Fast Forward: The Advantages of Agile Working

You’ve embraced flexible working in all its forms. Hot-desking? Remote working? Already across it? Excellent – because we now have another methodology to add to the mix. Stand by for the latest concept to enter the workplace vernacular: “agile working”.

Increasing numbers of organisations – both in New Zealand and worldwide – are adopting an agile working approach. However, in our experience, while the word “agile” is rapidly becoming the modern workplace’s term du jour, many people still don’t understand the concept per se. And if your people don’t understand the concept, how can you ask them to adopt the right behaviours to support it?

Well, as always, we’re here to help. Herewith, a quick beginner’s guide to the concept of agile working and its benefits:

In the “old” days – and by “old” we mean pre-2013 – the traditional approach to undertaking a large project was to use a “waterfall”, or sequential, methodology. A team created a blueprint, developed a design and then worked together for several months to bring the design to fruition. And if the end result wasn’t a success? Back to the drawing board – literally.

An agile approach, however, moves away from the mindset of a project with a start and end date. It breaks one large, potentially cumbersome team into small, focused groups which work in incremental bursts of activity known as “sprints”. The obvious benefit? If something – be it a prototype or process – doesn’t deliver the expected result, there’s plenty of time to change tack. Agile working is all about rolling with the punches – and rolling rapidly at that.

“Our company is very big on ‘agile’,” observes Salesforce.com master solution engineer Stu Jones. “We have hundreds of “scrums” – the agile term for a small team – which are each responsible for different parts of our product. They are super-focused and have the ability to try something, see very quickly what changes are needed and implement those changes just as quickly. It’s an approach which helps teams respond to unpredictability.” Spotify was another early adopter: the digital music service is said to have one of the best Agile implementation models in the world.

In case you still need convincing, here’s a quick breakdown of some of the benefits offered by an agile approach:

• Increased productivity and improved performance

Which is, of course, why we love the concept. “One goal of any organisation should be to become more responsive, efficient and effective,” says PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda. “Agile working enables exactly that.” Jones concurs: “An agile working approach provides real focus, real speed and a real ability to innovate to deliver an outcome much faster and much more successfully. It enables us to develop a subset of high-value features first, incorporating feedback sooner.”

• Improved employee engagement

“If you have people from all parts of your business involved in ‘scrums’, you get a much faster and better buy-in from the entire business for a particular project,” explains Jones. “You get exactly what you want, faster – which makes for happier employees.” This segues nicely to our third benefit:

• Improved work/life balance

“Working in an agile way makes you more efficient and increases your flexibility,” explains Anda. “And as we know, increased efficiency frees up time and decreases stress. The benefits for your overall wellbeing are pretty clear.”

How, then, do we adapt our usual work behaviours to an agile working environment? Sit tight, because in our next post, we’re going to discuss exactly that: how the PEP principles you already know and love integrate beautifully with an agile working methodology. In the meantime? Limber up, people.