The benefits of a adopting an Agile methodology don’t begin and end with your software development team. In fact, Agile work methods have valuable applications in other departments within your organization, including marketing, development, finance, legal and even HR.
The fundamentals of Agile principles — trust, teamwork, collaboration, open and direct communication, and efficiency — are critical components of any well-run team, regardless the role the team serves.
Here are eight reasons Agile principle can extend across your entire organization:
1. Deliver a better end product
When a software team uses an Agile approach, the focus is to release the product as quickly as possible, with the understanding that ongoing revisions will be made during multiple iterations. The team gathers feedback from stakeholders—typically a customer—to tweak the product until it meets the customer’s needs.
Other departments could benefit from delivering their end product early and making adjustments based on various stakeholders’ feedback and approval. With multiple iterations, teams are much less likely to reach the end of a project only to discover that they failed. Cross-functional teams work more closely from Day 1 to prevent issues down the road.
For example, sales and customer service could provide marketing with feedback on a new marketing campaign, allowing the marketing team to troubleshoot issues and reduce problems early. That increases the chances that the campaign will meet its objectives, while preventing major revisions.
2. Create a culture of open communication
Agile teams communicate often. Members give and receive feedback freely and frequently. As a result, employees see feedback—even criticism—as a way to learn and make improvements.
Fostering a culture of open communication is actually quite simple to implement for every team. It starts by offering employees a forum to share ideas. During daily huddles or standing meetings, require every employee to present both positive and negative feedback about various aspects of the work. Criticism should never be directed at people, and feedback should be specific and constructive.
Additionally, employees should present their progress and problems they are facing, and then listen as coworkers offer advice for overcoming issues. These talks keep everyone in the loop, but also ensure that no single employee is dealing with a problem on his or her own.
3. Reduce complex projects down to manageable chunks
An Agile approach encourages you take overwhelming projects and break them down until the workload is manageable. Every team can benefit from reducing daunting goals down to a series of clear action items that take a short time, and fewer people, to complete. As a result, the team makes continuous ongoing progress toward the goal, without overwhelming employees or depleting resources.
Once teams have broken major goals down, they should prioritize the action items, and deliver the most important aspects first.
4. Develop skills and capabilities
The most effective Agile teams are cross-functional and self-organizing, so roles aren’t static. Projects are broken down and work is delegated based on the circumstances and each person’s knowledge, skill and availability. Members’ roles will change from project to project. As a result, every person is continuously developing their skills, and teams have the flexibility and capability to move from one project to the next. All team members know how to perform all the necessary tasks, so projects don’t come to a screeching halt if one member has to leave a project.
Non-software development teams can apply that idea by having team members switch roles from time to time and work collaboratively with other departments. The more skills each person masters, the more stable the team will be, especially during tumultuous times.
5. Increase capacity—and speed
An important component of Agile is to find smarter ways to work. That includes investing in time management tools and reducing waste and inefficiencies. The more efficient a team becomes, the more work they can take on and the quicker they can release projects.
Every team in your organization should be actively seeking out policies, rules and processes that cause bottlenecks and slow progress. Then they should make changes—or eliminate altogether—problems. Doing so, frees each team’s time to focus on activities that move the team closer to meeting its goals, and the ones most likely to generate profits for the organization.
6. Commit to ongoing improvement
With Agile methods, the work is never officially done. Instead, there is a commitment to making ongoing—often minor—improvements.
Every team in your organization should always be asking “What can we do to improve, become more effective and efficient?” More than that, they should constantly be seeking out problems to fix. Employees should be candid about the issues they face with work, and leaders should listen and make changes when possible.
7. Improve transparency
Agile teams typically invest in project management software that makes it possible for everyone to always have real-time updates on the status of projects. At any given time, employees can see where everything stands, who is doing what, and whether the team is on the right track to finish on time.
That kind of transparency makes it possible to plan more carefully, predict problems and troubleshoot issues in real time.
8. Foster a culture of change acceptance
Change is inevitable, and employees who can handle change recover much faster than employees who resist change or hit the panic button whenever issues arise.
The Agile methodology is built on the idea that regardless how competent a team is and no matter how much planning when into a project, something at some point is going to change. When employees know that change is probable, they can more quickly move past their insecurities and keep the work moving.
All teams in your organization should spend time at the beginning of an initiative talking about what could go wrong and planning how to overcome issues; however, no team should become so tied to a plan that they refuse to alter course when the time inevitably comes.
Don’t stop with your software development team. Work with team leaders to begin using Agile methods in every team in your organization. If you do, you will see an increase in efficiency, communication and productivity. Not only that, you build a more flexible and resilient organization that can manage the highs and lows of operating in today’s ever-fluctuating business world.