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What is Agile Thinking and Why is It So Important at Work?

September 20, 2023
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Agile thinking at work is an approach to problem-solving and decision-making that prioritizes adaptability, flexibility, and collaboration. It emerged from the software development industry as a response to the limitations of traditional project management methodologies, which often resulted in delays, cost overruns, and unhappy customers. Agile thinking emphasizes continuous feedback, iterative development, and a willingness to adjust plans as new information arises. It has since spread to other industries and is now seen as a valuable tool for businesses of all kinds, helping them to stay responsive to changing market conditions and customer needs.

Agile is more than just a buzzword these days as individuals and teams are training to become as agile as possible. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what agile thinking is, how you can develop the most effective agile-thinking skills, and why an agile workplace is so important to the future of your organization.

What Exactly is Agile Thinking?

At its core, agile thinking is about delivering value to the customer or end-user as quickly and efficiently as possible. This requires a focus on collaboration and teamwork, with individuals and teams working together in a transparent and iterative way. Agile thinking emphasizes the importance of continuous feedback and experimentation, with a willingness to pivot or adjust the course as needed based on what is working and what is not. For example, being agile in relation to job postings means changing up wording or where it is posted if you’re not getting the number of applications you anticipated. That might seem self-explanatory, which is great! It means you’re already thinking in an agile way.

Agile thinking is characterized by several key principles and values, including:

  • Customer focus: prioritizes the needs of the customer or end-user, and seeks to deliver value to them as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: emphasizes the importance of being flexible and adaptable in the face of change, and of being willing to pivot or adjust course as needed.
  • Collaboration and teamwork: values collaboration and teamwork, and emphasizes the importance of open communication and continuous feedback.
  • Continuous improvement: grounded in a mindset of continuous improvement, with a focus on learning and experimentation.
  • Iterative development: emphasizes continuous development, with frequent feedback loops and a focus on delivering small, incremental improvements rather than trying to deliver a perfect product all at once.

By adopting an agile mindset and focusing on agile thinking, individuals and teams can become more responsive to change, more adaptive to new challenges, and more focused on delivering value to their customers and stakeholders.

6 Ways to Develop Agile Thinking

Agile thinking is a key skill that’s necessary for today's fast-paced work environment. Agile thinking will help you be adaptable, open-minded, and willing to embrace change in large, collaborative projects where you may be just one of many on a team. The skills you’re honing will inevitably spill over to your day-to-day tasks which could lead to a better work-life balance, less burnout, and more job satisfaction. Here are six tips on how to develop agile thinking at work:

  1. Embrace uncertainty: Agile thinkers are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. They understand that things can change quickly and are prepared to adapt to new situations. To develop your agile thinking, start by embracing uncertainty and seeing it as an opportunity for growth and learning.
  2. Stay curious: Curiosity is a key trait of agile thinkers. They are always seeking new information and looking for different perspectives. To develop your curiosity, try to approach problems with an open mind and ask questions to better understand the situation.
  3. Be willing to experiment: Agile thinking involves being willing to take risks and experiment with new ideas. To develop this skill, try taking on new challenges and projects that push you out of your comfort zone.
  4. Learn from failure: Failure is an inevitable part of any learning process. Agile thinkers view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. To develop this mindset, take time to reflect on your failures and identify what you can learn from them.
  5. Collaborate effectively: Agile thinking requires working effectively with others. To develop your collaboration skills, focus on building relationships with colleagues and seeking out diverse perspectives. Listen actively and be open to feedback.
  6. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment. It can help you develop the clarity and focus needed for agile thinking. Try practicing mindfulness techniques like deep breathing or meditation to help you stay present and focused.

On the whole, developing agile thinking can help you navigate complex situations, make better decisions, and work more effectively with others.

We’ve discussed why individuals should focus on agile thinking, but why are so many workplaces putting an emphasis on an agile way of working? Below, we’ll discuss why an agile workplace is better for business.

Should You Shift Your Business to an Agile Model?

The traditional workplace model, with a set schedule and rigid hierarchy, is increasingly being replaced by the agile workplace. The agile workplace model emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and responsiveness to change. An agile workplace can offer numerous benefits to both employees and employers. Continue reading to discover the benefits of an agile workplace and why it is becoming an increasingly popular way of working.

Agile workplaces have been shown to increase productivity. In an article by Cloudbooking, agile teams are 25% more effective than traditional teams and 50% faster to market. By allowing employees to work in a way that suits their needs and preferences, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged. For example, flexible working hours and remote work options can help employees achieve a better work-life balance. This, in turn, can lead to better productivity and job satisfaction. Additionally, agile workplaces often provide employees with the freedom to work on projects that align with their strengths and interests, which can lead to better outcomes. Agile team members also experience less burnout and have greater satisfaction with their output, which strengthens company culture in the long run.

An agile workplace can enhance collaboration. Agile workplaces encourage teamwork and communication, which can lead to more effective problem-solving, better decision-making, and increased creativity. For example, an agile workplace may use a co-working space where employees from different teams can work together and share ideas. This can help break down silos and foster a culture of inclusivity where all ideas are welcome and respected.

Agile workplaces are often better at innovation than their traditional counterparts. Agile workplaces emphasize experimentation and risk-taking. Teams are encouraged to test new ideas and approaches, which can lead to breakthroughs and improved outcomes. Agile workplaces also often foster a culture of continuous improvement. This means that employees are more comfortable identifying areas for improvement and developing and implementing new processes and solutions.

An agile workplace can enhance employee engagement. When employees have more control over their work and are empowered to make decisions, they tend to be more engaged and committed to their work. Agile workplaces often provide employees with more autonomy and decision-making power, which can lead to better engagement and retention. Additionally, agile workplaces tend to be more transparent, which can help build trust and foster a sense of shared ownership among employees.

Agile workplaces enable better adaptability. In today's rapidly changing business climate, organizations need to be able to respond quickly to changing circumstances and priorities. Agile workplaces are designed to be flexible and adaptable, which can help organizations stay competitive and better serve their customers. Agile workplaces often prioritize speed and efficiency, which can help organizations respond quickly to new challenges and opportunities. This can be something as simple as a negative comment on social media. At least one person on the company’s social media team will have to stop what they’re doing immediately to address the comment. It may require input or information from other teams. Agile workplaces encourage this immediate action even though it takes time away from other tasks.

As the business environment becomes increasingly complex and uncertain, the agile workplace model is becoming an increasingly popular way of working. Organizations that adopt an agile workplace approach can gain a competitive advantage by creating a more dynamic and engaging work environment, which leads to higher profits, better culture, and better employee retention.

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