Agile management first started as a system of values for software development.
Since its inception, it has graduated first to project management, and now to management on a broader scale. In all these environments, agile management takes as its cue the original Agile Manifesto created to inform software development.
Given its evolution to this point, it’s worth considering agile management on the broader scale, and evaluating its uses.
What is agile?
In its original incarnation, agile software development was an attempt to move away from onerous structure and documentation that was felt to be holding back the ability of teams to excel.
Rather, agile embraces an approach that emphasises communication – between team members, stakeholders and customers – to build an evolving product that is best able to serve the needed function.
When it made the leap to project management, agile became an iterative, incremental method of project management that emphasised a certain level of flexibility and interaction.
This allows for feedback in the process of the project, in order to refine requirements over time. Alongside this, a framework that promotes communication and reflection on past work is employed, allowing learnings from previous projects to carry forward into new ones.
Agile at large
Moving into more traditional management spheres, agile management has been adopted wholesale as a way to improve performance, particularly in areas of innovation and uncertainty.
Thanks to its nature, agile management is able to provide an end product that best fits current customer needs, while needing minimal cost, waste or time – clearly a big advantage compared to traditional methods.
Under an agile business management model, agile software development techniques are distilled across five areas:
- Integrated customer communication allows shared accountability for product or service delivery
- Facilitation-based management involves adopting certain agile management models to facilitate day-to-day operation of teams
- Agile work practise adopt iterative and incremental work practices common in agile development
- An enabling organisational structure that focuses on staff engagement, personal autonomy and outcomes based governance
- Applications of various aspects of agile processes
Unfortunately, agile management does have its critics. Problems with the system include its inefficiency in large businesses and certain industries.
It’s also been criticised as a fad – a repackaging of existing principles, or a system that wrongly emphasises method over results.
It may prove that these critics are not wrong. But agile management has had its successes.
Key to the entire process is the idea that communication sits at the centre of good work, alongside a flexible and efficient work structure. And while it may prove that agile is not the wonder pill that will solve all management woes, for small business owners it offers a tangible and useful method for approaching projects and managing staff.