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How to Adopt Agile Values for Non-Development Teams

Non-development teams are waking up and seeing the benefits of agile that their software development peers have realized since the Agile Manifesto signing in 2001. These agile adopters can be found in organizations’ marketing, accounting, human resources, or recruiting departments. Companies in industries such as education and publishing have also moved to agile. They realize that Agile values apply to their non-development teams too.

And why wouldn’t they? With huge benefits such as a faster time to market, customer-focused products, and innovation, it’s not hard to understand why non-technology teams have adopted agile.

Teams focused outside of software development have realized these benefits by repurposing the Agile Manifesto’s four values. To help us work and take action within those values, we refer to the agile principles. This two-part series will help you understand and translate the agile values and principles for your non-technical team.


What the Agile Manifesto and its values mean to you

Moving your team or organization to agile is more than just a way of working; it’s a mindset. By following the agile values, you will be moving towards an agile mindset.

If you still aren’t sure if agile is right for you, teams demonstrate agile in four ways:

  • Work marshaled by self-organizing and self-managing teams

  • An iterative approach that fosters and embraces change

  • Speed of value to the customer instead of a process-heavy focus

  • A collaborative approach within the team and organization and with customers

“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”

People solve problems, not tools or processes. Teams and organizations find value as knowledge workers solve problems collaboratively and drive innovative ideas and opportunities. That is to say, the means to the end should not be valued more than the end result.

As a non-development agile team, focus on what customers are interested in: the genuine value of the product or service you are delivering. They aren’t interested in your process or production tool. You can provide value with skilled and knowledgeable team members that cross-pollinate ideas, concerns, and opportunities for innovation in place of a checklist process driven by tools.

For example, if a work tracking tool is getting in the way of delivering to the customer, the team should adjust to focus on the customer. This is a great time to initiate a new process with the tool or use a different tool to ensure progress is being made.

“Working software over comprehensive documentation”

For non-development agile teams, translate “working software” as real value to the customer as soon as possible.

Agile practices include using incremental delivery to decrease time to market. As a non-development team, incorporate customer feedback into your product or service through incremental improvements. For instance, a marketing team can initiate AB testing on a small increment such as semantics to deliver value while gathering vital customer feedback. Each Sprint offers incremental value where it matters – the customer.

Depending on the context of your work, “comprehensive documentation” can be translated as inflated analysis. You have seen how analysis paralysis wastes time. Spending too much time on documentation and the like can be a precursor to delivery delays impacting customer satisfaction and feedback.

“Customer collaboration over contract negotiations”

A customer-focused approach to work contributes to a long-term, win-win relationship. Collaborating with your customer enables a continuous feedback loop, which in turn enhances your product or service and benefits your organization.

However, a protracted negotiation often results in a product that no longer addresses the customer’s needs. Consequently, this positions your organization to lose revenue and the customer to lose a potentially valuable product or service. In today’s global, disruptive environment, companies no longer have the luxury to deliver yesterday’s product.

“Responding to change over following a plan”

The last of the four agile values ensures that teams are open to pivot mercilessly. Change happens in our non-static world. Whether your competitive environment has changed through an acquisition or your customer needs have changed if they now work virtually, implementing business agility helps you and your organization embrace this change.

By purposefully accepting that change is inevitable, the team does not overcommit in one direction—Agile’s continuous product development pivots on customer’s feedback, which could include critical gaps or shortcomings. The plan can be adjusted to stay focused on the customer.

Start with Agile Values, Implement Agile Principles

Implementing agile values for non-technology teams is just the start of becoming more agile. It truly is a different way to think about your organization and the people it serves. Many teams begin with the agile basics and slowly evolve. If you aren’t sure where to start, work with an Agile coach who will tailor agile for your team in your context on your timeline. In the second part of this series, we look at how to put agile values into action with agile principles.


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