does not add value to the customer, and can include things like excessive inventory, inefficient meetings, ineffective processes and more. To get rid of waste, businesses should employ the four-step continuous improvement cycle: planning for change, testing it out, conducting a review, and taking action based on feedback and results.
All this requires a disciplined, focused approach to work, which is where Kanban comes in. Kanban is a highly visual workflow management method that provides businesses with the visibility and clarity to better manage work and people. This can be done by using physical or digital boards to represent progress towards a goal, with tasks represented by cards that move from left to right through an entire workflow.
Kanban boards also provide a real-time view of a team’s current capacity, allowing for improved productivity and process efficiency planning.
An Agile Career
With increased recognition that Agile frameworks can help transform businesses more quickly, Agile roles are becoming highly sought after. The World Economic Forum even lists Product Owner, Agile Coach and Scrum Master among the top 10 roles in the product development field6, roles which require a thorough understanding of Agile methodologies and constant implementation of both project and visual management techniques.
If you are contemplating a career in these areas or looking to transform your business, start by checking out SIM PDEL’s list of Agile courses!
1 Brainhub: Lean, Agile and Scrum: A Simple Guide
2 Atlassian: Scrum
3 Adobe Workfront: Agile Project Management
4 McKinsey & Company, 20 Mar 2020: Enterprise agility: Buzz or business impact?
5 Planview: Lean and Kanban and How They Work Together
6 World Economic Forum, Jan 2020: Jobs of Tomorrow – Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy