Project management

Agile working explained: advantages, examples and tips

How can ZEP help your team to utilise short time intervals effectively and focus on important tasks? Use digital support to successfully implement agile working in your team and maximise the profitability of your projects.
Agile working explained: advantages, examples and tips

In the age of digitalisation and ever-increasing complexity, agile working methods are becoming more and more essential in order to be able to react flexibly to changes. Agile working and agile teams are the answer to the challenges posed by digital transformation. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the six central cornerstones of agile working and explain how you can successfully implement them in your company. We'll also take a look at how project time tracking software - such as ZEP - can help your team realise your goals efficiently.

Table of contents - What you can expect:

What are the advantages of agile working?
Agile working in a team
Implementing an agile working method
Project-orientated agile working

What does agile working actually mean?

The Latin word "agilis" means "agile, active" and is derived from "agere", which means "to perform, to act". Talcot Parsons laid the systems theory foundation for agile working back in the 1950s - long before the digital transformation - with his AGIL scheme (Adaption, Goal Attainment, Integration, Latency). This describes the capabilities of a self-sustaining social system. A scheme that you can use today to incorporate agile working into your project business. After all, agile working takes place at various levels within your company, from agile teams and agile management through to a fully agile business organisation.

What are the advantages of agile working?

Agile working methods have become increasingly important in recent years, as they enable companies to react more flexibly and effectively to changing requirements and market conditions. It also offers Agile project management the following advantages:

Faster market launch of products: Agile working methods enable teams to deliver products in shorter development cycles, allowing companies to respond more quickly to customer feedback and gain a competitive advantage.

Continuous improvement through feedback loops: Through regular feedback from customers and team members, agile teams can improve their Feedback culture in the company which leads to higher quality and customer satisfaction.

Flexibility and adaptability: Agile methods enable teams to adapt quickly to changing requirements - for example, new Trends on the labour market - by reprioritising and adapting the way they work, which increases their resilience to unforeseen challenges.

Transparent communication and cooperation: The principles of agile working methods promote open communication and collaboration within and between teams, which leads to a better exchange of information, more effective problem solving and a stronger team spirit.

Increased employee satisfaction and participation: Agile working methods emphasise the self-organisation and personal responsibility of team members, which leads to greater motivation, satisfaction and commitment, as employees have more influence over their work and identify more strongly with the company's goals. For new employees, agile working methods also have advantages in all areas. Onboarding phases.

For which companies does agile working make sense?

Agile working is particularly useful for companies in which Collaborative working is in the foreground. After all, they have to manage complex projects with constantly changing requirements.

This includes companies in the fields of software development, IT services, marketing agencies and companies that develop innovative products. These industries benefit from close collaboration between different teams and quick adjustments to respond to customer feedback or market changes. In agile environments, teams can prioritise flexibly, communicate transparently and work in short iterations, which helps projects to be completed more efficiently and successfully.

Examples of agile working

In today's business world, agile working has become indispensable for adapting quickly to change. Companies such as Spotify, Google, Amazon, Zalando and Airbnb show how agile principles can be successfully implemented.

Spotify relies on autonomously working "squads", "tribes" and "chapters", while Google drives innovation with regular sprints and an open corporate culture. Amazon promotes rapid product development with "two-pizza teams" and agile frameworks such as Scrum and Kanban. Zalando emphasises self-organisation and personal responsibility in order to respond flexibly to customer needs. Airbnb is successfully developing its business model through iterative processes and continuous customer feedback.

Agile teamwork: these are the 6 cornerstones

Agile working is not a vague flexibility or acceleration of work processes, but rather a structured form of collaboration that collides with traditional organisational structures, hierarchies and individual professional socialisation. The successful work of agile teams is based on six fundamental cornerstones:

Voluntariness - accepting change

Voluntary participation is crucial for successful agile working. Only if your team participates voluntarily can the joy of co-creation arise. The belief that everyone always gives their best and takes responsibility for their actions goes hand in hand with voluntariness. Team members who feel obligated or have been delegated by you as their superior are not beneficial for your company in the long term. This is because voluntariness and the will to change enable self-organisation and free you from external control.

Formulate goals & mission statements

Agile working requires clear goals and mission statements that all your team members can identify with. At company level, the corporate mission statement or purpose forms the basis from which strategies for your teams and projects can be derived. Without clear goals and mission statements, agile working descends into chaos, as nobody knows how and which goals can be achieved. It is therefore crucial to invest in the formulation of mission statements and goals, as they form the basis for agile working.

Adaptation & Communication

Agile working is an empirical process that regularly reviews work results and reprioritises requirements. Planning only extends to the next interval in order to react flexibly to changes. Feedback is integral, and feedback loops are firmly anchored in the agile process. The Scrum framework defines these intervals as sprints of a maximum of 1-4 weeks. Results are discussed in reviews in order to optimise collaboration within the team. Constructive communication is crucial.

Customer centricity - customers as an integral part

If you decide in favour of an agile working process, be sure to actively involve your customers. What does that mean exactly? Well, you should analyse, understand and (if possible) anticipate customer problems and needs. Prototypes involve your customer in the development process at an early stage of the product life cycle, so that your customer has the opportunity to provide concrete feedback at an early stage. Agile teams use various methods, such as customer journey mapping, user stories or the jobs-to-be-done method, to record, categorise and process customer needs.

Autonomous & self-determined work

Agile working relies on small, autonomous and self-organised teams that make key decisions independently. The agreed mission and goals as well as business and user requirements serve as guidelines. Self-organisation means that each team member takes responsibility for achieving goals. Trust and clear goals are fundamental. Autonomy requires all the necessary resources and competences in the team to achieve goals independently.

Value orientation - prioritise, focus, get it done

The aim of agile working is to create concrete and measurable value. All tasks should have a clear value contribution, which is achieved through value orientation and prioritisation. Implementation requires a rethink and a change in the mindset of employees, as they have to take responsibility, set priorities and, if necessary, reject them. Transparent mission statements, goals and tangible examples are crucial to promoting the team mindset.

Methods and techniques for agile working

Agile working encompasses various methods and techniques that aim to respond flexibly to changing requirements and ensure continuous progress. One such methodology is the Agile Manifesto, for example, which defines the basic principles of agile working.

User Stories: User stories are the basic building blocks of agile development. These short, concise descriptions of functions from the user's perspective enable teams to focus on the needs of the end user. By clearly formulating requirements, they provide a solid basis for the planning and realisation of tasks, allowing development to be driven forward in a targeted manner.

Task Boards: Task boards are an indispensable tool for organising and managing tasks in agile projects. By visualising tasks in different status categories, they enable a transparent and efficient way of working. By enabling teams to track their progress and identify bottlenecks, task boards support continuous improvement and facilitate the prioritisation of tasks.

Feature Driven Development (FDD): Feature Driven Development (FDD) is an iterative and incremental method that focuses on the regular delivery of functional parts of a product. By identifying and prioritising features, FDD enables structured development that is geared towards specific customer requirements and ensures rapid value creation.

Extreme Programming: Extreme Programming (XP) is an agile method based on principles such as continuous feedback, collaboration and high code quality. Through practices such as test-driven development and pair programming, XP promotes close collaboration within the team and makes it possible to react flexibly to changing requirements without neglecting the quality of the code.

Successfully introducing agile teamwork: 6 tips

Now that we have looked at the cornerstones of agile working, it's time to put them into practice. How can you as a manager ensure that not only the terms agility and agile teamwork remain in the room, but that a change and improvement in collaboration is actually achieved? We would like to give you six tips on how you can support your team in actively shaping and successfully implementing the process of agile working:

Tip 1: Create a common understanding

The term "agility" is widely used and offers various interpretations. It is important to clarify in the team what ideas and expectations are associated with it and to define specific goals for the introduction of agile methods. Agility offers the opportunity to react flexibly and quickly to changes. In agile teams, members work independently, ideally with their own budget and without hierarchies or a fixed team leader. Decision-making processes are short and interference from higher-level authorities only occurs in exceptional cases when unsolvable problems arise.

Tip 2: Close skills gaps

An agile team is invaluable for effective problem solving in complex situations. Therefore, teams should be composed of employees who can act in a self-organised and autonomous manner. Individuals who require ongoing direction may not be suitable for agile teams. An agility skills check can help to assess existing skills and identify targeted training measures to close agile skills gaps.

Tip 3: Clarify the benefits

When introducing agile teamwork, it is crucial to involve employees and take their needs into account. The switch to agile working methods should be seen as a means of achieving better results. Involving employees in the changeover process is important to avoid overwhelming them. The common goal is a more efficient and successful project implementation.

Tip 4: Start with a pilot project

When introducing agile teamwork, caution is required to avoid potential hurdles. Do not start with a project that could jeopardise the existence of your company. Instead, choose a manageable project and inform all relevant departments about the introduction of an agile team. Give the team autonomy and budget responsibility without allowing external influence to prevent agile working methods from failing. Trust in the expertise and will of your team to successfully complete the pilot project after you have carried out a competency check. As a manager, it is important to hand over responsibility and give the agile team the necessary autonomy.

Tip 5: Evaluate failures objectively

As a manager, you face challenges when introducing agile structures. It is important to attribute team successes to the team rather than to individual employees. Avoid individualising successes and failures, but rather view them as the result of teamwork and the existing structures. Recognise achievements that are only possible through agile collaboration and rename the "Employee of the Month" category to "Team of the Month", for example, to emphasise team performance.

Tip 6: Actively support implementation

As a manager, it is crucial to lead employees according to their level of agile development. This requires the application of different leadership styles that are tailored to the respective situation and person. A hierarchical approach is appropriate for employees who still need guidance. A transformational approach relies on inspiration and vision. As a coaching manager, you support employees in helping themselves. The overarching goal is to enable team members to develop solutions to problems independently.

Project-orientated agile working made easy

Agile working, especially agility in project management, is already highly valued in many project-orientated industries such as software development, engineering and construction as well as management consultancy. The implementation of this way of working is supported by methods such as Scrum, while software solutions such as ZEP help with practical implementation and documentation. We support you in adapting to agile methods such as Scrum with the ZEP add-on module Tickets, Tasks & To-dos. This allows you to plan and manage tasks in detail.

The ZEP module plays a decisive role in the efficient realisation of your agile team goals. It enables structured planning and monitoring of tasks and to-dos, which contributes to targeted implementation. The clear assignment of tickets to projects and delegation within the team create transparency in communication and promote collaboration between all team members. This transparent way of working not only makes it easier to allocate tasks, but also helps all team members to understand their tasks in the context of the overall project.

Agile teams need to be able to react flexibly to changes. This is where the ZEP add-on module offers you the necessary flexibility, as it allows you to easily adjust tasks and priorities.

Actively promote the self-organisation and autonomy of your team. The ZEP module serves as a tool to strengthen the responsibility of your team members. The planning of time expenditure and the monitoring of processing at detailed task level contribute to time savings and the overall effectiveness of the team.

Please contact our support team personally if you have any questions. Or take the opportunity to visit one of our Webinars about all Functions of ZEP to find out more. Would you like to try out ZEP straight away? Here you can secure your free trial version.

Conclusion

In the age of digitalisation and increasing complexity, agile working has become indispensable in order to be able to react flexibly to changes. Agile teams and methods offer an answer to the challenges of digital transformation by enabling companies to react quickly to changing requirements and market conditions. The six cornerstones of agile working - voluntariness, clear goals, adaptability, customer centricity, autonomy and value orientation - form the basis for successful agile teamwork.

Companies that rely on agile working methods benefit from increased flexibility, continuous improvement and transparent communication, which leads to more efficient project implementation and higher employee satisfaction. By implementing software solutions such as ZEP, companies can further optimise their agile work processes and effectively achieve their team goals.

Tanja Hartmann CEP

Tanja Hartmann

Content Marketing Manager at ZEP

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