Agile Leadership Tips for Business Success
How Agile Leadership Can Help You Achieve Business Success And Beyond
Agile leadership is the idea of businesses and owners thinking differently, acting quickly, and adapting in order to stay relevant and continue seeing growth.
The biggest “why” behind agile is the ability to provide you value for what you are doing that much sooner. The world is currently in a state where there are rapidly changing markets. If you want to be in a position where your business can grow, it is important to remember that if you change nothing, nothing will change.
We have seen a digital transformation and a move and shift in how people engage since before the pandemic. An agile mindset allows for you to create and respond to change in uncertain and turbulent environments.
TL;DR: 3 Tips to Begin Your Shift Into Agile Leadership
Cultivating an agile mindset, leadership style and organizational culture can have many benefits, including:
- An agile mindset helps people create and respond to change in uncertain and turbulent environments.
- When things are constantly changing, agile leadership will help you adapt.
- Agile methodologies are a set of practices, not a process.
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Many of us in the business world have heard of the term agile. Usually, we hear about it in the context of software development. But, it actually originated in manufacturing. Toyota, one of the great innovators who created the LEAN methodology for manufacturing, also created the agile methodology. Just like LEAN was inherited by software developers, agile has been inherited by software developers. This Silicon Valley methodology is now finding its way into all other industries and sectors of the business world and one of those areas is marketing agencies.
What is Agile Methodology?
- Agile methodologies are a set of practices not a process.
- It is a behavior rooted in the 4 core principles of the agile manifesto
- Individuals and interactions over process and tools
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiations
- Completed work over full documentation
- Responding to change over following a plan
- Being able to move quickly and easily- short phases of work with reassessments. Plan, Do, Check, Adjust, REPEAT! (PDCA)
“This is about we as a team working together to create something better than we had before,” said Brenda Kwateng, founder of Ingenuity Consulting Solutions during a #BizHackLivewebinar.
There are uncertainties that are internal to organizations and those that are external. The external we do not have much control over, but if you are aware of them then we are able to adapt to them. When it comes to agile leadership, you must be open to embrace and understand and at least begin to seek some of the knowledge that’s out there. Look at your market shifts and industry trends, looking at what your competitors are doing. You also want to look to see how you can measure your effectiveness in the market because measurement really is a tool that tells you and helps you determine how you move forward.
When it comes to internal uncertainties you want to look at what your team values most and really make sure that your team knows and understands that they are the most important thing in the process.
Working as individuals and teams, it is important to have a work culture and environment that promotes diverse minds and diverse thoughts. Allow individuals within this team environment to be able to feel confident and comfortable speaking up and providing their input so that you can better move forward as an organization.
And, evaluate the common points of failure and success as an organization and how you can improve your failures and how you can maximize, optimize and exploit your successes to move forward as an organization.
Figuring Out How to Adapt
- Incrementally do what you do and examine your work and how you can innovate
- Give yourself and your team time to think, take the opportunity to look at a problem with fresh eyes and a new perspective
- Embrace failures- know that you may fail, but when you fail you learn
- Measure, measure, measure- Agile is a science, the science of failing/succeeding and learning
Agile Leadership in Business: A Starmark Case Study
Starmark, one of the leading digital marketing agencies in South Florida for many years, went fully agile. They use this methodology as the way to run their business and service their clients. Brett Circe, chief digital officer at Starmark, led the transformation, which was featured in the Wall Street Journal.
One of our core values here at BizHack is to learn by doing. A case study is a great example of this core value to understand in real detail how to apply this manufacturing and software mindset, approach and methodology in the marketing world and how you can use that to more effectively market your business.
The transition into using agile in Starmark took time. From 2012-2014, Starmark’s development department had a large, complex e-commerce project where they first used the agile method. As they began their 2015 annual planning, development team members suggested implementing agile to other projects and clients. Their thoughts being, if a complicated project was going well, why would they not apply this to other simpler projects.
How Can You Implement Agile Leadership In Your Company?
Your team needs to be familiar with the terminology and language of agile so that a conversation can actually happen.
Then comes the conversation of needing leadership buy-in. If leadership does not buy-in on it, no matter how much the rest of the team wants agile, if you are not supported, you are not going to be successful.
Once you have leadership buy-in, the next step should be looking for an outside consultant who can come in and be an authority on the topic. Pick a firm, set up a schedule and get to training your team.
“We had to shut the agency down for a week to retrain the entire staff,” Circe said during a #BizHackLive webinar. It took 8 months for agile to go from concept to full implementation. It wasn’t until August of 2015 that agile was implemented in Starmark.
Benefits of Hiring an Outside Consultant
Using an outside source gives you the ability to have an expert who has the science and research behind them and can answer your questions. They can also give you marketing examples of how other businesses are using agile and how their own internal marketing is also using the methodology.
You have the opportunity to sit back and let them do their thing which allows for your team to transition feeling energized about the whole thing.
Structural Changes Within a Business
Before implementing agile, Starmark had a creative department, a digital department, a media department and an account and strategy department. With the waterfall approach one department would hand it off to the next and so on. In 2015 when Starmark eliminated their departments and created work streams.
They created two work streams. Each with team members from different departments. This has allowed the conversations about a project to always happen as a team and in this way things began to become more apparent and transparent.
“What we found was that we need to use plain English in everything that we communicate. Not only amongst our team, but also with our clients,” said Brett when speaking about the needed tweaks to the agile terminology and language when it was introduced in 2015.
Using plain English and providing definitions up front for necessary acronyms are crucial to have mutual understanding within your team and with your customers.
Improved Business Communication
Everyone has a voice with agile. This never happened before at Starmark. They had department meetings once a month and discussed how that specific department could run better. Now, every meeting is a company-wide discussion about how the entire company can be better. Team members in different departments can in this way talk to each other to make the entire process smoother.
Mechanics of How a Check-in Meeting Runs
Every morning each work stream gets together for about 10-15 minutes. A different person runs that meeting each day and everybody says what they accomplished yesterday, what they plan to accomplish today, and if there are any blockers- any collaborations that need to occur. Each person should spend no more than a minute.
“We want to focus the conversation on accomplishments, not status. And, we want to focus the conversation on value information,” Circe said.
Managers are listening in and once everyone has shared, they will know exactly what is being accomplished by everyone that day. They want to make sure what’s important is being said, priorities are set and things are on track. If anything needs to be adjusted it is said at the end. All in less than 15 minutes. In the waterfall approach, you can spend hours in a meeting full of interruptions and questions.
“Part of the science of agile is, it is easier to adjust a plan that is in place than to create chaos when there is no plan in place,” he said.
Agile leadership gives businesses the opportunity to see sooner if their current efforts are bringing them the right results. Any value that comes out of a project using the “waterfall” method is usually not seen until the end, which can be anywhere from 2-3 months or even up to a year. In the agile process, you have value in terms of building in a modular fashion towards whatever your end goal is and that value can be seen within your team in two to three weeks. If you are looking to see faster results in your business, you might want to consider implementing agile.