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Agile working in practice: Drivers of Agile success for customer insight teams

12th Jul 2019
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Continuing his series reviewing how data, analytics and insight teams can achieve Agile working in practice, Paul Laughlin examines four elements that characterise successful Agile projects. 

In my first post on how to achieve Agile working in practice, I focussed on four principles that were needed. Principles of attitude and culture, in order to have the right mindset and approach to working this way.

Continuing with this series, the second post examined common Agile working practices that I’ve observed in analytics teams implementing this approach.

To complete the series, this article will examine the four drivers of success that I and other writers have observed. Those behaviours and attitudes that differentiate those who achieve successful Agile working.

Through a combination of reading other bloggers on this topic and reflecting on what I have seen in practice, I have four drivers to propose.

Driver 1: Achieving personal ‘flow’

Despite all the focus on collaboration and flexible team working, Agile working also relies on high performing individuals. At its best, team members know their strengths and have honed ways of working very productively.

Entering a state of ‘flow‘ is important for leaders and analysts. That state where you no longer notice time passing and are not easily distracted. You are absorbed in the task and make surprisingly fast progress. I may well blog more on this important topic, but for now I recommend those interested to read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book “Flow”.

Driver 2: A culture of collaboration

“We are all in this together“, rather than being political spin should be the ethos of working this way. Successful delivery relies upon a flexibility and mutual support that is often not present in larger teams working within more rigid projects.

Team members should be encouraged to stay aware (keep eyes and ears open) of both their own progress and how wider team is doing. Joint success often relies upon a willingness of every team member to both ask for and offer help. Once you are winning with your work unit, look up and see where you could help with other top priorities.

Driver 3: Learning continually

Agile working has close affinity with the principles of continuous improvement from Systems Thinking. A commitment to spotting and closing gaps in knowledge and skills, plus a thirst for personal growth are key attitudes from effective team members.

A visible organisational commitment to personal development plans can really help. In too many businesses, large and small, these can be token efforts – too easily reduced to documenting a book that was read or training course attended. Embedding a culture of L&D takes time, but supporting individuals with time and money to prioritise their development pays huge dividends in improving team effectiveness. What Stephen Covey called taking time to ‘sharpen the saw‘.

Driver 4: Reliability and clarity

Every team member in an Agile working team needs to both understand what is asked of them and keep their promises. The lifeblood of working this way is effective communication and it requires a higher level of taking personal responsibility not less.

The old adage of “my word is my bond” is the attitude to encourage here and leaders should challenge individuals if commitments are not delivered. Accountability is needed to avoid drift and any degree of hiding behind collaborative processes. In addition I recommend investing time in developing leaner and more effective communication. A future blog post will cover this in more depth, but for now I recommend reading “Brief” by Joe McCormack.

Agile working in practice: What is helping your team?

I hope those thoughts and recommended resources are useful. It would be great to hear your thoughts.

If you are new to working this way or have it working well, please do share your experience in comments box below. What tips do you have for others who want to make the transition to agile working in practice (not just using the buzzword)?


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