In the tech start-up sector agile is a popular mind set and method used for business and product development. It’s a methodology that aims to maximise profit, deliver value and help you to enjoy the journey of shaping and building a successful business.
When launching and growing a business and developing new products we face an environment of extreme uncertainty and constant change with disruptive and fast-moving markets. Being agile helps to navigate this journey and find the best path to creating a sustainable and scalable business model.
Agile isn’t just for tech businesses, any business can use agility to springboard their growth. Companies with an agile culture that embraces and adapts to change, can turn uncertainty into opportunity, and flourish when other businesses fail.
Here are ten ways your business can become more agile today by adopting agile thinking and tools;
1. Gain a better balance
It is vital to balance both running a business and changing a business in order for it to sustain growth and deliver value.
As a business grows and develops it can struggle with capacity, less time is available for innovation and improvement. Ensure that a balance is maintained between running the day-to-day activities of the business and making time for continuous improvement and development throughout the business.
Agile embraces change and provides a methodology to manage it, agile accepts changes will happen. Plans are implemented flexibly to respond to change and allow for continuous improvement. An agile mind set embraces change as opportunity and potential for learning and growth.
2. Cut yourself some slack for growth and improvement
Agile is a learning-based method and builds continuous improvement into our daily workflow, build in slack to enable time to improve and respond to changing circumstances. Agile adds time to reflect, think, and experiment into the process, it provides a structure to make regular small iterative improvements. Agile works by integrating change on a regular basis, whether it is driven by internal or external forces.
Agile is a method to support, analyse, manage and improve existing practices within the business. Agile helps to create time to review current approaches and identify the blocks, bottlenecks and issues that limit the business. Agile helps teams to optimise and improve their working practices through learning and reflection.
3. Gain clarity and visibility
Visualising our work is incredibly powerful for getting things out of our heads and seeing things from a different perspective. Whether projects, plans or ideas, visual mapping helps gain immediate clarity to help order, prioritise, share and review it personally and with your team.
Get ideas out of your head and visualise work in progress to clarify and share what’s happening within the business. Agile tools literally put the writing on the wall providing a real time snapshot and practical communication channel for the business.
Agile information dashboards provide real-time, tactile communication channels for collaborating and maintaining a shared understanding throughout the business. Agile dashboards break down business silos and encourage cross team working.
4. Find the 20% of your work that delivers 80% of the value
When your role or business is growing, changing and developing there are a lot of options, not enough time and resource to do them all and we have to make difficult choices.
Agile is a value-driven method, success is measured on value created, it focuses on the creation of working solutions that create the best return on investment. Sometimes we can get caught up in trying to achieve perfection and the law of diminishing returns kicks in. That point you reach when the amount you are investing into a solution becomes greater than the value you are creating and the costs outweigh the benefits.
A great way to optimise your work is to us the Pareto Principle, defined in the early twentieth century by economist Vilfredo Pareto he observed that 20% of the effort put in creates 80% of the value delivered.
Take some time to analyse your work and identify the optimum 20% that is of the most value. Optimise the amount of ‘work not done’ to reach your objectives. Identifying the 20% most valuable work we do and prioritising it helps to ensure we deliver value quickly and effectively.
5. Sanity metrics over vanity metrics
Make sure your metrics do more than just look good.
Vanity metrics are the sort of metrics that look great, they show you what you want to see, they paint a great picture. At best Vanity metrics make us feel good and show us what’s going well, at their worst they distract and mislead us. Vanity metrics may look great but often they have no meaning and are difficult to understand.
Sanity metrics show us what’s going well, what we can do better to help us see how we can improve and flag up early warnings. Sanity metrics give us the information needed to manage risk and leverage the opportunity as fully as it’s viable to.
Sanity metrics tell us that we are doing the right thing and doing the thing right, they tell us if our actions are moving us closer or further away from our goal, they show us where we are gaining or losing traction and momentum.
6. Think big – act small
Being agile means to validate and test solutions early. Releasing early viable solutions for feedback provides vital information to help evolve and develop the idea into a solution that meets demand and needs. Agile works to ensure the right thing is built, and that thing is built right through test-driven development.
Agile values people, collaboration, working solutions and change. An agile team values being agile over being perfect, they look to release their work early and gain feedback to enable them to continuously improve and refine the value they deliver and be responsive as markets and customers change and evolve.
7. Run sprints not marathons
Traditional project management approaches tend to try and fix the solution from the start and deliver by running one long slow marathon of work to reach the goal, the route is set and rigid, and unfortunately as like actual marathons, some never finish and exhaust themselves trying.
Agile in contrast looks at the project as a series of short sprints, each sprint is typically between 1-3 weeks, work is scheduled in for the period and at the end of the sprint there’s time to catch your breath, reflect on performance, consider what’s changed and decide the direction the next sprint will take.
8. Have a morning huddle
Each morning have a quick meeting to review what you did yesterday, what you plan to do today and if there are any blocks or issues that need to be resolved.
Team huddles are a great way to engage everyone on a daily basis and build better communication and cohesion within your team and a great way to say good bye to long, inefficient monthly communications meetings that last all day.
Communication and interaction are key in the success of any project, tools and processes are great but they shouldn’t replace actual conversation. At worst teams and individuals end up working in isolation only meeting monthly at best. If you miss the meeting you miss important updates and if you attend you’ve wasted half a day listening to things that don’t apply to you.
Huddles are short fast meetings that helps to raise awareness, share knowledge, and bring teams together to work collaboratively.
9. Go all retro
Regularly have a retrospective to reflect and review progress and appreciate the current situation. Ask yourself these 5 questions to reflect on your work and its impact, use the answers to help you to review your activities and plot your way forward.
- What is going well?
- What can we do better?
- What is stopping us?
- What has changed?
- What’s next – what are the options going forward?
10. Empower your teams
Use agile to foster a healthy and positive working environment that supports and empower teams.
Agile works to empower individuals and teams, providing a structure and tool set for self-organisation and management. The method encourages teams to work collaboratively and improve their performance collectively through metrics and a culture of continuous improvement. Agile leaders are empowered to provide their teams with the environment, tools and skills to deliver value and achieve optimum performance levels.
Agile allows teams to play to their strengths and identify opportunities for development and improvement. Agile businesses leverage their talent and create teams that perform at their best. Use agile as a tool to improve team performance and individual job satisfaction.
At its core ‘Being agile’ is all about expecting, managing and embracing change, it is both a mindset and a methodology. Whether you are starting, running or growing a team or your business, change is inevitable and agile provides a method for building in change rather than resisting it. Agile is a highly effective method for managing change, navigating uncertainty, empowering teams and creating a positive working environment and culture.
About the author
This guide has been written for ByteStart by Belinda Waldock, author of Being Agile in Business and a leading business coach who helps businesses to overcome the challenges of fast growth by creating a culture of agility.
More help on ByteStart
You will find more tips and help on launching and growing a thriving business in some of our other popular growth guides;
- The 3 issues you’ll need to overcome if you want your start-up to reach £1m turnover
- Barriers to growth – how to identify them and how to overcome them
- How finding a great mentor could help you to grow, and your business to flourish
- The start-up survival guide – 6 practical tips to help you get through the early years
- Why it’s important you plan your exit strategy before you start your business
- How you can build your business in 90 minutes a day