Agile is a globally recognised term for a set of methods and practices that have emerged in the technology sectors to improve the development of software (first named as a software development methodology in 2001 in the ‘Manifesto for Agile Software Development’. Agile draws upon other management methods such as lean, kanban and coaching. Agile has evolved within the software sector to support project management, time management, quality improvement and team performance. The agile methodology provides a change and decision support structure and toolkit.
Lean is a methodology that was developed within the manufacturing sector (derived from the Toyota Production System in the 1990s) to support mass production with an ability to continuously improve both the products and manufacturing processes. Lean emphasises a model that looks to take out cost and add value in a business’s core activities. Agile draws on the objectives of reducing waste and that of promoting and prioritising activities that add value.
Kanban is a Japanese word meaning signboard. Within agile is it used as a visual representation of work in progress. The method was developed as a system by Taiichi Ohno, Toyota’s chief engineer, to maintain a high level of production as well as to manage continuous improvement of products. Kanban is demand-driven in that work is produced on demand, based on customer behaviour and, where possible, just in time.
Coaching as a process is a person-centred methodology, which promotes a solution-focused, goal-orientated approach to personal and professional development. The method works to enable an individual to achieve a greater state of self-awareness and of the environment and people around them. Agile coaching aims to empower the individual or team to become self-managing and self-organising in reaching their goals.
Traditional management tactics are unable to cope with the rapid change needed to keep pace with global markets and emerging technologies. Plans are often out of date before they are completed and, by the time a product reaches the market, the consumer has moved onto the next new innovation.
Agile provides a new approach to delivering success in today’s working environments, addressing growing issues. Agile is agile in its own right and is evolving and flexing continually to meet changing needs and improve its performance as a management tool.
Agile can be defined in a number of ways depending on the context in which they are used to describe someone or something that is responsive, flexible and fast. There are equally numerous ways in which you can apply and adopt agile and lean behaviour.
In a constantly evolving world that today moves at speed on a global scale, to be successful we must embrace change and not endeavour to resist it.
It would be easier if life were as simple as ‘A to B’, that everything was mapped out, constant and routine, but it is not. Most things in life have a natural life cycle, which has its own ebb and flow.
Things tend to have their own natural life cycle of usefulness; they are started, grow, mature and then decline. If this life cycle remains unchanged, it will become out of date and inefficient or ineffective. We need to improve and develop our work continuously to disrupt the natural life cycle before it enters decline and causes disruption itself.