Five ways to reap the benefits of Agile principles without reinventing the wheel

June 10, 2024
Principes agiles

The idea that a company can thrive by becoming "agile" is not new. Yet, it is often misunderstood and poorly implemented, resulting in the true benefits of agility not being realized. Being agile is much more than dividing work into production sprints or holding retrospectives: beyond being a means of successfully managing projects, it is also, and above all, a way of thinking!

Regardless of your business model or the level of your employees, here are 5 easy ways to integrate the principles of the agile method into your daily routine and benefit your organization!

1. Adopting customer value-based thinking 

The most important principle of the Méthode agile is to satisfy the customer through rapid and regular delivery of high-value features. Such a principle obviously remains closely linked to software development since it requires a continuous cycle of developing new versions. However, the idea behind this strategy is far from being limited to just a software framework.

In its simplest form, an approach based on customer value involves asking the following question: "What can I deliver as soon as possible (and how can I deliver it) to generate the most value for my customer?" And when we talk about the customer, we mean not only the end consumer but also a superior, a colleague, a supplier, a manufacturer, or a distributor. The goal here is to accelerate response times, even with a partial product, as long as what you deliver adds value.

The main difficulty in applying this principle lies in the fact that while identifying one's customer base is generally quite simple, defining the notion of "value" and determining how it is perceived is far from obvious! Fortunately, the method that follows will help you see things more clearly by making it all much more tangible.

2. Learn and adapt 

Learning from the past and adapting for the future: despite their apparent simplicity, these two concepts often lack in project management processes. Indeed, many companies tend to quickly move on to another project after completing one, thus forgetting to take the necessary time to conduct a post-mortem analysis of their performance and learn from these experiences. And if some organizations do learn, they sometimes do so through unofficial sources (and therefore not necessarily reliable!). Furthermore, the data used can sometimes be anecdotal, biased, or based on assumptions/explanations from internal power users.

Therefore, the agile method encourages organizations to gather unbiased data directly from the source, notably through surveys, focus groups, or data analysis, and then use this new knowledge to adapt and improve. This is the best way to embrace change and benefit your customers.

Although accepting change is a fundamental principle of agility, identifying the extent of each change is also very important. In short, think "simplicity" and avoid falling into the potential trap of excessive changes: focus only on what can provide a real competitive advantage to your customer base! The next point will help you achieve this.

3. Keep it simple

The greatest changes often offer larger gains, but also carry higher risks! However, by breaking down these changes into a series of smaller steps, you take the necessary time to apply the previous principle of learning and adaptation, which will allow you to easily course-correct if needed. Using too many variables during data analysis is also likely to cloud the results, significantly complicating the learning process.

Therefore, to use the agile method more effectively, it is advisable to prioritize smaller progressive changes rather than large changes that take much more time.

4. Encourage collaboration 

We all know how quickly the business world can evolve. Such a reality does not spare agile teams, which are encouraged to deliver quickly (and often) to maximize value. However, such a level of velocity within a team can lead to working in silos, limiting contributions, and developing a narrow project vision, negatively impacting the creation of value.

Encouraging collaboration between teams is therefore crucial: the more quality information you have from all project stakeholders, the more effective decisions you can make. Planning regular reviews with cross-functional teams allows information to become known and more easily implemented.

5. Empower your teams 

Do you know the principle of self-organization? It's another important characteristic of the agile method, which assumes that a team's best work emerges when it takes responsibility and is able to make collective decisions. Thus, the concept of self-organization goes beyond the freedom for a team to choose how they work: it also relies on accountability and autonomy.

Such a principle is often challenging to implement within a traditional hierarchy, where the culture does not allow it. Many established large companies also struggle to empower their teams, notably due to their financial goals and investor pressure. However, team empowerment can be achieved on a smaller scale and, once successfully accomplished, can significantly boost employee morale and motivation. Take Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, as an example, who applies this concept uniquely: during meetings with his teams, he always speaks last. This allows others to speak first to avoid their ideas being influenced by his opinions.

In short, regardless of a company's size, it's possible to encourage self-organization by changing its ways of operating. Because adaptation is probably one of the most fundamental principles of agility!

Organizational agility: a great perpetual challenge

Many people see agility as a company's ability to quickly adapt to any kind of change. However, this concept goes far beyond that: it's primarily a way of working to ensure that every change generates positive outcomes for both a company and its customers! A fully agile organization will therefore focus on the nature of the changes to be made rather than its ability to implement them.

So, instead of figuring out how to achieve your business goals more quickly, ask the right people to design the increment of the highest value, which can be brought to market in the shortest possible time. Because becoming more agile is first and foremost about regularly reviewing your methods to generate maximum value with minimal impact!

Isabelle Blondin
Product Owner