You may or may not have heard of agile working. If you haven’t, it won’t be long before you do as it’s a practice most used in the software industry, with benefits that are making other sectors sit up and take notice.
An agile team is usually a group of up to 10 workers with all the skills and tools needed to plan, develop and launch a product or project, or a specific part of one. Among the elements of agile working are regular quick stand-up meetings, sprints – agreed timeframes for completing a task – and team self management.
Designed to increase communication between team members, build a joint understanding of tasks at the start of every sprint and give good evaluation at the end, agile working can be popular with employees because it helps to build trust, empowers people and provides clear parameters for every project.
With the benefits of agile working to employers said to be increased productivity, continuous improvement and rapid response to change, many businesses outside the software sector are realising the cost saving and growth advantages of using agile methods.
The Economist Intelligence Unit has listed the top traits of an agile business as having ‘a high-performance culture, flexible management practices and resources and an organisational structure that supports collaboration, rapid decision-making and execution’.
So, if you are a business product and furniture reseller looking to support customers that practice agile working, or are about to embrace it, it’s worth understanding what an agile team most needs to function smoothly.
Here are some starting points that may help:
Successful office layout for this kind of team may be more than open plan. Agile teams usually need to work in close proximity in a defined space, which may be one room or an area of an open office with some separation from other teams, where people can see each other and communicate easily. Bench desking could be one way to provide this proximity, but it may also need the layout to incorporate quiet areas or booths where individuals can work without interruption.
As the visibility of projects is an essential ingredient in agile working, wall space has to be brought into consideration. Teams need enough wall room to put up charts that everyone can update regularly, making work in progress visible at all times to the whole team.
A whiteboard or similar item can be an indispensible tool for lively meetings to discuss ideas and plans. This could be used by individuals to visualise a challenge and flesh out thoughts and can be used just as well by smaller groups.
Space permitting, meeting tables or break out areas can be additional assets, providing a location for small groups to meet without disrupting colleagues working at their desks.
Headphones for those who need to work uninterrupted, as well as phone headsets, can be another advantage.
With flexibility often a key feature of agile working, video or audio conferencing facilities are likely to be needed. For team members who are working remotely, either on site at a customer’s premises or from home, mobile technology and security products such as privacy screens, encrypted USB sticks and cases or rucksacks suitable for carrying tech devices should be discussed.