How to Understand Agile Working

By on January 17, 2013
Agile Working

Nimble? Quick? Alert? Those are just a few of the words that might spring to mind when asked about the meaning of the word ‘Agile’. As you’ll soon see, those words are certainly relevant to the topic at hand, but when we say Agile what we really mean is the principle of Agile Working.

So what exactly is Agile Working then? Many large organisations such as Toyota in Japan, and Sky and BT in the UK, have started to realise that employees work more successfully when they have room to breathe and to be mobile in their working routine. It is incredibly difficult to offer a concise definition of agility in the business place, but suffice to say that by incorporating an agile working routine, you allow the established routines within your business to quickly and seamlessly adapt to the quickly changing marketplace. This, in turn, can enhance profitability and also company growth.

Although Agile Development is an incredibly popular tool in the development of computer software (see Agile Development Methodology), agility is not limited to the technology sector alone. More and more organisations are discovering that through this focus on performance and the creation of working relationships founded on trust, they can see enhanced success in their own market sector.

Becoming agile is not the act of an individual; it must be embraced by every employee of the company for its success to be realised. If the benefits of agility sound tempting to you then why not consider implementing these top three agile strategies into your own workplace:

Create a flexible and open-space working environment. The term hot-desking is often described when discussing agility; instead of assigning an employee to a specific desk or cubicle, operate a system whereby any employee can use any desk for their work. This shared space opens a world of possibilities for workers often operating out of home but needing to check in now and then, but also encourages your employees to stay out of the ‘comfort zone’ associated with a desk. An open space environment can also promote the free passage of ideas between the temporary desk spaces.

Consider removing any imposed hierarchies. Instead of focusing on having your employees reporting to their boss, the goal of agility is to heavily promote the importance of teamwork. This is often achieved, as in the case of Toyota, by pairing an experienced employee with a novice. The novice has the opportunity to learn significantly from their more experience partner, while the experienced employee has the chance to see things differently thanks to a completely fresh pair of eyes.

Fail forward. It’s alright to make mistakes; in the words of Oscar Wilde, ‘Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes’. The key is to ensure that you and your employees are failing forward, instead of backward. Once your staff realises that it’s alright to make a mistake their creativity will start to shine through, then when errors are made they will be considered a learning process, allowing progress to be made even through the worse calamity.

Increasing your productivity through the use of agility is a very real prospect, but it is one that many businesses shy away from. The assumed costs in terms of time and money of such an organisation shakeup may keep all but the more entrepreneurial from really realising how much agility can work for them. Take the first step toward agility today though, and you will start to see the advantages sooner than you might think; happy workers, increased productivity and greater profits.