Becoming Agile

Agile innovation first swept through the information technology sector and greatly increased success rates in software development, improved quality and speed to market. Agile management techniques are now spreading to many other industries and Freelance consultants ought to be aware of what is involved, both as regards the ways our clients and prospects may buy into agile practices and how we might incorporate certain aspects into our own consultancies.

More than in the recent past, business ventures large and small operate in a highly dynamic environments.  Customer priorities and technological advancements are known to change rapidly.  Keeping a finger on the pulse of new developments and innovating or adapting  as necessary  the line of products and services offered,  marketing buzz words used in marketing content, sales strategies employed or distribution channels utilized are how organizations thrive and grow.  But what does agile mean in practice?

Agile does not mean doing the usual thing, only faster. Darrell Rigby, a partner at Bain & Company consulting and Hirotaka Takeuchi, professor of strategy at the Harvard Business School and CEO of Scrum, Inc., a consulting and training firm, describe agile business practices as containing the following elements:

Scrum. Creative and adaptive teamwork that solves complex problems.

Lean development.  Focuses on the continual elimination of waste.

Kanban.  Focuses on reducing lead times and the amount of time to complete a process.

Along with IT,  agile management practices are particularly well-suited to strategic planning activities, marketing projects, resource allocation decisions and supply chain challenges.  Sales and accounting, for example, are not a natural fit for agile, according to experienced practitioners. In sum, agile works best where complex problems can be broken down into modules and assigned to specific teams.

When solutions to the problem are unknown, product specifications could be subject to change, the scope of the work to be done is not precisely known, cross-functional collaboration is presumed to be vital and time to market is sensitive are the ideal conditions in which to apply agile innovation or methods.

For independent Freelance consultants and small business owners agile will have a different meaning, but it may be useful nonetheless.  Small business owners can surely incorporate agile methods into their organizations and see improved functioning.  Freelancers may be more apt to use agile as a marketing buzz word that communicates to clients and prospects that we are on the cutting edge of forward-thinking business practices and in tune with their priorities.  Freelancers who are themselves agile will be trustworthy external talent who bring ROI to organizations for whom we work.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

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