Published on 5th March 2019
Agile working is now a reality for many industries across the modern workplace. So what does it actually involve and how could it benefit you?
'Agile' - it can sound more like a business buzzword than a substantial methodology, but it's, in fact, a fully fledged and highly effective structure for the modern workplace.
The methodology has proved very popular in a variety of different industries and office environments, having been pioneered by the tech world. So it's likely that your future workplace may require you to work within this system.
So what exactly does agile working involve, what is it like to work and what benefits can you expect?
What is agile working?
Confusingly there are two key applications of agile within the office environment. You may come across one or both of them in the same work setting.
- Agile methodology: This methodology works primarily as a project management framework used to complete tasks and projects in a fast-paced workplace. It involves a system of team meetings or scrums followed by sprints to allow for a more flexible system of taking on and completing work.
- Agile environment: This version of agile focuses exclusively on the arrangement of the office space with the aim of creating a more flexible work culture through encouraging collaboration often with practices such as hot desking.
Agile has been specifically designed within mainly IT companies to provide teams with quick feedback on products and to continually analyse and improve projects as they are being developed. Daily scrum meetings where team members report on their day-to-day targets, allows for fast adaptation to immediate thoughts or changes to demand, rather than waiting until the whole project is finished and then incorporating feedback.
There are four key values to the agile methodology:
- The process should respond to change rather than follow a set plan.
- The focus should be on individuals and valuing them over processes and tools.
- Customer collaboration is more important than contract negotiation.
- Working software is more important than comprehensive documentation.
Key terms that you should know:
- Sprint: A determined length of time, often two weeks, in which a certain assigned number of tasks is set to be completed. Sprints are planned prior to their start.
- Scrum: Scrum teams include around five to ten people who meet daily to discuss three quick questions: what I did yesterday, what I plan to do today, which obstacles are hindering my progress? These meetings are run by the scrum master who also has responsibility to make sure the meeting is no longer than 15 minutes. The aim is to identify new fixes, tasks and wider issues which can then be discussed outside scrum.
- Sprint board: A physical or digital board which lists all tasks to be completed in a sprint. It will also show appropriate task status: to do, in progress or completed.
- Retrospective: At the close of each sprint teams will meet to discuss what went well and what could have been improved on during the sprint. The aim is to identify two to three actionable points which can improve the process of future sprints.
This version of agile looks at optimising the use of space, specifically by opting for non-assigned seating. Instead workers are able to 'hot-desk' where they can choose between a number of seating options which can be claimed on a first come, first served basis. The office area can then be split into a selection of zones, characterised by certain work environments. For example:
- Focus space.
- Collaboration space.
- Concentration space.
- Team meeting space.
- Relaxation space.
- Conference call space.
This sort of organisation allows workers to adapt their working practices to their specific patterns and needs rather than having to follow a rigid structure based on role or department. There is also a preference towards 'flat seating' where senior staff no longer have their own offices so are able to integrate and collaborate more readily with other staff.
What are the benefits of going agile?
There are many benefits for workers in an agile system, of both varieties. Here are some of the clear pros:
The philosophy of agile centres around flexibility. This can mean adapting your task load to accommodate new challenges or customising your day to best fit your personal rhythms and current workload. Agile working also embraces the digital tools that enable staff to work remotely when it suits them. This can help employees to navigate family life and travel.
Both agile systems aim to increase top to bottom and inter-team transparency. Daily scrum meetings combined with the end of sprint retrospectives mean that team members are always aware of others' day to day activities and can join in an honest discussion about how well certain projects or communications went. Agile office planning creates a flat workspace where staff can use any areas regardless of hierarchy. This is often credited with giving employees great access to their managers as they can arrange to sit near them in the open structure. Open seating also prevents the creation of departmental barriers, so it is easier for employees to have a view of everything happening within the business, not just their area.
3. Team collaboration
Team collaboration produces creative thinking and can kick-start truly game-changing innovation. Agile working promotes this form of working by designing spaces where teams can meet and work together on projects, rather than stagnant seating where ideas would have to be exchanged in meetings or by email. Within the agile methodology, daily meetings create a close team feel and can help resolve roadblocks or contribute alternative methods to improve task completion.
If you are thinking about moving to an agile workplace and want to be fully prepared for the change, get in touch with the recruitment specialists at Ambition today.