Agile is a term that has been used a lot recently in business. The practice of "being" agile has specifically been utilized in the software development business. In fact, a whole business sector has been created from helping to transform old-school waterfall development shops into Agile shops. And the concepts of Agile are now ingrained in students as they learn to code. However, it's a misnomer to think that Agile principles are only meant for software development.
A lot of the concepts of Agile software development come from Lean Manufacturing principles. The ideas of minimizing unnecessary work, streamlining process flows, promoting communication between people in critical areas and determining what outputs were critical to success and measuring those key performance indicators all came from those principles. Over time, those ideas were molded and adopted into software development.
How is this important for your business? If you aren't a software developer and if you aren't in manufacturing then why does being agile matter? How does it help you in your day to day operations?
To answer that, we have to understand the difference between "doing agile" and "being agile"
Doing Agile: This is the act of going through the motions and simply doing the things that an agile coach told you to do or doing the things that you read in a book. There isn't really an understanding of the why behind anything. For large organizations this can be a necessary step in getting to the next phase of being agile as it creates muscle memory but it can be a long and often frustrating process. The problem here is it's all about doing things like stand up meetings "just because" and it's tough to get to real results when you are doing anything without a goal in mind.
Being Agile: For large companies that have gone through an agile transformation this is the stage that happens after the Doing Agile stage. All the repetition has paid off and people start to understand the why of things and the activities just become second nature to them. There is a culture created of getting things done and everyone buys into the processes that got to that point of productivity.
Now, back to the original question. Why is all this important? This sounds more like a big process that only big companies have the time and resources manage. How does this help me and my small business?
The key is to remember that doing agile is a mindset, not a set of rules. You don't have to adhere to all the rules to be agile. What's important is that you critically think about how to continually improve and how to eliminate the impediments that stand in the way of getting things done whether those are personal, environmental or technology related.
One of the main tenants of agile is to not be afraid to fail fast and fail often. That shouldn't be taken as a defeatist slogan, but rather a call to not be afraid to take a chance, but also not be afraid to admit when something didn't work and have the ability to move forward.
Here are a few small things you can start doing right away to help streamline processes in your business and start "Being Agile"
1.) Take a look at your processes and specifically look for waste. Things like double entry of data or extra movement of goods during a physical process
2.) Be willing to always improve on those processes. No process should ever be considered done and can always be made incrementally better and more efficient
3.) Utilize a task board. This can be by department or organizational wide depending on the size of your company. It can be electronic or physical. But keep it as simple as possible. Show what needs to be done for the day or week, then move those tasks into work in progress and then into a done column when they are complete. This visual sense of accomplishment goes a long way
4.) Have a daily stand-up meeting. This is an easy thing to begin doing and yields good results, especially when it comes to achieving better communication between people and departments. Keep it short and sweet. Outline high level what the goals for the day are, call out any problems or issues, decide who is charged with solving those problems and then go about your day.
Taking a moment to consider how you can implement the above goes a long way in getting into the Being Agile mindset and streamlining your daily routine.