It feels like agile became a buzzword and is here to stay… So we are here to describe its true value and help you learn how to get it right, avoiding mistakes when getting started with Agile.
Ever wondered how companies such as Microsoft and Google update every single one of their products in a week or two while other companies take years? It’s all about teams, their mindset, and their approaches, and in a nutshell, it’s called Agile.
Agile is more of a product philosophy than anything else. It is built on moving fast, releasing often, and learning from your users as you move forward. Since it is based on feedback from real users, Agile makes it easier to ensure that the product is on the right track, meeting real users’ needs without making product owners overthink and come up with unrealistic use cases and unnecessary features.
A 2021 PMI study found that gymnastic enterprises are more likely than traditional enterprises to complete projects using agile (28 percent versus 22 percent) and hybrid (24 percent versus 16 percent) approaches and less likely to complete projects using waterfall (45 percent versus 59 percent).
Due to the proven benefits of Agile, it is getting more and more popular. The core value of Agile is in rethinking the work in a way that puts business value first and manages to deliver usable benefits early, and frequently. The real power of Agile is when you get the highest value first. This is all about an iterative, incremental approach to building software. Teams use several Agile methodologies to plan releases and then work in time-blocked “sprints” to push out new software and learn from customer feedback continuously.
The Agile manifesto defines the approach as valuing Individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan.
The mindset: Agile, putting value delivery at the core, requires fostering a human-centric culture yet a dynamically changing ecosystem where a growth mindset is embraced. Such an approach opposes the solidified, rigid processes and fixed mindset.
 These are enterprises that are focused on outcomes rather than process, with a clear sense of how to balance structure and governance with the need to flex and pivot on demand.
Teams must communicate effectively, ensuring they stay in sync throughout the fast-changing environment. Project managers communicate with a diverse group of professionals, from developers, tech leads, operations, and security engineers to business executives, to ensure everything is aligned with the goals and values needed by the business. Throughout this endless, continuous communication chain, they find the best solution to a problem with a product owner or peers or discuss new tasks or project details. Orchestrating efforts, especially in a diverse and multi-stakeholder project, can be challenging. You, as the manager, will not only need to communicate effectively and efficiently but also will have to connect with the team members with empathy yet lead and orchestrate the efforts through compassion.
We are in an era where the only predictable thing is change. Changes in project scope, requirements, technology stack, and even strategic directions of businesses are inevitable. This is precisely where Agile approaches prove their value, as in Agile environments, continuous delivery and improvements thrive. This requires being able to adapt to these changes quickly, upskill, and sometimes even forget about what you already know, and relearn, re-iterate, and continuously improve, focusing on delivering value. It’s all about embracing agility in practice.
As you already noticed, communication is essential for Agile teams. As in any other team effort, conflicts are not inevitable, especially when things change rapidly. In an iterative process, where learning from previous actions is essential to move forward, team members can be pushed out of their comfort zone rather easily. Let’s take retrospective sessions where the team discusses the previous iteration period and share the views on good, bad, and ugly and what could have been done better.
Retrospectives, being essential for agile teams, can be tricky, as humans can be emotional and not always focused on the results, thus increasing the risk of conflicts. Any conflict between team members, disregarding their grade and level, will negatively impact the atmosphere in the team, and personal tensions negatively impact productivity and project quality. This is why it is crucial to learn and know how to turn any conflict into constructive discussion and strive to find win-win situations.
In a dynamic environment where priorities can continuously change, it’s easy for technology teams to become frustrated and demotivated if they are asked to just follow the instructions. Proactiveness, nurturing a sense of ownership, and empowering teams with decision-making authority, can help make teams more productive.
This starts with not just being a follower but rather being fearless in clarifying why a task should be done this way, not just focusing on issues but also offering ideas on improving and enhancing knowledge by taking on completely new tasks. It’s also about sharing concerns and raising red flags that may lead to potential risks on the project.
Creating and delivering great value is never a one-man show. It is only possible with united and aligned efforts, where the contribution of every individual and their interaction with one another plays a vital role and helps turn all great ideas into reality. Considering the latter, being a team player rather than an individualist is essential. Supporting team members, empathizing with them, being a helpful hand, and working aligned together toward a common direction shall be considered core pillars of collaboration, which help achieve the desired results faster.
To wrap up, Agile is all about generating real business value through adapting to a continuously changing environment by delivering products iteratively, incrementally improving by means of learning from the work done, practicing, exploring, pushing boundaries, and inspecting. This is why we strongly believe that agility is a unique combination of soft and hard skills, which, if mixed and matched in the right proportions, will make teams unstoppable in creating growing value.
It is evident that agile teams also need technical skills to complement fast-paced value delivery.
According to a Gartner article published in 2022, there are 12 essential skills for developers in Agile teams.
We will focus on the necessary technical skills in our future posts, so stay tuned!