In today’s fast-paced business environment, the ability to be alert and flexible is a necessity for any company looking to stay a step ahead of the competition. Organizations cannot afford to have agility be an afterthought; an agile company culture needs to be developed through an intentional, disciplined approach. This post will discuss what an agile company culture looks like, as well as some best practices for achieving agility within your organization.
What It Means To Be Agile
Although the term is used for a variety of purposes, agility in business typically refers to agile methodology in project management (specifically software development), according to Officevibe Director of Customer Happiness Jacob Shriar. However, agility can be interpreted as more of a mindset than a methodology, and its principles can be applied across all levels of an organization. Agile culture does not rely on sequential processes, but rather, allows for constant adjustments and improvements. Shriar notes that with an agile company culture in place, projects can be completed faster and employees will be more engaged. In VersionOne’s 8th Annual State of Agile Survey, researchers found the top three business areas that improved after implementing agility were the ability to manage changing priorities, productivity, and project visibility.
In agile environments, employees communicate with each other frequently for the sake of improving as a team. With constant communication comes constant learning. To that point, companies with agile cultures do not place emphasis on fear of failure. Instead, failure is acceptable because it leads to learning and improvement. With this type of mentality in place throughout an organization, employees are empowered to work more innovatively because they aren’t afraid of making mistakes. In Shriar’s words, “Agile is more about how your team approaches problems, not the tools used to solve them.”
Agile environments keep the momentum in a project moving quickly, which is exciting for employees. This type of culture is more engaging than one that focuses on long, drawn-out projects, and thus boosts employee motivation. Additionally, being agile lets organizations move faster than their competitors who are busy with planning and perfecting rather than executing. Agile organizations can also outperform their competitors because they are constantly making adjustments to tailor their product or service to their customers’ specific demands.
How To Make Agility Part of Your Organizational Culture
Implementing an agile company culture starts at the management level. In fact, in VersionOne’s survey, 61% of respondents indicated that the first champions of agility in their organizations were managers. The survey findings also reveal that the most common reason that organizational agility fails is because of internal resistance to change. Those survey respondents who were successful at achieving agility within their organizations shared some common strategies for implementation. They are: clear processes and training about the basics of agility, strong leadership, inter-team communication, collaborative workflow, knowledge sharing, and continuous improvement.
Shriar shares five ways that organizations can become more agile, some of which overlap with VersionOne’s survey results. His first piece of advice is to give employees more autonomy with how they do their work. If organizations employ a mobile software solution that has an instant messaging function, managers will be much less worried about giving up some control to employees. Instant messaging lets managers coach employees remotely when they run into problems on the job without stepping on their toes. Shriar also advises managers to lead by example. In order to to do this, he explains, managers must communicate with employees often, be transparent with them, and embrace the principles of agility. Without guidance from management, how can employees be expected to adopt agility on their own? To that point, Shriar recommends that managers expand their knowledge of agile principles in order to better understand the value agility has for their organization.
Shriar suggests that organizations can become more agile if employees are working towards a common goal. Doing so will create focus within a team, instead of having people work on numerous different projects independently. Finally, it is crucial to adopt a culture where fear is acknowledged and even welcomed. Employees shouldn’t be scared off when things don’t go as planned. Instead, they should approach challenges as opportunities for finding creative solutions to problems. For this to be accomplished, employees need to be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. If employees are equipped with this knowledge, they will be better able to handle any problem that is thrown their way.
In summary, organizational agility is about being able to rapidly adapt to change and not being afraid to fail. With an agile culture in place, employees will be empowered to find more creative solutions to problems because their actions will not be dictated by fear. Furthermore, agile organizations are able to outdo competitors because of their ability to constantly make alterations that align with their customers’ needs. With a strong commitment from management, transparency, and continuing education, organizations will be well on their way to becoming agile.
Victoria is a Marketing Associate at Repsly, where she leads the company's P.R. and social media efforts. You can also catch her prepping for slew of exciting industry events. A New England native, Victoria has spent time living in Italy and traveling throughout Europe before settling back in Boston. When she's not planning her next trip, V is probably tasting wine or brushing up on her Italian.