Published June 12, 2018
You may be thinking to yourself, “I keep hearing about Agile. It seems like everyone is doing it these days.” And it’s true! More and more companies are adopting Agile principles to become more efficient and react better to shifting priorities.As you can see, Agile isn’t just for large firms, start-ups, or Silicon Valley; its principles can be applied any time you need to get work done.
“Is Agile Just for IT and Software Developers?”Agile started as a manifesto addressing software development practices. It focused on continuous development of products or updates through series of iterations or sprints. Instead of beginning with a plan for the entire project from start to finish, Agile development embraces change and flexibility, promotes collaboration, and prioritizes customer needs – essential traits for all types of businesses and teams in our ever-evolving world. The full Agile manifesto can be found here, but simply put, Agile is a philosophy or a mindset that’s been proven to help organizations meet their goals, more efficiently, effectively and collaboratively. And research confirms that Agile teams do so more often than non-Agile teams. Agile has become the primary approach in the software world. In a 2015 survey, two-thirds of IT professionals said their company was either using “pure Agile” or “leaning Agile” with only nine percent describing themselves as using “pure waterfall” or “leaning towards waterfall.” In 2016, Barclays, a 328-year old multinational investment bank and financial services company, announced that it was pursuing Agile processes and incorporating Agile thinking in all areas of their business, not just IT. Agile is so flexible that it can even be used within the daily life of families, as a 2013 TED Talk Bruce Feller demonstrates. (Note: Agile-specific story starts about 2:30)
“How Can Marketing, Finance, HR and Operational Teams Use Agile?”Here are some Agile practices that you can start adopting today:
- User Stories: Instead of typical requirements or task assignments, Agile/scrum methodologies utilize user stories. In these, you think about who benefits from your output, what they care about, and what the conditions of satisfaction and acceptance criteria are. Next time something’s due, think about who wants it and why they want it. For instance, I’m a manager, so I want timesheets for this month so that I can submit payroll to ensure employees get paid on time.
- Sprints: Break work down into a series of weeks, rather than just by start date and end date. Typically, sprints last from two to four weeks. At the end of each sprint, it’s best to look back and see what went well and what didn’t. In planning subsequent sprints, you can review these reports and apply the lessons to so more things go well.
- Scrum/Kanban Boards: These help visualize work to easily identify who is working on what and how much they have on their plate. On the board, work should be divided up by assignee. By displaying the board in a central location, everyone can track updates, which helps boost accountability; if someone doesn’t do their work, all their teammates can see it on the board.
- Backlogs: Keep things you want to work on in the future in a single location and update it (or groom it) semi-regularly. If you are using sticky notes, when work is approved and in-scope, items would move from the backlog to the to-do column and then prioritized.
- Ceremonies: Regular meetings with the right format help foster teamwork, drive engagement and set a regular cadence for consistency, iteration after iteration and sprint after sprint. For example, some important ceremonies are sprint retrospectives, which occur at the end of each sprint. During retrospectives, the team comes together to share lessons learned and areas to improve.