Agile: is it the buzzword or future direction for all?
With 3000 jobs currently being advertised on SEEK that include the keyword agile, it appears to be the skill de jour.
So what is agile?
Agile is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:
- Able to move quickly and easily.
- Able to think and understand quickly.
- Relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterised by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.
The first two we want to possess and we want to hire, but is it the last definition that is most pertinent to us?
The concept of agile originated out of our cousins in IT and software development. In its most simple form it describes the way in which a project is broken up into smaller sections, called iterations, and consistently reviewed, critiqued and tweaked throughout the project process. It facilitates rapid customer insight, encourages responsiveness, collaboration and progress – all attributes desired by any department, not just IT.
4 key principles of agile
There are four key principles that agile is built upon:
- Individuals and interactions.
- Working software.
- Customer collaboration.
- Responding to change.
I've looked at the application of these principles in the HR and recruitment function and below are some of my favourite ways of integrating an agile way of working into a department, not necessarily IT:
- Get the right people talking – it seems so simple, but perhaps the keyword here is talking. The more we talk and interact face-to-face, the less room for misinterpretation there is, and the faster and more effective you are. A five-minute conversation can do the job of five emails, and did I mention relationship building?
- Collaboration is key – devise opportunities for people to work on cross-function teams to solve a problem or approach a new opportunity. Different perspectives, different working styles and different divisions can deliver insights four similar employees could never see.
- Share your problems – as the saying goes, many hands make light work. If you can create a team environment where people are open about the challenges they face with their work, then you can help them resolve roadblocks and get things done.
- The informal feedback loop – continual feedback and review is one of the key elements that makes agile so effective. Develop an informal feedback loop where ideas and actions can be peer-reviewed and insights gathered and acted on quickly to strengthen the outcome.
- Courage to deviate – have the courage to deviate from the plan if it becomes apparent that there is a better way of doing something. Admitting there is room for improvement or a better course to take to success takes courage, but the benefits far outweigh any uncomfortable feelings that the initial plan may not have been the right one.
So while we look for agility in all our hires, we also need to find it in ourselves and our teams. We will all certainly reap the rewards with a touch more agile added in.