Challenges and benefits of agile working

Agile ways of working are growing in popularity, with an increasing number of teams adopting agile techniques. Here are some of the pros and cons of agile working.

agile collaboration tools - Workplace from Meta

With a focus on getting work done fast with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints, agile working techniques are ideally suited to the age of hybrid working.

Research shows that adoption of agile working has increased from 37% to 86% for software development teams, while it’s doubled for non-IT groups.

But, like many other ways of working, agile work comes with its benefits and challenges for managers and senior leadership teams.

Benefits of agile working

Benefits of agile working

Some of the advantages of agile working include:

Improved collaboration and communication

Agile working helps create an open, accessible workplace so that people can identify and solve business challenges more easily. Teams work together to prioritize tasks and to meet deadlines, while saving time through stronger communication.

Increased responsiveness to change

Project managers can see what they need to prioritize, both at the beginning and as the project goes along. Agile collaboration helps products and services get to market more quickly – essential for staying ahead of the competition. Plus, it can boost employee engagement, which in turn increases performance – so teams will be working smarter, not harder.

Breaking down work silos

When teams working on projects are isolated, it isn’t easy to share ideas and information. Agile collaboration helps connect the right people from different groups to work together on tasks, boosting cross-team collaboration and productivity.

Increased employee satisfaction

Agile teams are empowered to make decisions and take ownership of their work, which can lead to a sense of autonomy and engagement among team members. Plus, the focus on customer needs and regular feedback can help employees feel more connected to the work they’re doing and the impact it has on the organization and its customers.

Pinpointing priority tasks

Breaking complex projects down into agile sprints creates a better understanding of the timeline for the project and the tasks involved in meeting it. This means project managers can see what they need to prioritize, both at the beginning and as the project goes along.

Improving and evolving

Each sprint involves a review and evaluation phase which means the project can develop as you go along, not just at the end. Teams can implement and test innovative solutions and – if they’re successful – added into the next sprint, so the project is continually evolving.

Creating a safer environment for taking risks

Working in sprints that focus on specific tasks in a smaller time frame means teams have more freedom to take small risks. If the risk doesn’t pay off, it won’t have too much effect on the whole project – but if it does, it could open up new opportunities to do things better.

Challenges of agile working

Challenges of agile working

When introducing agile working, there are several challenges organizations might face.

It doesn’t work for all structures

Agile working requires a high degree of trust, communication, and collaboration among team members, which can be difficult to achieve in more traditional and hierarchical organizations. To implement agile working, your company may have to change its structure, which could lead to some resistance.

Poor management

Many managers may find it difficult to let go of control and delegate responsibilities to their teams. To go agile, all executives, middle-management, and senior management have to be aware that there will be some changes in project management practices. They must understand the benefits of agile working and need to fully understand what’s expected of them.

It works best for sociable employees

In agile teams, information often becomes a commodity traded most effectively by the most skilled communicators. Social networking and ad-hoc conversations become the norm for knowledge sharing and decision making. Less outgoing team members find their access to important project information limited.

Too much focus on teams

The need for collective team accountability can hinder the aspirations of those working completely remotely. When you expect all team members to take part in all decision making, there’s a risk that managers see remote workers as underperforming or even individualistic players.

What are the differences between agile working and flexible working?

What are the differences between agile working and flexible working?

Agile working and flexible working are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. Flexible working involves giving employees the freedom to decide where and when they work so they can achieve a better work-life balance. Agile working is about working in a collaborative and iterative way to deliver products and services quickly and responsively.

But agile’s focus on working without hierarchy and unnecessary constraints can fit in well with flexible working – provided team members are able to work together, either in shared physical or shared virtual spaces.

How to manage agile teams

How to manage agile teams

Build cross-functional teams

Agile projects often need the input of people with different expertise and areas of knowledge. To make this work, managers need to understand how to build cross-functional teams who can work together to achieve the same goal.

This means carefully selecting individuals with different skill sets and knowledge who can collaborate well together. When working on a project, the team can hear about potential challenges from each other, allowing them to tackle problems earlier on and boost efficiency.

Encourage ownership

Before you choose to implement agile processes, you need to make sure employees feel confident with this form of working.

One of the barriers to agile success is teams being reluctant to adopt agile working methods and take responsibility for their work. Managers can help overcome this by encouraging teams to take ownership and work on their own initiative without requiring approval for every action or decision.

Communicate the benefits of agile

Poor communication can stop agile projects from getting off the ground. It’s important for management and leadership to communicate the benefits of agile working effectively. People need to understand why the organization wants to adopt agile working and the benefits of agile working for employees as well as the business as a whole.

Keep reading

Was this article helpful?
Thanks for your feedback

Recent posts

Team Collaboration | 10 minute read

How to build team collaboration

Discover essential tips to improve your team collaboration in the workplace, including the benefits of collaboration and how to improve teamwork.

Productivity | 11 minute read

Revitalize your pandemic productivity

Productivity was a hot topic even before global lockdowns. Now it’s business-critical. Discover what we mean by productivity, how to measure it, and how you can boost productivity post-pandemic.

Remote Work | 7 minute read

Working remotely: Benefits and Challenges

More of us are working remotely. Many more will in the future, too. Discover the pros and cons of remote working and how to make the most of it.