At One Beyond we use an Agile approach to software development projects. Agile is a methodology that has been proven to help deliver IT projects quickly, at a lower cost by empowering teams, encouraging users’ early adoption of software and implementing feedback early in the project lifecycle. We liked it so much, we decided to make our entire approach to business Agile. So we thought we’d share some of our thoughts …

How a business reacts to changes in the market, environment and customer demand, and how cost-effective and productive its new methods are, are the markers of its organisational intelligence. In other words, businesses must have carefully planned, adaptive systems in place to help them evolve with the times and keep up productivity. As new technology develops, traditional development approaches will be left at the wayside. In other words, apps will lead the way for agile approaches and businesses that adopt neither will be left in the dust.[Tweet “As new #technology develops, traditional #development approaches will be left at the wayside.”]

It’s comforting to know that in this time of rapid tech development that some very important things are still in your hands, and agility is one of them. You’re in control here, even if it takes a little while to come up with a plan of action. But adopting an agile approach is not something done quickly as it requires widespread change throughout a business. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when contemplating the leap:

1. Replace talk with action

Businesses work most effectively by evaluating their various processes and eliminating areas of waste or flabby practices. Sounds easy (and probably familiar), doesn’t it? But putting this principle into action is something many companies fail to do simply because it requires a wake-up and shake-up of people and bad practices. It can be easier to grumble about (and pretty much accept) a flat tyre than to stop the car and change it, even though you know it’s truly better in the long run. Business agility comes from the readiness to stop the car and tackle the problem with gusto, and it’s something every single person can do. [Tweet “#Business agility comes from the readiness to stop the car and tackle the problem.”]

Meetings are a good example where many companies passively accept a drain on attendees’ time. Issues that could be summarised, succinctly addressed and noted for a progress report at the next meeting are discussed at length, much to most people’s secret dismay. Too much time and effort is being wasted on something contributing very little towards the success of the company. Who needs 3-hour meetings about ever-dwindling subscription rates every month? Replace the endless waffle with action and see how far that will get you (and bring along a stopwatch to keep each topic to its allotted time).

2. But don’t let action happen without the talk

Good communication with customers is key to a happy, long-term relationship. Obvious, right? Most clients expect to be consulted about the progress of a transaction or ongoing work on the product they are buying. Yet too many businesses think that a summary report at the end of the project will be enough to keep everyone happy. All the feedback in the world won’t be enough to placate a client who feels that what was delivered didn’t match their original expectations. So don’t schedule discussions for the sake of some idle face time; cut out the extraneous details and share the things essential to both parties. If something needs to be corrected you’ll find it much easier as you go along rather than at the end when a full-blown disaster may be unavoidable. [Tweet “Too many #businesses think that a summary report at the end of the project will be enough. “]

3. Collaboration means support, support becomes agility

Collaboration lets colleagues shine together but it also helps them support each other and keeps a business running smoothly. One-person projects often seen as the most cost-effective way to accomplish big tasks can mean that the work is done to completion before it is evaluated. If the final feedback is negative the amount of effort to redo the project is much greater. Similarly, if the person handling the project falls ill or goes on holiday, the work can be jeopardised or difficult to manage in their absence. Appointing 2 people to a project and keeping a note of workload progress on a team spreadsheet or board keeps managers aware of what’s going on so valuable feedback can be given along the way and quality is maintained. With several people working together, problems can be addressed much more quickly and the combined professional experience brings a great more to the table.

4. Agility is evolution, and dinosaurs always become extinct

It’s awful to see an organisation refuse to change and save itself at the very last opportunity. Some seem to prefer going bust rather than adapt to changing market conditions or adopt essential technological advances. In time such tremendous stubbornness is revealed to be as futile a gesture as sticking with cruise liners instead of flights across the Atlantic. Looking back there never seems a good reason for being so stuck in old ways. Business agility is nothing more than adaptation, keeping you with the most competitive and successful companies while less agile ones lag behind and eventually become unable to compete. If loss of time and money seem too great a risk in taking on agility measures, consider the increase in productivity and decrease in costs after unnecessary tasks are taken out of operations. A manager able to delegate is able to focus their attention elsewhere and take on new challenges. Agile is efficient, whereas micromanaging, where a supervisor is entirely hands-on at all times, means double the people doing half the work. You’re a brontosaurus, let’s face it. [Tweet “Micromanaging, where a supervisor is entirely hands-on at all times, means double the work. “]

5. Little by little moves the world

Any business can take on more agile methodology. With any new practice, however, employees can often be resistant to change. Training takes time away from the usual workload, so make your business agile one bit at a time.  This may mean you have a few frontrunners, or a whole team acting as system ‘champions’ or SMEs (subject matter experts). Their positive example will go a long way to getting everyone else on board. Think of them as the running team captains encouraging and pushing everyone else to keep up and get fit. As the entire business adopts their means and methods, you’ll have an agile business in no time. [Tweet “This may mean you have a few frontrunners, or a whole team acting as system ‘champions’ or SMEs.”]