The concept of "agile" emerged in the IT industry in 2001, being aware that middle management was too concerned with employees retention and too little concerned with facilitating their success.
Agile has crossed the boundaries of the software industry to help employees in a variety of professions and industries become more efficient and productive.
The development of a leadership perspective based on agile principles came as a natural consequence of their verification in practice.
But what exactly is agile leadership and how can you implement its principles in your company?
A. Defining agile leadership
Agile leadership is the ability to create the right environment for self-organizing teams around the relevant value delivered to the customer. An environment in which members of multidisciplinary teams collaborate, learn from each other, receive quick feedback and focus on lifelong learning and quality.
It is a leadership style that strives to remove obstacles to success so that employees can be more efficient and productive as a team.
Because agile teams work better together, this approach leads to better results with less time and wasted resources. By empowering teams, agile companies can turn the full potential of the workforce into value.
Borrowing concepts from agile methodology allows companies to respond more quickly to external factors. Adopting an agile mindset helps companies see improvement at the granular level, allowing teams to experience improved products and processes.
Agile leadership focuses on facilitation as a means of generating team leadership.
The most popular of the agile project management methodologies, the Scrum methodology achieves this with a few rules that lead to an operational method that works great in Agile Leadership.
• First and foremost, it is about transparency and autonomy.
• Secondly, it is about empowering and evaluating teams AS A TEAM.
• Third, it's about transcendence, that is overcoming a mundane goal, and achieving a goal that energizes the team.
B. Traditional companies vs. Agile companies
Traditional companies are plagued by the risk of bureaucracy, delays, etc. They focus on important but non-priority issues. Because all important decisions come from the top, they may be slow to respond to change.
Traditional leaders are decision-makers who assign tasks to subordinates. These leaders reap the benefits of recognition for success and take responsibility for failure.
Given their reputation and career, they are less likely to delegate decision-making to their reporters. This can have huge consequences on the quality and speed of their decisions.
If a company cannot evolve fast enough, it risks losing both its relevance and its market share.
Agile companies, on the other hand, rely less on old rules and processes and more on updating and optimizing processes to facilitate better quality work. The authority of leaders is not to be confused with the responsibility of those who deliver.
That's why agile companies decentralize their power and recognize the value they get from listening to front-line employees. Thus, agile companies react quickly to the changes around them.
Not every project that agile companies implement will prove to be a success, but even disappointments can help the company learn something.
Adopting an iterative approach, that is, focusing on rapid cycles of development, testing, feedback, and implementation, allows teams to experience change to see what adjustments are needed and produce the best results.
C. The essential skills of agile leaders
1. Agile leaders communicate openly and transparently with their team members. Their priority is to remove bottlenecks so that team members can achieve their priorities every day. Through effective communication, agile leaders can anticipate and remove barriers to success.
2. Agile leaders always listen and observe. When team members approach an issue or leaders notice one that occurs frequently, they gather information from stakeholders to design better processes. Listening to front-line employees is the key to agile leadership. Agile leaders understand that practical process solutions are most likely to come from people who are most familiar with them.
3. Agile leaders stay focused on customer needs. Agile leaders understand how changes in the market, economy, or community can affect the workplace. They constantly refer to strategic priorities and regularly re-evaluate them for relevance.
Agile values and principles encourage leaders to use collaboration and empower others to grow and participate in decision-making.
Agile leaders see failure as an opportunity to learn and to build confidence in their companies. Agile leaders embody and shape a culture of psychological security, which provides the optimal context for interaction with team members while promoting learning and innovation.
With flexibility, skill and an emphasis on execution in any scenario, the agile leader engages team members to deliver on time and on budget. In times of uncertainty, agility is a provider of stability.
About Constantin Magdalina
Constantin Magdalina has 15 years of working experience, while he performed in multinationals both in Romania and abroad. Constantin has a Master’s degree in Marketing and Business Communication from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest. He is certified in Lean Six Sigma and ITIL (IT Information Library®) which provide him a good understanding of processes and transformations within organizations. The Chartered Institute of Marketing certification further complemented his expertise and knowledge in business. In his over 4 years of working activity in a Big4 company, he initiated and conducted studies that analyzed different aspects related to the business environment in Romania. He is the author of numerous articles on topics related to innovation, the efficiency of business processes, social media, the consumers’ buying experience in the age of digital, trends, and emergent technologies. He is invited as a speaker at numerous events and business conferences.