This article is part of our RE:FOCUS Resource. Read more here.

Agile, born out of software development in the early noughties is a project management mindset that has a lot to teach us about how to work efficiently and effectively when we’re faced with sudden changes or a crisis. Although it initially served many an IT department, it has now been adapted by functions across organisations. Companies that embrace agile are more successful and fast-growing. What practices can we adapt from this framework to achieve success in times of change?

Getting it done: an agile mindset in a crisis

Agile provides the framework for routine catch-ups to review each other’s work which allows you to move forward and not leave work stagnant. Disagreements are resolved through feedback and trialing rather than taking a top-down approach. As it engages team members with different backgrounds and skills as collaborators, it builds trust and respect between the team – not to mention a better, well-rounded end product. Since the method also reduces time wasted on micromanaging projects, senior managers can devote their time to higher-value work that good leaders should do: such as prioritising tasks, guiding the team towards a clear vision and simplifying and focusing work. The transparency that agile brings with it is an added benefit.

Job-satisfaction is one of the results of an agile approach. Each member feels valued as they contribute to the end product. As they are also empowered to make decisions on macro tasks, they feel more valuable to the team and can respond more easily to customer needs without the restraints of bureaucratic hurdles that are common in larger companies.

It allows for quick changes in an everchanging time and since Agile deconstructs work into smaller, more manageable units it allows you to reorder and accomplish projects one task at a time. This allows for more corrections as the project goes along, depending on the situation at hand.

You can also incorporate agile in the following ways:

Time-boxing your work. Put your weekly tasks into a calendar. This limits time on specific task and adds a sense of urgency to priority tasks. This also gives you a more clear idea of your schedule for the week and helps you prioritise tasks and how long they take to get done before a deadline.

Re-evaluation. Agile gives an opportunity to review tasks since they are deconstructed into smaller ones. This allows us to learn and adjust as necessary. Such an approach is vital during a crisis when predictability is not an option.

Lists, lists, lists. Listing your tasks and prioritising them allows you take things one task at a time. A hefty task is much less overwhelming when its segmented into clear, concise tasks. This empowers you as well as calms you.

A crisis always brings innovation: new products to address a need created in record time. This happens when the shackles of bureaucracy are eliminated and agile methods are adopted. More often than not, innovations are not part of a strategic plan – they come out of a small group of people. They dropped lower-priority tasks, and put in their 100% in that task – producing something which surprises themselves and their managers in the process. That is agile.

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