Agile Methodologies: Not Just for IT Anymore
Updated: May 5
If you’re in an IT related field, you have almost certainly heard the word Agile thrown around. Even outside of IT, it’s possible that you have heard the term.
Agile is a set of methodologies used to improve the process of software development and delivery, and it has gained a lot of traction since its inception in the early 2000s.
While it is true that Agile sees the most use in IT, there are aspects of Agile methodologies that can be applied to any business sector, so today, let’s talk about a few Agile concepts that can be useful in anyone’s business!
One of the prime tenets of Agile as stated in the Agile Manifesto is a prioritization on customer collaboration. Expanding on this, Agile principles discuss conveying information not only within a team, but to people in different roles. In fact, one Agile principle goes as far as to say that “Businesspeople and developers must work together daily throughout the project.”
In any industry, people from varying backgrounds and roles must work together to achieve a positive end result.
In IT, for example, this might mean developers and salespeople, or client-facing customer support and data analysts. Whatever designations people have, Agile urges us to make sure there is communication between them to better serve the customer. Cross-functional training and other forms of inter-role experiences can help keep teams better appraised of not only the “what” of what others are doing, but give them an appreciation for the “how”.
Additionally, Agile values communication with the customer or stakeholders. Who this is can vary greatly depending on the industry segment, but at the end of the day, the result of your work will be used, consumed, or judged by a stakeholder. Agile preaches the benefit of early and frequent communication with these stakeholders to ensure that the final product accomplishes for them what they need to have accomplished.
The phrase “self-organizing” is often applied to teams using Agile. What this means is that the team itself can be flexible and change-friendly when it comes to fulfilling the end goal. This kind of flexibility and ability to adapt to changing demands and requirements is vastly important in almost any industry, from customer service to government contracting. Another
Agile principle suggests that motivated people, given proper support, perform the best work.
So, any team that can give its members the support and autonomy to get the job done can benefit from these methodologies.
Getting people motivated could be an article of its own, but there are a few simple ways to encourage this. Giving employees personal stake and influence in the fate of what they do lets them take ownership, and individuals who feel a sense of ownership with regard to their work tend to be more motivated. Also, make sure that your team has opportunities to grow and improve their skills, and watch as that investment pays dividends.
One of Agile’s most powerful techniques is that of self-improvement. A standard practice in teams that do Agile is to hold retrospective meetings where the team can come together to discuss the process, pain points, and results since their last meeting. The reason this is so powerful is that it lets the team adjust their process and make themselves more efficient and effective on a regular basis.
When it comes to retrospective meetings, it is imperative that team members feel empowered and safe to present real feedback and thoughts about the process.
If team members feel they cannot be open and honest about how they feel, no real reflection can occur and no progress can be made.
Don’t forget, though, that a retrospective meeting should focus on both the good and the bad. This is a great time to call out and praise good work that has been done, and show team members that they are appreciated.
In conclusion, there is no particular reason that Agile should be limited to the realm of software development alone. Agile methodologies provide powerful strategies to improve the performance of teams, and can help improve communication and self-reflection as well. This article has only talked about Agile in brief, but for those looking to learn further, there are a wealth of resources available online to learn and master Agile, such as the Agile Alliance. Feel free to delve further, and find what works best for you and your team.