Agile is the buzzword lately. With PMI releasing the latest edition of the PMBOK and incorporating agile approaches to managing projects, it would seem if you aren’t agile, you’re behind. Agile, in my opinion, is just a perfect way to sum up how we approach our everyday lives. It is about failing fast, learning from mistakes, getting feedback, and being adaptive.
For a real life example, think about painting the inside of your home. There is a reason small paint samples are available; we go in to the local hardware with a color in mind, quickly finding the overwhelming number of choices that are available. Who knew “gray” or “white” could mean hundreds of shades to choose from? We select to the best of our ability 1, 2 or maybe 3 paint samples, spending a small amount of money .Then we test out the colors next to each other on multiple walls in different lighting. When all of those choices fail to meet our expectations, we complete this process over until we find just the right color. This is a more sensible approach than going and buying 20 gallons of paint on your first pick from the color selections and re-painting your entire home before you realize you’ve made a mistake. Although initially this approach and plan seems reasonable and sensible, it can, and usually does, quickly become costly, time-consuming, wasteful, and frustrating.
If Agile is how we normally approach our daily lives, then it is only natural that Agile approaches should also be utilized in the workplace. Although originally created as a better approach to software development,we’re seeing how Agile can be applied to all teams, and all aspects of work – whether you are in marketing, sales, administration, or software development. We can begin taking small iterative steps in our approaches to work to fail quickly, gain feedback, and re-adjust to deliver exactly what expectations are. You don’t write and publish a novel without first having someone read drafts, give input, and then make changes, right? Open up lines of communication in your teams so you can discuss how you are approaching tasks, and what you are planning to deliver before you’re finished. Agile in the workplace reduces assumptions that individuals constantly make and instead opens up asking questions more frequently so the team can be confident producing exactly what is expected.
So, why don’t teams work this way? Why in the workplace are we in the mindset that selecting and purchasing all 20 gallons of paint on the first color selection the best approach to accomplishing tasks? My theory is that teams lack trust and confidence in each other; and when a staff member is hired (therefore, competent) to perform a job they were brought in to do, we expect and assume they know exactly what our expectations are of what needs to be delivered. Under this assumption, why would we need avenues for iterative development, frequent feedback, and channels for frequent communication,or even retrospectives to learn what we can improve on. When teams organize and trust and are confident in what each other can provide, it opens avenues to increase transparency into our work, ask for, and value, feedback, and adapt to changing requests.
As agile continues to become a buzzword, and you begin wondering how you can “be agile” in your own work,know that it is something you already do. You can begin reviewing the various frameworks that exist to decide which may be the best to accomplish work most effectively – but my best recommendation to implement agile methodologies in the workplace, is be agile about it!