How to Get Agile
The truth about any big change in the way you operate your business is that it will never be easy, and there will never be an ideal time to make it happen. If you want to move towards agility, you don’t have to wait for a specific day, or even until your team is at a certain point. There are things you can do starting today, that will help to move you towards greater agility. These include:
- Assess Where You Are Now
The most important thing in making any change in your business is knowing what needs to change. So, if you’ve been operating with loose procedures and mixed-up processes, the first thing to do is figure out how they all fit together. Spend some time paying attention to what you do and how you do it and making notes about what your process is. Removing what little structure you have today may be the thing that undoes all your efforts.
- Involve Your Customer
Agility requires us to involve our customers more in the process. Instead of only getting their input at the beginning and end of any project, create opportunities for feedback along the way. This allows an agile business to find out early on if the customer desires any changes, or if there’s something they’d rather have done differently. Which allows us to change course along the way. We especially use this technique when it comes to building project management offices, it’s built with the customer, not on their behalf.
- Get Your Team on Board
Creative people and teams tend to thrive in an agile environment, but if they’ve been working in a traditionally structured office, it can take some time. They need to get comfortable with the idea of a flatter more collaborative work structure. Make sure that you explain the agile process to them, and the benefits it will bring. Help them to adopt new ways of working through experimentation and feedback loops.
- Encourage Adaptation
In a traditional project management structure, everyone adheres to the project end goal with a measure of tunnel vision. There’s no time or appetite to explore new ideas and innovation along the way, especially when we have had the scope agreed upfront and the budget doesn’t typically allow for it. Agile encourages a new kind of adaptation. So, get your team used to looking for opportunities and ideas to make the end product better. Bring out that entrepreneurial spirit.
- Change How You Measure Progress
When you use agile for your project management processes, it can be a little harder to measure progress than in a system like waterfall where there is a lot more structure, gated controls, formalised reporting, and more rigidity. Get team members used to reporting their progress based on tasks being done or not done and visualising this using a variety of tools, showcase progress, show don’t tell. Instead of just focusing on percentages. No one wants to get to 100% only to find out that we delivered the wrong end result.
- Allow for Uncertainty
When you are planning or estimating a project in a system like waterfall, there’s a high demand to plan and estimate in great detail and do everything upfront. Anything you miss is often seen as a mistake. The agile mindset acknowledges that there is a level of uncertainty in any project and builds those possibilities into planning and estimating using various techniques such as story point estimation. So, you know ahead of time that things may change along the way, and that it’s not an error but an opportunity when change beckons.
- Communicate Constantly
Traditional project management systems, use formal methods of communication like long drawn out meetings with a cast of thousands, where team members are expected to unload everything. Often from a report that was created several weeks prior, where the information becomes outdated. Agile teams don’t wait for formal meetings to communicate with other team members. Whether it’s a peer or a project manager they need to talk to, or customer feedback they need to get, they take care of it as soon as the problem arises. This means you don’t have to wait for a weekly meeting, to address an issue.