Last time I was here I talked about competition and being excited that they are copying you. This time I want to let you know about a philosophy that has been around in the software development industry for quite sometime. Agile Software Development. Now I am not going to talk about software design, but rather how you can use this process to help keep your business innovating and your customers happy.
First let's look at the Agile Manifesto:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Now, this statement doesn't mean the stuff on the right is not important, it just means that the bold items on the left are valued over them.
Let's dig into them shall we?
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. As individuals we are all unique. We have our own thoughts, ideas and interpretations and when we interact with each other and more importantly, each others thoughts and ideas, wonderful things begin to happen. Process and tools help you stay efficient, reliable and productive, but none of those things will breed innovation like working with others. One thing I find extremely important here, is getting outside of your area of expertise to have these interactions. My first business success came from meeting with an Imaginarium employee, property manager and a used golf equipment salesrep. The conversation that came out of that spawned a full suite of homeowner association management solutions.
OK, so maybe this next one needs to be reworded for any business not in the software industry. But I challenge you to come up with one and leave it and the reason behind the change in the comments. Who knows, maybe I might use it when I speak on this subject at the Scottsdale Small Business Conference in April.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. I think this one can be a stickler for many businesses. The world today can get very concerned over getting the better deal, not getting sued (or being able to sue) and just being in the right. Time is to short to be concerned with all this crap and if someone is overly concerned with it that should raise some red flags. I want to work WITH my customers. I not only want them to be happy but I want to take their input and make my business better. Collaborating with your customers can also bring new ideas, cost saving solutions and long lasting partnerships.
Responding to change over following a plan. To me this is the biggest and more important of all the above. Plans are good. They give you a path and direction to follow. However, what you do when a wrench gets thrown in your work is what matters the most. There are too many examples of this in the business world. Companies seeing things changing around them and their failure to adapt to the situation and becoming stagnant and irrelevant. One of the principles in agile is reflection. This can be handled with a weekly retrospective. Get your team (yes I said team, not staff and not employees) together and look at what went on the previous week. Celebrate the success and discuss the failures and pain points. Come up with a plan to make the necessary changes and a way to measure your progress.
I issue a challenge to you. Try reading up on the agile process and find ways to adopt in your business. Then strive for just one percent better every week. One percent is not much, but like that retirement plan compounded interest pays off and by the end of the year you will be 68% better. Not shabby for a small incremental change every week.
Until next time she asks me back, go change YOUR world.