Agile methodology has witnessed increasing popularity over time. Initially, it was predominantly adopted by software/tech companies as a transition from the traditional waterfall methodology. However, in recent years, numerous non-IT/tech companies have also embraced agile, with the pandemic playing a significant role in this transition.
By adopting Agile, these organizations enhanced their adaptability to market demands and accelerated delivery speed in response to business needs.
Agile, a framework for developing iterative and incremental products, promotes and enables flexibility in addressing rapidly changing requirements.
Contrary to the misconception that Agile is primarily suited for IT industries, its principles, and values are applicable across various domains.
Furthermore, although IT industries are often associated with agile practices, it is worth noting that many of these practices, such as Kanban, did not originate from the software industry.
The term “Kanban” comes from the Japanese word for “sign” or “signboard.” Kanban serves as a visual indicator that prompts the team to take necessary actions to maintain a smooth flow of processes. By employing transparency throughout the unit, Kanban ensures uninterrupted progress.
This approach was inspired by Toyota’s observation of a supermarket in the UK. Industrial engineer Taiichi Ohno developed this system for Toyota to create a self-stocking factory floor for raw materials in the production line, aiming to enhance manufacturing efficiency.
Today, Kanban serves as a practical framework for companies to adopt agile practices. It is relatively easy to understand and implement. Even if you are not fully embracing agile methodologies, you can still utilize a Kanban board to track and enhance visibility and task distribution within the team.
However, it’s important to recognize that agile is not solely about frameworks and processes; it encompasses culture and mindset as well.
How and Why to Apply Agile Methodology?
When joining a new team and intending to introduce agile methodologies and mindset, be prepared for potential resistance. It is natural for people to be wary of embracing something new that could disrupt their established comfort zones. Additionally, the team may already be familiar with agile but may have dismissed it as unsuitable for their specific way of working, such as in the case of finance or human resource teams.
However, you understand that adopting agile is the most effective approach for a team operating traditionally to enhance their efficiency, accelerate delivery, and create a healthier and more enjoyable work environment overall.
To address this resistance, start by thoroughly understanding their existing practices. Identify any areas that may be lacking and then showcase the benefits that agile methodologies and the agile mindset can bring to them. Agile is designed to enhance how a team or organization delivers value to its customers, making it applicable to any company.
One way it achieves this is by incorporating customer feedback into the development process and implementing an iterative approach that delivers small increments of the product regularly. By emphasizing these advantages, you can help the team recognize the value that agile can offer and overcome their initial resistance.
The principles outlined in the Agile Manifesto are as follows:
- Prioritize individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Emphasize working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Foster customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Embrace responding to change over following a rigid plan.
On the left side, you will notice that the bolded agile principle adds greater value compared to the conventional way of working on the right.
As agile encourages adaptability, let’s consider the second point of “Working software over comprehensive documentation” and modify it for industries or departments less focused on IT. We can rephrase it as “Usable Working Product over comprehensive documentation.”
What constitutes a usable working product? It refers to a product that brings value to the end-user or customer.
In Agile software development, it is advantageous to establish an early and shared understanding of the fundamental components required at each delivery stage, aligning with the ultimate goal of a usable working product. This is similar to the definition of done, which the entire team agrees upon to confirm completion.
Introducing new processes, even if they come with proven efficiency benefits, can still be met with resistance from the team. Therefore, the best approach is to present Agile as a culture and practice.
The most crucial aspect is fostering a mindset that approaches work for non-IT teams with specific requirements that may not easily align with a one-size-fits-all Agile implementation.
However, there are certain elements in Agile that can aid the team in advancing within their existing workflow as they gradually embrace the Agile culture and practice together.
Yes, Agile transformation revolves around cultivating a culture that develops naturally. It involves an iterative approach to creating an environment where teams are empowered to concentrate on delivering outcomes, as opposed to the traditional setup where management bears the responsibility for strategy success or failure while the team focuses solely on output.
Based on my experience, when engaging in Agile transformation initiatives, we often encounter opposition and resistance from departments or units such as Quality, Finance, Regulatory, and Compliance. This resistance typically stems from their limited comprehension of Agile and its underlying principles.
Agile doesn’t compromise on quality, compliance, regulations, or budget. Instead, it assists in their adherence and adoption. It also helps prevent the team from being hindered by excessive processes and bureaucracy.
One effective approach to introducing Agile to a team is to consider adapting the terminology to align with the terms and language that the team feels comfortable with.
For instance, in a sales team, you can rename terms like “task” and “stories” to “prospects,” “leads,” or “customers.” Similarly, the marketing team can refer to their initiatives as “features” instead of campaigns.
Teams thrive and become more productive when they have autonomy and operate within an environment that allows them to leverage their strengths toward achieving the company’s goals.
Without a framework that promotes organization-wide alignment, there is a potential for multiple teams practicing Agile without proper cross-team or departmental coordination.
This situation can lead to the creation of Agile silos, hindering the unified vision and collaboration that Agile aims to foster. It occurs when teams implement ceremonies without fully grasping their purpose. Avoid imposing unnecessary processes and ceremonies that do not align with your team’s needs.
While it is crucial to implement Agile correctly for a successful transformation, the true power of Agile lies in its flexibility and simplicity.
Therefore, Agile is not limited to being a methodology solely for software development; it can be applied across various industries. There are multiple frameworks available, such as SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework), which can assist in scaling Agile practices and processes across your organization at different stages.
To begin, your non-IT team can embrace and utilize the following key Agile practices from the Agile Manifesto:
- Create a prioritized list of items for the team to work on, providing autonomy and transparency (Backlog).
- Write concise descriptions of the work that needs to be done to guide the team (User stories).
- Define criteria that must be met for work to be considered complete (Definition of Done).
- Set a time frame of 2-4 weeks to complete the work (Sprint).
- Select items from the list that can be accomplished within the sprint duration (Sprint backlog).
- Use a board with vertical columns labeled “To Do,” “In Progress,” and “Done” to visualize the progress of work (Sprint board).
- Move items from left to right as work advances. Include an “On Hold” category for temporarily paused items.
- Form teams consisting of 3-9 members based on the scope and workload (Agile team).
- Conduct a daily 10-15 minute meeting at the same place and time, allowing the team to discuss progress, and challenges, and seek solutions (Daily stand-up). Each team member has an opportunity to share their progress, and challenges, and request assistance.
- Present completed work to stakeholders for feedback (Sprint Review).
- Hold a team meeting after work completion and review to reflect on successes, challenges, and lessons learned, aiming to improve future work (Retrospective).
By adopting these Agile practices, your non-IT team can enhance collaboration, efficiency, and continuous improvement.
Agile offers the following benefits:
- Provides a clear goal from the start, preventing scope creep and changing objectives.
- Emphasizes frequent customer interaction and feedback.
- Facilitates continuous improvement and innovation.
- Encourages close collaboration among interdependent tasks and teams.
- Enables iterative development and the ability to act on feedback throughout the process.
If you find the idea appealing and you’re considering adopting agile for your organization or non-IT team, keep in mind that the goal is to iterate and develop a customized framework that promotes better interaction, communication, and collaboration within the team.
These elements will contribute to the team’s journey toward embracing an agile culture. Just like any worthwhile endeavor, practice leads to improvement. Engaging in multiple iterations and retrospectives will enhance your progress.
However, before jumping into prescribing agile practices, it’s essential to ask yourself the question: What do you want to achieve? Clarifying your objectives will set the foundation for the successful adoption of Agile.
It is crucial to have a clear understanding of your organization’s needs and ensure that adopting agile will effectively address your specific issues.
However, it’s important to note that if you aim to make your teams agile, they will require proper coaching to handle any objections or side effects that may arise, as well as effectively manage risks and contraindications. Simply acquiring knowledge from online sources and implementing agile practices without guidance is not sufficient. While there are valuable online resources available for learning, achieving a successful Agile adoption necessitates the coaching and mentorship of an experienced Agile coach or consultant.
Becoming an agile company brings resilience, and the challenges involved in such a transformation are worthwhile. Why innovation! we are well-versed in the obstacles faced by non-agile companies and have the expertise to address them and facilitate successful agile transformations.
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