Adopting an Agile approach can indeed make a company more productive, flexible, and ultimately successful.
The Agile Team
The Agile methodology enables rapid and versatile responses to today’s market challenges, but this is just one consequence of applying a system of values and ideas. The most important value of this mindset is undoubtedly the ability to put people at the center of every project. It’s crucial that team members don’t feel pressured and collaborate enthusiastically.
Agile teams are autonomous, cross-functional, responsible, and cohesive, constantly reevaluating their strategy to adapt to evolving customer demands based on feedback received. However, this doesn’t mean completely overhauling their way of working each time. In a traditional work environment, teams often receive external directives on practices and values to prioritize, with the expectation that external information will change their thinking and approach. In Agile, the opposite happens.
For example, at Hermes, we apply the Agile approach by fostering learning from within rather than from external sources. This means that awareness and the desire to change, evolve, and improve come from within the heart of the company and the team itself, once our talents have personally discovered and experimented with the necessary principles and values to achieve results. We don’t “have to” act in a certain way; we want to do it. We eagerly share ideas within the team and in our relationships with clients to nurture internal and external relationships and improve the production process.
In this context, activities like Retrospectives, where the progress of a just-completed Sprint is analyzed, are not experienced with anxiety or seen as a duty or burden but as valuable opportunities for discussion to ensure that everyone is on the same page and to address any issues that arose during the work.
The responsibilities of each team member are always clear, but success or failure is a shared outcome. In an Agile-minded company, there’s no search for scapegoats or elevating one member’s successes at the expense of another’s failures. Instead, individual difficulties are listened to and addressed collectively, seeking to overcome obstacles together.
Benefits of the Agile Methodology
Applying an Agile style in a company brings numerous benefits. The foremost advantage is great flexibility and versatility in achieving objectives, with the aim of adapting completely to customer needs. The strategy to be implemented is shaped by the client’s expressed requirements, although the team organizes itself autonomously and achieves results using the tools and methods it deems most suitable, prioritizing what it considers most important.
Another advantage of Agile is transparency. At any given moment, the client knows what the team is working on and how. Events in Scrum, the most common Agile framework, serve this purpose. During sprint reviews, for example, the team shows the client the progress made and seeks feedback to guide the project’s advancement. Additionally, Agile team members hold daily brief meetings to align on work status, ensuring that all team components are on the same page.
The goal of an Agile team is to quickly generate value for the customer, made possible by the fact that they are a cohesive group, focused on the shared goal, collaborating and communicating effectively.
The Structure of an Agile Company
It’s important to start with the concept that a workflow can never be perfect; it’s always improvable. Many companies, especially younger and more dynamic ones, succeed because they can adapt rapidly to changes, often due to their small size, making management and coordination more straightforward. In larger companies, having a structure that guides the workflow is essential to ensure stability and continuity.
The goal at Hermes is to balance flexibility with the stability of the company structure by applying frameworks (principles, practices, and values) that fruitfully accommodate both aspects. For small groups, Scrum is ideal, while larger and more complex groups can apply Scaled Agile, a collection of methods and frameworks aimed at implementing Agile practices at an enterprise level.
If we were to make an analogy with a ship navigating an unknown sea, adopting Agile practices means intimately understanding their concepts through a “scientific” approach to discovery. The team can swiftly change direction to avoid storms and obstacles and seize favorable conditions. To make this happen, continuous crew evaluation is essential, as is timely and ongoing communication by “lookouts” to respond immediately to changing needs.
Just like sailors on a ship, members of an Agile team collaborate and support each other to reach the destination together, knowing that each one’s role is crucial and ensuring that no one is left behind or isolated is a collective responsibility that leads to the success of the entire team.
To achieve the desired results, continuous training is necessary to be prepared for any kind of problem. Trust in other team members is another element of fundamental importance, embodying the concept of “multiplication.” This means distributing and delegating control to those who possess the necessary information at any given moment, with the certainty that everyone is part of the same team working toward a common goal, and the belief that this approach will benefit each individual.
Well-being as a starting point
At Hermes, we firmly believe that to maximize well-being and creativity among our talents, it’s necessary to abandon the old concept of imposing a task “from above” and instead embrace a new approach in which the team proposes a solution after thoroughly understanding the customer’s needs.
Identifying the intrinsic value (both quantitative and qualitative) of a particular request makes it easier to set priorities, determining which activities are absolutely necessary and which can be omitted, thereby maximizing results and achieving them in the shortest possible time. With sufficient data to evaluate the impact of their decisions, the team has full decision-making freedom.
To make this happen, it’s important to be aware that most digital projects are “empirical,” meaning there is a high degree of uncertainty about timing, costs, or resources required. A digital project, such as creating software, requires an appropriate approach to reduce uncertainty. This can only be achieved through the collection and analysis of statistical data. Evaluating the well-being of the team and, at the same time, the functionality of the processes in place helps identify bottlenecks or other issues, enabling the team to find the best solution to remove obstacles. This doesn’t mean pre-planning how product development will occur, but using experience to prevent future problems.
A fundamental aspect of an Agile company, as articulated in the methodology’s manifesto, is that individuals and their interactions matter more than processes and tools. All team members must be comfortable with each other, as workplace stress creates a barrier to achieving excellence. Knowing and nurturing the interests and passions of each team member is essential, and everyone’s talents should be respected and encouraged to open the doors to individual “genius.”Hermes builds every relationship with collaborators and clients on the concept of empathy. In a serene and collaborative work environment, individuals are more inclined to “dream,” finding creative solutions outside the norm and solving problems in an original, customized way for each specific case.