Agile Management: Tips for building a brighter future

How agile management can help managers to a more successful future
By 2016 Management Book of the Year Shortlist author Belinda Waldock

The recent CMI Future Forecast reported British managers have the gloomiest outlook since 2012, optimism has fallen and poor management is being blamed for under performance. The report identifies a need to overcome the barriers of bureaucracy, poor culture and outdated technology.

Management goals identified are improving cost control, productivity and performance, through better management and leadership, culture change and investment into technology.

Belinda Waldock, author of Being agile in Business, shortlisted for the CMI Management book of the year, shares her insights on how the agile methodology can help managers gain a brighter outlook for the year ahead.

Management and Leadership Skills

Having the skills and the tools to manage well are crucial to successful leadership. Agile leadership is about engaging and empowering your teams to be self-managing and self-organising rather than commanding and controlling them.

48% of UK managers have not received any form of training in the last 12 months. In the tech sector 60% of skills are self-taught, employees are empowered to develop their skills and knowledge as part of their day to day work. Peer learning, online resources, books, conferences and meetups are common routes to gaining new skills and knowledge.

37% of the UK working population have not received training for their roles in the past year. Using agile as a management tool, teams are able to gain a balance between getting work done and improving their way of working. Cut yourself and your teams some slack to improve skills and knowledge so that they can become more efficient and effective.

Productivity and Performance

Agile is a management tool kit that will help your teams to improve their productivity and performance. Agile will literally put the writing on the wall for all to see, and it is your role as their manager to listen and respond.

Implementing a simple agile dashboard will gain you immediate visibility, clarity and a solid communications channel for you and your teams. It will reveal areas of high performance, and the blocks and barriers limiting their ability to work productively and effectively.

An agile management approach encourages teams to work collaboratively, play to their strengths and harness their talent. Agile is an enabler to improving performance collectively, through shared ownership of goals, and a culture of continuous improvement.

Agile leaders provide their teams with the tools, skills and resources needed to achieve optimum performance levels and create a supportive working environment.

Cost Control

Modern businesses need to be responsive to market demands and availability of resources. The traditional three-year business plan, fixed annual budget and an array of locked in project budgets, resources and targets doesn’t survive first contact with delivery teams.

An agile approach ensures that costs and revenue are tracked and revised regularly, budgets, resources and targets flex to respond to early results and feedback. Taking an agile approach to development means value is delivered earlier which validates the investment made and generates scope for further investment and development.

Lean methods developed for labour and material based businesses are brilliant methods for taking out cost and adding value in sectors such as manufacturing and engineering by reducing waste and optimising production. Agile methods have evolved these methods to optimise return on investment in technology and knowledge based businesses in the same way by taking out cost and adding value.

Agile originates from the tech sector so investment into technology is a great way to experience and learn about agile working. Agile methods are common practice for systems development so it’s an ideal opportunity to test out taking an agile approach within your business.

Challenging Bureaucracy

The systems and controls leadership and management teams put in place to help govern and guide the growth of an organisation can equally limit its growth. If too rigid, a business is unable to evolve and improve and so they become a barrier and limiter of growth.

Top down command and control is not an effective management approach in modern businesses; agile guides a business toward a more collaborative way of working enabling an increased level of trust and autonomy.

By implementing agile management, teams are able to create two-way communications between decision makers and delivery teams. Teams on the ground are able to contribute, feedback and evidence the need for change in a clear and understandable way to decision makers.

Agile used throughout a business breaks down the barriers and silos caused by hierarchy. It maintains a balance between running the business and growing the business, ensuring it is continuously developing and consolidating learning and improvements.

The open and collaborative nature of agile creates a positive and empowered company culture that inspires the whole business to work collectively, ensuring the future success of the business, and, that it’s an enjoyable place to be.

Being Agile in Business by Belinda Waldock is shortlisted in the Practical Manager category of the 2016 CMI Management Book of the Year, in association with the British Library and sponsored by Henley Business School