Generally, when you hear the term “agile,” you likely think of someone who is fast and moves with ease regarding sports or exercise. However, agile has recently become quite a popular term in workplace settings. Small businesses and large corporations alike are implementing agile methodologies and ways to cultivate an agile mindset into their business practices to develop more productive teams and employees.
Workplace agility focuses on continuous improvement and teaches teams how to be more flexible, adaptable, and quick thinking when working together on projects. Teaching employees to have a more agile mindset can also improve individual output and productivity, which has a more positive impact on company culture and the success of your business.
Why cultivate an agile mindset in the workplace?
Employees and teams with an agile mindset are more likely to think on their feet and outside the box. These are vital skills that can help you handle whatever is thrown at you. An agile mindset focuses on growth and what is possible versus seeing everything as immovable and “set in stone.”
Being able to handle change and solve problems on the go is essential for any business that wants to experience growth and success. Agility not only builds more resilient, dynamic, and productive teams, but it also improves the value you provide to your customers — because success in the workplace means consistent delivery of products and services.
Agile principles in the workplace
When discussing agility in the workplace, the three main values or principles to focus on include:
- Iteration: Never stop trying. There are always things that can be improved. Teaching your teams and employees to continually pitch new ideas and solutions is key to having an agile mindset;
- Collaboration: Being flexible and able to work collaboratively with others is another critical component of workplace agility. The success of any project requires multiple people and departments pulling together. Genuine collaboration allows for more dynamic and agile teams that work seamlessly with one another to accomplish a shared goal;
- Change: Of course, being able to adapt and think on your feet is necessary to building a more resilient business. You never know what may go wrong or what might pop up last minute. Cultivating an agile mindset allows your teams and employees to pivot quickly and move forward no matter what comes their way.
Tips for creating more agile teams and employees
If we’ve learned anything from the past couple of years, agility is necessary when your business is facing a crisis. Small businesses and start-ups especially can benefit from building more agile teams as they often have more to lose if things don’t work out. Despite the pandemic, many new businesses managed to stay afloat, and it was likely due to having an agile mindset in the face of uncertainty.
Even well-established companies can benefit from adopting agile methodologies into their practices. It’s never too late to retrain your employees and teams to learn from past mistakes and become more agile going forward. And there are many ways you can go about doing this. There is no set way to teach your teams how to be more agile. It’s about trial and error and learning what works best for your business and individual employees.
Keeping the values and principles above in mind, use these tips and methods when training your teams and employees to be more agile:
1. Focus on listening
Being able to think fast and on your feet requires good listening skills and awareness. If you aren’t paying attention, you won’t be able to respond or react accordingly. Finding answers and solutions to something or even just having generally good communication requires solid listening skills. Teaching your employees to listen better can help them become more agile.
The three levels of teaching listening skills are:
- Listening to speak: Before we speak, we must first listen so we can have something valuable to add to the conversation;
- Listening to hear: Another key element to developing good listening skills is active listening. Listen to actually hear what people are saying. Listen to be aware;
- Listening to understand: The final and hardest level is listening to understand. It’s about simply hearing what someone is saying but genuinely taking it in and absorbing it so you can fully understand what they are saying or what they truly mean.
2. Encourage empathy and teamwork
As mentioned above, collaboration is another essential part of building agile teams. The best way to get your employees to work together seamlessly is to encourage empathy. Being able to understand one another and how our differences can actually help one another and improve what we do is a crucial part of successful teamwork.
Another way to improve collaboration is to build a Scrum team structure. The Scrum structure is commonly used to develop agile teams. It is essentially a project management framework that facilitates the “agile mindset and allows teams to work together to develop projects.” It provides flexible guidelines for teams to follow as they work together and encourages collaboration.
3. Adopt agile methodologies
Many agile methodologies have already been developed and established as successful ways to create more agile teams. When training your employees to have a more agile mindset, consider the various existing methodologies and adopt whichever works best for your business.
Beyond the Scrum method, the other four existing methodologies include:
- Kanban: This method uses a board divided into columns that show the flow of production. As things develop, information on the board changes and new tasks come into play;
- Extreme Programming (XP): The XP methodology is more common, and can be adapted based on your company’s needs. It emphasizes simplicity, respect, courage, communication, and feedback;
- Lean Development: The method was developed by Toyota and is typically used for software development projects. It provides a conceptual framework that highlights principles, values, and good development practices;
- Crystal: The Crystal method is actually a series or family of agile methodologies. It focuses on communication, talent, skills, and people.
How you train your teams and employees to be more agile is up to you. You can use specific agile methodologies for project development, or you can simply focus on the three fundamental principles (iteration, collaboration, and change) while teaching your teams to be better listeners, think on their feet, and be more empathetic when working together. The ultimate goal is to develop more resilient and productive teams to increase your productivity and improve value for your customers.
Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of tech, marketing, lifestyle, and culture.