The dictionary defines “agile” as, “able to move quickly and easily.” Effective agile leaders exercise this definition at organizations every day. For leaders, new to this approach, let’s look at some key principles:
- Incremental delivery of usable product – Part of moving quickly is developing products or services quickly, and then iteratively developing improvements in an evolving process. The key is developing iterations that are useful. Agile leaders must also manage the change that comes with fielding small iterations more quickly, rather than delivering one large product once the full project is complete.
- User and customer engagement – Moving quickly and easily also means being close to those you serve. Engaging consumers and users in development can be both scary and difficult – it invites different perspectives, can lead to conflict and can take more time. It is also essential to agile leadership because including users and consumers now, saves time later.
- Team empowerment – No leader stands alone. A key principle of agile leadership is bringing together experts to define and solve problems quickly, and in a collaborative way. Agile leaders build and support teams that they trust, and then let them own their work. When a collaborative team includes consumers and users, amazing things can result.
- Responding to change – Moving quickly and easily means there will be a lot of change, and change almost always involves risk. As a learning tactic, agile leaders anticipate change and welcome it. Risk can lead to both positive and negative outcomes – agile leaders operate from the assumption that change can lead to positive outcomes, and build teams that can create that change.
For traditional leaders, these principles may appear to invite a lack of structure and control but nothing could be further than the truth. Effective agile leaders provide structure and clarity, while also responding to real-time events and engaging the right people at the right time. The agile principles, exercised well, translate to effective and principled leadership.