Transferring AGILE principles to non-development teams

Over the last five years, the principles set forth in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development have been the talk of that industry. Now others are beginning to notice, and for good reason. For example, Lisa Haneberg writes this:

I think there are lots of things businesses can learn about how to engage the workforce and put out a good product from Agile philosophies and techniques.

I agree. While much of the Agile approach is focused on developing software, many Agile principles are transferable to almost any business team. Here are four Agile principles I find particularly useful for teams, managers, and team leaders.

  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

I also like the Agile goal to make projects interative by continuously producing short time-frame deliverables for customers. While I have no expertise in software development, I understand that Agile teams attempt to deliver usable code every few weeks, rather than waiting to deliver an omnibus software program at the end of a project.

If it is hard to see how an iterative approach would transfer to your organization, it may not be so far fetched. Effective teams often manage projects by dividing up tasks into smaller, more manageable, chunks. An agile approach might be to identify a “deliverable” from each of these sets of tasks (a marketing piece, a prototype, an interim report) that provides value to internal or external customers.

I have just begun to learn from the pioneers who have been developing and using Agile principles for developong software. The more I learn, the more I believe that business teams can benefit from an Agile approach. If you are not already familiar with Agile principles, give them a look.

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