Agile is a new way of working that was created to address serious problems with the way work is traditionally done. First implemented in software development teams, the increased speed, productivity and customer focus that agile brings has seen it applied to all areas of business.

Below are a few ways to check if your business is truly agile:

1. Is your team customer focused?

Agile teams solve the customers’ problems, whether the customer is internal or external. They understand the customers’ objectives and have key performance indicators based on customer satisfaction and retention, not cost. Agile teams know that doing the right thing by the customer the first time leads to lower costs than doing the job wrong and then trying to fix it afterwards.

Product Managers have a broad scope which means that they may not be able to give the development team the time and attention they need. In this case they may appoint a Product Owner to work full time with the Development team on their behalf. If they do this they should meet with the Product Owner every few days and attend the planning and review session with the development team every couple of weeks to ensure that the development team is prioritising business value correctly.

2. Is your team able to solve a customer problem from end to end?

Agile teams contain all the different skills and functions required to solve a customer’s problem, from end to end. These people work together full time to continuously deliver outcomes that customers want. Cross functional, colocated teams are hyper productive because they remove waste, rework, delays and communication costs. An agile team that is developing a new product or service would be made up of people from sales, marketing, design, development, testing and operations colocated in one cross functional team.

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3. Does your team make their work visible?

In a factory you can see the work people are doing and all the supplies and unfinished work that piles up. In offices you can’t see the work in progress which means that you can’t see the wasted time and effort in the system. Agile teams visualise the work on a scrum board or kanban board so that everyone can see what’s being worked on, what’s done and what’s next. When a team visualises their work they can manage it themselves without needing to be micromanaged. They can also see where there are bottlenecks in the system so they can fix them. This leads to faster and more productive teams.

4. Is your team regularly reviewing and improving the way they work?

Agile teams meet face to face every day for 15 minutes to discuss what they are doing and identify blockers. When they find a blocker team members help solve the problem. Every two weeks the team gets together with the client (internal or external) to review what went well, what didn’t go well and what they could do differently next time. This leads to gradual and continuous improvement in the way the team and the organisation works. Regular retrospectives are the core of agile.

5. Is your team testing and iterating?

The highest priority of an agile team is to deliver early and often.  Agile teams focus on delivering the simplest possible version of a product early so that they can deliver value quickly and get customer feedback early. Agile teams know that requirements are untested assumptions about user needs. The best way to deliver a high value product is by testing it early and often. If managers are expecting to deliver a rich, complex product in the first release then they are not adopting an agile mindset.

Teams that truly adopt agile are faster, more productive and more effective at meeting customer expectations. Agile workplaces are also more collaborative, cohesive and sustainable for those of us lucky enough to work in one.

Murray Robinson

Murray Robinson has 30 years experience in IT and digital and 14 years experience in agile and is now a leader in agile transformation. Murray is passionate about changing the ways organisations work so that staff are liberated to provide great customer experiences effectively and efficiently.

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