Once limited to Silicon Valley tech companies and forward-thinking start-ups, agile working is now hitting the mainstream. Even traditional sectors and organisations that might be seen as conservative are adopting a new way of working that disrupts established practices. Inevitably employees that don’t move with the times risk being left behind, which is why getting your head around agile could help you get ahead.
First of all, what is agile and do companies use it?
There’s no definitive agile model – it’s agile after all – and various companies have used it successfully in various ways. But wherever it’s implemented, agile usually has three common features:
- Collaborative, multi-disciplinary teams working on small scale tasks that improve the customer experience.
- A dogged focus on continuously delivering value for customers by engaging with them and constantly applying improvements to a service or product in short ‘innovation cycles’, sometimes known as sprints.
- Organisations are viewed as fluid, interdependent and highly transparent networks of people collaborating across all parts of a business towards common goals. Forbes put it nicely, describing agile as a flotilla of tiny speedboats rather than a giant lumbering warship
The mindset and core skills needed in an agile environment are very different to the ones people are used to in an organisation with a traditional ‘command and control’ structure. As agile becomes ever more popular, businesses are going to start making hiring decisions based less on a candidate’s work history and more on whether they have the attitude and mindset to succeed in an agile workplace.
Why do companies choose to be agile?
Because the business world is changing, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, VUCA for short, are its key characteristics. Agile helps businesses cope with and react positively to dynamic market conditions. Top-down bureaucracies with long chains of command are often slow off the mark, too internally focused, bogged down by process and full of workers who are detached from the real customer experience. That’s not going to cut it in a VUCA world.
But embracing agile requires a significant shift in mindset both organisationally and individually. Well established norms, traditions, hierarchies and organisational structures will be challenged and dismantled as businesses move to agile – leaders, managers and employees that don’t shift their mindset may find this bewildering and frustrating. In turn this can cause feelings of dis-orientation, inadequacy and resentment. Those who do embrace it, on the other hand, will thrive.
Time to limber up
Understanding how you can adapt to agile could be vital for your career. Not only because the requirements of your current role may change, which means you’ll need to change too, but because the way future roles you apply for are assessed will shift, focussing far more on underlying behaviours and attitudes.
To understand how you can adapt to agile you need to start asking some questions about you and your role:
- What will change?
- What skills are being sought?
- What capability gaps do you have?
- How well suited are you to the roles in agile?
- How will you cope with the change?
- What do you need to learn?
- How will roles be assessed?
- Is this really for you?
Finding the answers to these questions will involve doing your own industry-specific research and talking to mentors, managers or career coaches. By doing this you’ll learn not just how to cope in an agile world, but how to succeed. And you’ll be sought after because of it.
If you want to learn more about how you or your organisation can become more agile The Career Conversation professional careers coaches can help. Get in touch to find out more