Build an Agile Culture

Delighted to be featured in iMagazine Jan-June 2016 edition writing about building an agile culture in an organisation. Page 46

How to build an agile company culture – imagazine article 22nd June 2015

Belinda Waldock

Throughout the tech sector from freelance developers to global giants there is a popular culture called agile. A company culture that aims to maximise profit, deliver quality and have fun doing it.

Agile is a global methodology developed by the tech sector that provides a business and project management tool kit, but more importantly a culture and mind set.

When launching and growing businesses and developing new products in an environment of extreme uncertainty and constant change with disruptive and fast moving markets a culture of agility is vital.

The tech sector uses agile to create enterprises that are led by its people, they leverage their talent and create teams that perform at their best which enables their businesses to thrive. Agile isn’t just for tech businesses, any business can use agile to springboard their growth by ensuring they have an agile culture that embraces change and adapts to it, turning uncertainty into opportunity.

Here are some ways agile can help you to build an agile company culture

Increase visibility to Build an Agile Culture

Visualising our work is incredibly powerful for getting things out of our heads and seeing things from a different perspective. Like many find ‘saying it out loud’ is a powerful way of thinking through and rationalising your thoughts and the reality of situations, agile mapping techniques have a similar effect. Visualising the goals, plans and work in progress within a business helps to provide clarity and focus, it gives everyone in the business sight of what’s happening and works to be inclusive and enable all to contribute to the way forward.

Agile roadmaps are a great way to visualise and share the big picture of what’s happening across the business. Agile information dashboards provide real-time, tactile communication channels for collaborating and maintaining a shared understanding throughout the business. Agile breaks down silos and encourages cross team working, team dashboards in shared spaces are great as they make work visible to the wider business.

Empower your team to build an Agile culture

Use agile to enable your teams to decide how best to structure their time and work to meet the performance levels expected. Use agile to delegate goals and rather than define the solution, allow the team to explore the options and come up with the solutions themselves. Allow them to work collaboratively towards the goals, help them to work together and encourage teams to swarm around problems and issues when they occur to find solutions quickly.

Trust your team to know the best way to solve problems and find the most efficient and effective ways to deliver their work. Empower teams to identify and improve their work and provide them with the training and skills needed to improve and refine their working practices.

Find the 20% of your work that delivers 80% of the value

When a business is growing, changing and developing there are lots of options and not everything that we want to do can be done, we have to make difficult choices about the direction to take, agile helps to explore the options and make decisions rapidly.

As a business matures processes and systems can become overly complex with more time spent completing comprehensive documentation than delivering value through efficient and effective working solutions.

Wilfredo Pareto an economist in the early 20th century presented a theory that 80% of the value we create comes from 20% of the effort put in. Identifying this 20% helps to ensure we focus on what creates the most value quickly and effectively.

Agile is a value-driven method, with success measured on value created. It focuses on the creation of working solutions that create the best return on investment. Give your teams time to reflect and analyse their work to identify the 20% that is of the most value, optimise the amount of ‘work not done’ to reach your objectives.

Think big, act small to build an Agile culture

Big changes are hard to adapt to, even if they bring great benefits, the process of change is often a difficult one.

Agile encourages us to think big but act small, have a clear goal that identifies the value you seek to deliver, break it down into manageable chunks of value, and work in short sprints to deliver value early.

Keep it simple, start with a minimum viable product and then make regular, small incremental improvements based on feedback to reach the big goal.

Continuous improvement

Agile works by integrating change on a regular basis, whether it is driven by internal or external forces. It is a learning-based method and builds continuous improvement into your daily workflow. With slack built into each sprint of work there is time to improve and respond to changing circumstances. By tracking our work we can identify the blocks and barriers and work to improve workflow, whilst metrics inform us about what we can do better. Agile builds in time to reflect, think, and experiment into the process, providing a structure to make regular, small, iterative improvements.

It is vital to balance both running the business and changing the business in order for it to be able to continue to sustain growth and deliver value. As a business grows and develops it can struggle with capacity, less time is available for innovation and improvement. Agile ensures that a balance is maintained of running the day to day activities of the business while making time for continuous improvement and development throughout the business, consistently improving its products, people, systems and processes.

Agile Environment

The working environment for any team should be structured to help teams to work effectively and efficiently. Workspace should be set up and maintained for maximum benefit.

The environment we work in can have a big impact on our ability to be agile, subtleties like layout and décor can directly affect the atmosphere and mood of a room and indirectly influence the behaviour and performance of a team.

In order to build an agile culture a business must ensure its people, systems, processes, products and services are agile, that its core is flexible and adaptable and that it listens to feedback and isn’t afraid to change and try something new.

Being agile takes confidence, it requires that we accept that we do not know the answers to everything and that we must embrace change and work together to respond and adapt to the business environment to find agility and success.

**Article End**

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Belinda Waldock is a leading business coach who has worked to help hundreds of small to medium sized businesses to overcome the challenges of fast growth by adopting agile practices to create a culture of agility.

Being Agile in Business provides simple, jargon-free advice that is designed to be read in an agile way – in short bursts that can then be put into action in the real world. The book walks the reader through agile, explaining how the strategies and tools can enable organisations and individuals to work faster and smarter and navigate the uncertainty that all businesses face every day. As well as tactics, tools, templates and other practical guides, Being Agile in Business provides real life case studies to illustrate just how agile can enable leaders to find their own way to thrive in any situation.

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