What Is the Agile Approach and Why Do Businesses Need It?


Marcin Gaarden

Agile Approach for Businesses

What is the essence of Agile in terms of common sense and business benefits? Let's find out what Agile is, why it is needed, what it consists of and what tools are used to achieve the key goals.

But what is Agile, and, more importantly, why do we need it?

If you open an explanatory dictionary, for example, the Oxford dictionary, you can read there at least two definitions:

  1. Able to move quickly and easily.
  2. Able to think and understand quickly.

It's quite a helpful quality, especially in business. Think quickly and react quickly - otherwise, you just can't survive: your competitors will eat you up. Without the ability to adapt rapidly to changes, which Agile gives us, it is harder and harder to survive.

Agile is not a methodology but rather a collective name for various management techniques and approaches that:

  • Focuses the team on customer needs and goals.
  • Simplify organizational structure and processes.
  • Offer work in short cycles.
  • Use feedback actively.
  • Assume empowerment of employees.
  • Have a humanistic approach at their core.
  • Are not an end state but rather a way of thinking and living.

Nothing supernatural, right? Let's go through the points and understand why they are essential to be agile and flexible and the means to achieve these goals in Agile.

Focusing on customer needs and goals

Most importantly, the focus on the customer in the Agile approach does not appear in the business owner's mind alone (it's already there), but in everyone working to create a product or service. Each participant in the process must understand who the customer is, what he wants, what problems we solve with our product, what he likes, and what he fears. This universal focus allows you to create much better solutions. 

"Tools of the job," in this case, are short but rich meetings of all participants or of the vital majority, where various ideas are generated and tested. These same meetings align understanding and focus: all meeting participants at the output understand what they are doing, why, and why it is crucial to the client. 

Working in short cycles

In the world of Agile, it's not customary to lock yourself in a workshop for three years to sharpen something interesting there. Spending a lot of effort and time on something that nobody needs or is obsolete is a significant risk.

To avoid this, the so-called iterative-incremental approach is used when:

  • the work is done in small, fixed segments of time, such as one, two, or four weeks,
  • at the end of each time interval is created not just any intermediate result but a small, truncated, tiny, yet workable version of the product, which can already be used.

As the simplest example of this working model, we can imagine a standard computer program, "calculator", which at the beginning allows only adding two numbers, then we add subtraction, multiplication, division - and so on, in order of frequency of use. At the start, the functionality isn't much, but we can already see how the calculator looks, how convenient it is to use, and imagine how to develop it further. And most importantly, some customers (say, elementary school students) can already start using it.

Active, systematic use of feedback

This point is the most important for any process because it allows you to adjust your work over time, based on experience, removing errors and losses from the process and the product created and adding something useful.

Agile offers a systematic use of this approach everywhere: in creating a product, building processes, even building the organization's structure, and "fine-tuning" the relationships in teams.

Humane approach

Why treat people humanely? The moral side of the matter is clear, but what good will it do the enterprise's owner?

The answer is pretty simple. If the creation of what you sell requires no mental labor but only mechanical action - you don't have to bother. Just pay commensurate with the work done, and that's it. But once the employees' brains come into play, you must reckon with the principles of mental work motivation. And they say that for people are essential opportunities for self-fulfillment, improvement of their skills, bringing something valuable into the world, independence in decisions, and several other factors. And a motivated person (not to be confused with a stimulated person!) will invest more in his work, and the result will be better and faster.

Agile is not a finite state but a way of thinking and living

Applying Agile, in general, is a path, not a goal. You can't "implement" Agile, DevOps services and relax. If you choose this path, you will always have something else to do better, some other challenge to meet, some other problem to solve, some new height to conquer

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