Making the shift to agile working can be a major challenge, and it requires smart management. Understanding common agile working mistakes will equip you with the knowledge to avoid them, while building a more successful agile working environment for your organisation.
While agile can appear to be a haphazard, ad hoc, and low-discipline way of working, this is untrue for successful agile teams. Effective agile teams are typically highly disciplined, and they need to stay disciplined in order to work in rhythm. The carelessness or sloppiness resulting from poor discipline is the opposite of agile.
While iterative production is a characteristic of agile, agile working doesn’t mean your product development teams work to unlimited scope. Instead, in an agile project for example, the project manager will ensure each stage or milestone results in an incremental completion of scope. The project manager should design the development stages to avoid unlimited iterative scope. This helps the team avoid unnecessary delays or worse, unlimited iterations that never reach completion.
One of the advantages of agile working is getting valuable customer feedback for product development. Regular, timely feedback from customers can allow you to identify problem areas before you divert more resources and time into them. Build customer feedback into your agile working environment where appropriate, especially if you’re overseeing a product development team. Customer feedback provides the best possible guidance on changing directions quickly – and this is partly what makes your team agile.
Estimate project scope and size can be a challenge with a new agile team, so make sure management will allow initial deadlines to be adjusted. Once your team knows how long it will take to reach specific milestones, you can fix realistic deadlines with management. Don’t expect accurate estimation in the early stages of the project, especially if you’re working with a new team.
Poor communication can be the downfall of any agile team, no matter how skilled and experienced individual team members are. To counter this, build communications processes into your daily routine, workspaces, and work habits. For example, try to make time for face-to-face communication throughout the day to identify issues and possible roadblocks. One way to do this could be to hold brief standup meetings every day with all team members present. Issues to cover at your daily meetings include review of the previous day’s work, current problems, and work to be completed today.
Establish a dedicated team area where your agile team members work in close proximity to each other. Offer your team virtual tools, such as video conferencing, instant chat, and message boards to share ideas quickly. A variety of tools facilitates different interactions and better team coherence.
Successful agile teams are simultaneously cross-functional and stable. In a programming team, this can mean including tech writers, testers, and other multifunctional roles. By broadening the skill scope of your team, your team will have the necessary skills to rapidly iterate and add improvements.
Stable teams are those who have been given time to grow together. Team members who have worked with each other on multiple projects are familiar with each other’s’ skillsets and might be more successful at working collaboratively.
Depending on your organisation and team structure, you could have a tester in a multifunctional agile team. Alternatively, you could build automatic testing into your agile processes. This can include testing every single build at given stages, and it will involve fixed acceptance criteria for the product to pass testing.
Testing can happen at any stage. The faster you test, the more quickly you can refine the product and reach the completion stage with the product that satisfies the customer.
You can empower your agile team by involving them at key stages. Avoid assuming the scrum master or trainer (chief agile facilitator) is to be the only source of authority. Instead, empower your team to engage in decision-making. At the planning stage, ask your members to participate. Check in with team members for their insights about the project they will be working on.
Rather than paying lip service to team members’ insights, assess their insights and act on their feedback where appropriate. Acknowledge team member’s insights and demonstrate that you value their contribution by considering and acting on their suggestions. Empowering the team not only facilitates employee satisfaction; it also enhances final product quality by ensuring ideas are shared and applied.
Hot desking environments allow employees to sit wherever they like. Having no assigned seats could support team dynamism and collaboration. For organisations, where as much as 55 per cent of workspace can be unused, hot desking makes economic sense.
Hot desking can be a complementary feature to your agile teams, helping you establish a dynamic working environment. Some teams end up feeling more engaged and productive because they’re in control of how and where they collaborate. Common hot desking mistakes include failure to assist staff with the change, as well as not providing the right tools.
Shifting to hot desking is a major change. If you don’t support staff with the transition, you can end up with a frustrated team. Set out clear guidelines and policies on the use of hot desks and how your system will work. Give staff members a chance to ask questions about the changes. Take their feedback into account and adjust your policies if necessary.
A desk-book system is vital for avoiding misunderstandings about which teams have prior claim to desks. A virtual desk-booking system lets employees book their workstations ahead of time, whether they’re working in a pair or a larger group. Team members who work together will be able to ensure they’re seated next to each other and can collaborate as necessary.
Hot desks are workstations, not only desks. Depending on your organisation, you might need to include IT peripherals to support team members in getting work done. A phone system might be necessary. Other accessories, such as ergonomic chairs, screen stands, and sit-stand desks can support better posture and health.
Consider what your teams do, down to their individual roles and processes, and design your hot-desk workstations accordingly.
Your teams might benefit from having access to other tools and spaces. Paper, pens, printers, filing systems, and flexible storage could be essential tools and resources for your teams.
Similarly, dedicated coworking spaces away from the central working space can enhance collaboration for teams. For example, closed-off meeting rooms might allow teams to work more effectively because they don’t need to be concerned about creating too much noise. Breakout areas are a great way for small teams to get together and brainstorm and collaborate.
Hot desk areas can support innovation and collaboration, but employees can also benefit from private spaces where they can retreat if things become too distracting. Depending on your organisation, you could consider providing private individual workstations in silent areas, to let employees complete urgent work or tasks requiring silence or privacy.
Other private spaces to offer employees include lockers and storage spaces where they can lock away their personal items.
A clear desk policy is a great way to ensure clutter is kept at a minimum. Without the distraction of a messy desk, team members might end up concentrating better. Clean and clear desks could enhance productivity and efficiency in your hot desk work environments.
Hot desk environments are designed to improve dynamism in your teams, enhancing employee interaction and collaboration. Encourage staff members to move around from day to day, rather than booking the same desk next to the same colleagues every day.
Avoid seeing your hot desking workplace as a static system. Instead, proactively reach out to your employees and ask for feedback. Identify ways you can improve, tools you can add, and changes you can make to support their productivity and job satisfaction. Remember that changes to the work environment are designed to boost morale, as well as employee efficiency. If your employees are unhappy about something, make sure they have a way to give you feedback so you can make changes.
Agile working environments can be some of the most innovative and dynamic for product development and programming. However, they require experienced management and the right feedback and communication structures. Hot desking can support your agile team in collaborating more successfully, but – like agile principles – hot desking also requires smart implementation. Both agile and hot desking, if rolled out correctly, can assist organisations with harnessing their most valuable resource: their people and their skills.
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