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Spark joy in your organisation with a little agile

Agile. Everyone’s implementing agile working techniques and singing its praises; it’s almost as trendy as decluttering your home with Marie Kondo, whose method, KonMari, offers a solution to our over-materialised lives. Agile principles, however, help organisations to gain a competitive edge by being able to effectively anticipate change in the constantly evolving business climate. But what do these two approaches have in common, besides being trendy in both personal and professional lives?

Here’s our simplified attempt at describing the common link between those principles:

By decluttering your belongings, you get to focus on items that are important to you, that “spark joy”, leaving you feeling more organised and satisfied – that's the KonMari method in a nutshell. Similarly to this, by implementing agile you can reduce complexity and prioritise activities that deliver the most value to your customers, achieving operational agility that results in more motivated employees and, naturally, improved productivity.

There are proven and documented benefits of adopting agile:

  • It increases team productivity and employee satisfaction, as agile practices have the value of individuals and interactions as a central principle
  • It improves customer engagement and satisfaction by adapting to customers’ changing priorities, and brings the most valuable products and features to market faster
  • It reduces time wasted on micromanaging functional projects, allowing senior managers to dedicate themselves to higher-value work that only they can do: creating and adjusting the corporate vision; prioritising strategic initiatives; simplifying and focusing work; assigning the right people to tasks; increasing cross-functional teamwork; and removing anything that can hinder the progress.

Perhaps most importantly, agile project management helps you save money. The Project Management Institute’s (PMI) 2017 “Pulse of the Profession” survey found that, for the first time in five years, more projects met original business goals while being completed within budget. Investing in agile approaches was identified as one of the many reasons why organisations are wasting less money due to poor project performance.

Furthermore, in a recent study, 61% of respondents saw an overall increase in team productivity as a result of adopting agile methods; with 64% saying that they saw improvements in their ability to manage changing priorities, and 66% citing improved project visibility as one of the key measurable benefits.[1]

But... agile is not a “one size fits all” solution. It’s important to understand where agile doesn’t work as well, and when not to force it on your team or project. Similarly, Marie Kondo’s magic doesn’t always work – for example, her life-changing magic doesn’t make any sense to parents who, on a daily basis, wash, dry, fold, stack, tidy and rearrange! Clutter has a way of crawling back into your life if you have kids. Or if you’re a book lover and your whole collection still sparks joy to you, then keep it! Basically, stick to what works for you and then make small improvements.

If the only reason you’re going to adopt agile is because it’s a trendy industry standard, then take a step back, gain a full understanding within your organisation, and make sure everyone is on board and working towards a common goal. Also, agile might require training and behavioural change, so executives must decide whether the anticipated results will justify all the effort.

So, how do we get it right then?

Start small. The most successful introductions of agile usually start small – think “lean” and, over time, scale up by adding in the additional approaches, policies and constructs.

Get buy-in. Often management is opposed to change, but if you provide relevant data and facts, give real-world examples, and demonstrate how agile will improve your probability of success, you should be able to win them over.

Empower self-organisation. It’s a fundamental concept in agile project management. In fact, the Agile Manifesto states the following: “the best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams”.

Spread the word. If the agile project starts from the IT department, other teams from marketing, HR and accounting are also deeply affected by an agile implementation and they must be a part of it, otherwise it’s only an IT-related initiative. Agile’s real effect comes when everyone has bought into the same culture.

Accept that resource is finite. Prioritise and focus on tasks that deliver the highest value to the customer, or as Marie Kondo would say, “spark joy”.

If you’re ready to spark joy within your organisation, have a look at our comprehensive list of agile project management courses — we've got PRINCE2 Agile®, AgilePM®, Agile Scrum Master® and PMI-ACP®.

[1]Source: CollabNet VersionOne 12th annual state of agile report, 2018