Designing an Agile Company Culture

In 2001, a group of software developers decided to create a new way of doing business within their chosen industry.

Prior to their meeting, the software programming and development sector had prompted illustrator Scott Adams to make fun of the industry with his Dilbert comic strip; however, the joke was no longer funny to the developers who came up with the Agile Manifesto.

Although the Agile Manifesto was originally intended to be applied to software development processes, it did not take long for it to be applied in the fields of project management, human resources and office administration.

When agile business processes are adopted by a company, the work methodology tends to run a lot more efficiently because it is more realistic and does not require extensive planning and rigid project management of the past. Being agile means being able to accept unexpected changes without trying to shoehorn everything into envisioned processes.

Considering how far the software industry has come in the 21. century, every business organization would do well to consider the Agile Manifesto and adopt it as part of company culture with the help of technology.

The Agile Principles to Follow

The top level principles are concepts to be valued by a business enterprise:

1 – Actual human input from collaborators is more important than work processes and business tools.

2 – Documentation does not have to be extensive when projects are providing the desired results.

3 – Collaboration between contractual parties is more important than the contract itself.

4 – A genuine desire to provide smart responses to change is more valuable than following a plan.

In software development, there used to be a chasm between business and technical staff; when teams were put together and instructed to carry out a project, the level of motivation of prospective team members was rarely considered. Relaxed, personal communications only took place between a few members of the team; everyone else received memos and short updates. Agile initiatives aim to improve on all these setbacks, but business managers must be willing to adopt certain principles and adapt to change.

Agile Communications

Whenever possible, an agile workplace will conduct face-to-face meetings that are purposely of a short duration. Short, live meetings do not have to take place frequently; instead, constant communications and sharing can be conducted over popular technology solutions for video conferencing, textual chat such as Slack, Asana, as well as the more traditional Skype for Business and OneDrive for easy and organized sharing, respectively.

Web and video conferencing are part of the agile business strategy, but a better method is to take advantage of modern tools such as Slack or Asana, which combine communications with resource planning and project management.

Transparency of Projects and Workflow

One of the goals that can be achieved with a powerful business tool such as Slack is that a project or task can become fully transparent. Whenever possible, team members should post and share their comments, opinions and progress.

Within Slack, which has collaboration features based on the social media paradigm, work teams can organize themselves as they seek to complete their specific task instead of focusing too much on the ultimate goal.

When using a tool such as Asana, the project can be organized in sprint cycles, which are arranged in a way that milestones, progress and communications are shared by all team members from a centralized location. What are not centralized, however, are the opinions and decisions taken by the teams as they complete their tasks.

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Agile Leadership

Traditionally, business operations are conducted by means of planning, followed by leadership designation, organization, supervision, and control. Under agile leadership, a different operational approach is taken.

An agile company will be comprised of leaders who can solve conflicts, surmount obstacles, provide support, and mentor employees. These duties can be performed with the help of team members. Interaction with employees and associates should always be polite and attentive; essentially, the Theory Y of management is preferred while Theory X is eschewed.

Agile Corporate Culture

An agile company will focus on delivering visible results that do not require extensive documentation. One example from the tech industry would be modern smartphones and tablets, which typically ship without the extensive operation manuals of yore because they are intuitive and produce highly visible and tangible results for consumers. It takes an agile corporate culture to achieve similar results.

The agile corporate culture also instills a mindset that reacts quickly to problems. Errors are handled as learning opportunities and feedback is always welcomed. In other words, when something needs to be corrected, immediate action is taken; complaining and trying to route issues to designated channels only become part of the problem instead of becoming part of the solution.

One of the greatest advantages of agile corporate culture is that organizations becoming nimble against their competitors who are stuck in traditional mindsets. Rivals will try to perfect their processes and will seek ways to improve their planning while agile companies are sprinting through projects and making profits.

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About the author:

John Porter is a Southampton-based freelance writer and a tech head, so he enjoys trying out new technology and likes to share software and business productivity tips and tricks. You can reach him on Twitter, Facebook or G+.

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