Agile is a project management approach that is meant to simplify things for a team. This meaning that things get launched faster and easier. However, just because the core purpose of Agile is to make things run smoother, doesn’t mean that it lacks a learning curve.
Agile isn’t just a planning process; it’s a philosophy. Here’s how you can make Agile adaptation easier for your team.
1. Education is Key
The Agile process isn’t something you can start by handing everyone a guidebook and diving into your next project. You need to set aside time to properly train your team about how it differs from other approaches you’ve taken in the past, what your goals are, the jargon, and so on.
Changes are often an important trial for the team dynamic. With proper education and open lines of communication, your team can get through this change and be stronger because of it.
2. Use Visual Collaborative Tools
Regardless of what process you take for project management, being able to visualize what’s happening can make things easier for all involved. To create a visual project plan, use a kanban tool for an immersive project plan that shows due dates, who a task is assigned to, where bottlenecks are forming, and ultimately gives in-depth insights without hours of extra work.
For those teams who are in one central location or like to have in-person brainstorming sessions, sticky notes on a wall are a great way to outline everything that will take place before translating it into an online tool.
3. Slow Implementation
Don’t make the mistake of completely switching over to Agile for all of your ongoing projects. It’s better to finish your projects as they started (perhaps taking on a few Agile philosophies to finish up) and start fresh with a new project. Furthermore, rather than having all projects going forward using the Agile process, you may choose to start with a few, tweak your approach, then make it a company standard.
Another way to do a slow implementation of the Agile approach is to pick and choose which aspects of the process you’re going to start with. You may start to implement the Agile development cycle for a few projects before drilling down and assigning Scrum Masters and Stakeholders.
4. Restructure as Needed
The idea of restructuring sounds scary, but it could help your organization adapt Agile with ease. Don’t think of restructuring as a way to get rid of underperformers and eliminate jobs. This process will be putting people in clearly defined roles that play to their strengths and tie into the Agile process.
Like the rest of the Agile implementation process, this will require open lines of communication with your team. Before introducing a restructure plan, hype up your team and get them excited for what’s to come. Show how these changes will create opportunities for growth rather than focusing on fear of the unknown.
5. Adapt Agile to Your Organization
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that there’s only one way to approach and implement Agile. A lot of businesses rightfully take the time to learn how similar businesses are approaching the implementation process. Conversely, they make the mistake of trying to follow the exact steps of like organizations in their own Agile implementation.
While an organization should be open to change for effective Agile implementation, the process and principles should be made to fit the business. Agile is meant to be a versatile way to streamline projects; forcing a square peg through a round hole will only cause disruption and discontent.
6. Set Performance Metrics and Manage Expectations
Having set goals and performance metrics for all members of your team will not only give them something to focus on and strive toward, but it will also help manage expectations across the board. For example, if you know that your colleague is expected to deliver x by a certain date, rather than continuously asking for updates and creating tension, you have a timeline by which you can base your own workload.
Having performance metrics also helps create leadership buy-in, which will drastically increase the chances that Agile implementation will be successful. In many organizations, leadership struggles to understand some of the minutiae that make a business run successfully on the ground level. With performance metrics and tangible measurements, it will give leadership a better understanding of what is and is not working, even if the finer points are beyond their hands-on knowledge.
7. Offer Continuous Support
Whether you start to implement Agile slowly or all at once, the learning process is never complete. Rather than having support available during the implementation process and the immediate weeks following, plan on having continuous support and resources available for the team. Not only will the team feel better knowing that if they have a question a year down the road, someone will have an answer, but they’ll also develop an appreciation for continuous learning.
One of the best ways to offer continuous support is to work with an expert for an extended period to help implement an Agile mentorship program. Ideally, within two years of launching Agile, external assistance will no longer be a normal requirement; the implementation team should become thought leaders within the organization and offer assistance to their peers. This creates self-sustaining growth.
8. Practice Change Management Strategies
As with any significant change in an organization, it’s important to have a change management strategy in place when adopting Agile. Consider working not only with an Agile expert, but an HR consultant who has extensive knowledge in organizational restructuring and change management. These experts will be able to use their sociological and business knowledge to implement a significant change while minimizing disruption.
Change is challenging for everyone. If you’ve determined that Agile is right for your organization, then you know it will have a lot of positive long-term impacts. By educating your team and giving them clearly defined roles and guidelines, you eliminate the variables. Use the right tools to keep everyone on the same page and take your Agile implementation one step at a time.
Sam Makad is a business consultant. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their businesses and overall ROI. You can follow Sam on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.