There was a day when agility was used to describe athletes and cats, not businesses. Then in 2001, a group of seventeen software developers met in Utah and created the Agile Manifesto, a set of values and principles to help software development teams deliver greater customer value while managing unpredictability. These days, agile has broken out of the confines of software development and has exploded into every area of the business, from marketing to operations. So what exactly is agile and how is agile applied to the business?
At the core, agile is an alternative to top-down, hierarchical management. Agile values:
- People over processes and tools
- Iteration and testing
- Responding to change rather than following a plan
- Working prototypes over excessive documentation
- Customer collaboration over rigid contracts
Before agile, software development projects were thoroughly defined at the beginning of a project and work was delivered according to this definition regardless of changes in the organization, customer, market, or technology. This led to software that was outdated or ineffective at delivery. This pattern of rigidity is common to other areas of the business: strategies and tactics are pre-defined and projects executed without a mechanism for testing or adapting to changes. The purpose of agile is to break down this rigid structure of planning and execution using a method for planning and executing that incorporates the ability to react to changes and drives toward the ultimate goal of bringing value to the customer and therefore value to the company.
Many organizations get hung up on the tactical elements of agile: the sprints, the stand-up meetings, the retrospectives. They try to implement these elements of agile without changing their traditional command-and-control thought-process. We recommend that any organization considering implementing agile hire a coach who specializes in implementing agile. These coaches can help an organization create the mind-shift that is required to become agile.
For more in-depth information:
There are many flavors of agile, one of the most common is Scrum. Scrum is a framework for running agile projects. To learn more about Scrum, take a look at this exhaustive Scrum guideline.
Need help bringing agile to your IT operations and projects? Contact our project management team at 303.757.0779.