Agile

Adjective   ag·ile | \ ˈa-jəl  

Definition of agile:

1: marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace

2: having a quick resourceful and adaptable character

Antonyms: awkward, clumsy, gawky, graceless, klutzy, lumbering, ungainly, ungraceful

Noun   ag·ile

Definition of Agile: 1: relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.

Which side of this definition appeals to you?  Which side characterizes the way your company or team generally feels in the midst of a data system upgrade or business acquisition?  If your answer to those questions isn’t the same, it’s OK. And it’s typical. But it doesn’t have to be.

One of my first major projects at a large bank was to plan a large, multi-department conversion estimated to take place over the span of 30 months. From experience, I knew the kinds of theater that went into budgeting and planning, and I wanted to do it differently. So I started with the target completion date and worked back with my own timeline and budget estimates for each respective team to complete their piece.  My VP glared at me. “How on earth could you know all of these dates and the timing without working with each respective department to develop requirements?” I explained that no one was willing to spend time planning if the project wasn’t approved yet and there was no other way to get started (not yet knowing there was a methodology called Agile that would help crack this conundrum) and she got it.  She championed the process for pulling together all of the relevant stakeholders and we put together a very real (and eventually very successful) waterfall project. However, it only really worked because she was very dedicated to the project and wielded a lot of power.

Fast forward to the world of start-ups, faster moving digital economies and greater competition, and the Agile approach has become commonplace in the tech development world.  But as I learned how to apply it to software development in a tech startup, I realized it’s also incredibly applicable to all aspects of business. Agile opened my eyes to the idea that if the right case is built, individuals can take ownership themselves, collectively architect solutions and take near-term steps to advance toward the target goal.  Because we weren’t placing big bets (and thus big risk) it was easy to get consensus, because we were willing to go back and shift based on successes or failures we observed, we were willing to stick our necks out. Communication was better, outcomes were better, and satisfaction was through the roof.  This was a whole new revelation.

We use Agile methods here at 7SM, and we also love to teach about them so you can apply this approach in your own work.  Agile approaches empower changemakers and intrapreneurs. It reduces the burden of layers of management to support personal autonomy and increased communication to achieve shared goals with more grace and ease. Doesn’t that sound appealing?

Want to learn more? Tell us what you’re thinking about or want to accomplish.  We’d love to chat.