Agile outside of IT

The Agile Manifesto was created for software development, but there are many lessons we can use outside of IT. This is not to say I think we should “be Agile” in everything.

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Careers such as counselling and caring are starting to do this more. There is more of a focus on patient-centred leadership. In Nordic countries, there is a great company with 19,000 employees called Attendo, which focuses on empowering the individual in order that:

  • Every individual feels participatory and listened to.
  • Every individual feels they are met with respect and warmth.
  • Every individual feels supported in achieving independence.
  • Every individual feels safe and secure.
  • Every individual perceives that their quality of life is positively affected.

Sound familiar? For any creative workers, this is great for autonomous motivation.

Working software over comprehensive documentation

This one is only literally applicable to software, but the focus on value delivery is relevant as part of Lean Startup, for example. This is a way of running startups to help them be successful and less wasteful. Also notably, the value focus of agile can be seen in manufacturing (eg lean, kanban).

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Again Lean Startup advocates this. Big companies are trying to do this more too. For example, Diagio (the drinks company) have a “Customer Collaboration Centre” where they involve customers in their strategies.

Responding to change over following a plan

This area is one where I feel there is a lot of benefit. The world still works on a plan-based mechanism. We vote our governments in for fixed lengths of time, we demand financial plans, and we expect deadlines to be delivered to. Psychologically, embracing change can be hard. According to this random website I found, there are benefits of responding to change:

  • Staying current
  • New opportunities
  • Encouraging Innovation
  • Increased efficiency
  • Improved attitudes

The reality is that everything that survives must respond to changing environment. (Human) evolution is a great example of this. Medicine has always been “inspect and adapt”. Even the most conservative of organisations, the Vatican, responds to change, as demonstrated by their use of new latin translations during Mass. McCain Food, as one of innumerate corporate examples, responded to changing customer (and legislative) demands for healthier food by using sunflower oil, rather than vegetable oil. Creating a culture where we respond to change over following a plan will lead to better outcomes in almost any space.

If you can think of something where following a plan makes more sense than responding to change, or any other good counterexamples, please let me know in the comments below.

 

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