The agile work method

If you’re working with delivery chains you know that plans and work flows are ever-changing, because they constantly need to be adapted to new circumstances. This flexible approach is known an agile work method, and it’s the foundation of how logistics and e-commerce operates. In this article we tell you everything you need to know about the agile methodology.

What is agile?

When something is agile it’s elastic and flexible. With an agile approach you have the ability to quickly adapt your processes and change course to generate greater profitability. The opposite of an agile approach is to set a goal and then, according to a number of fixed steps, systematically work toward it. The disadvantage of this approach based on a static plan is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that reality is complex and unpredictable, and that you sometimes need to adapt to achieve the best possible outcome.

How agile work methods were created

During the 90’s, a number of programmers realized that their IT projects failed because the work methods used were way too rigid. Independent of one another, they developed more flexible methods that gave them the freedom to adapt their processes based on different outcomes. A few years later, in 2001, the leading profiles in flexible work methods met and defined the shared principles and values of their different methods in a manifesto – The Agile Manifesto. The manifesto quickly spread outside the IT world and is now used in many industries, as the core ideas can be applied to almost any project regardless if it’s about a product or a service.

Core values of the agile manifesto:

  • Individuals and interactions before processes and tools.
  • Useful results before extensive documentation.
  • Client collaboration before contract negotiations.
  • Adaptability to change before following a static plan.

How do agile work methods work in practice?

According to the agile approach, work is divided into multiple short sprints which in turn are performed in various steps. Each time a sprint is concluded, the work is evaluated, and the planning and goal is calibrated based on the new information gained during the process. In practice, this means that the project is constantly changing just as the world outside is, and that non-viable solutions don’t go unnoticed as the results are constantly evaluated. The agile method does, however, require good communication and strong collaboration between coworkers, and that management creates good conditions for the staff to think innovatively and dare to make their own decisions.

Advantages and disadvantages of agile work methods

The advantage of agile work methods:

  • With an agile approach, staff are able to make their own decisions regarding the work they do, which results in a business that is quick on its feet with motivated staff.
  • Regular meetings allow the staff to immediately correct and adjust efforts, and gives them a better image of what will be required of them further down the line. Work becomes proactive rather than reactive.
  • The end product will be of higher quality because it has been evaluated and adjusted continuously during the course of the project, which reduces the risk of the product becoming outdated shortly after launch.

Disadvantages of agile work methods:

  • The new approach can take a while to implement – especially in larger organizations where opinions pull in different directions.
  • Clients want to know what they’re buying, when the product is ready, and how much it will cost before they place an order, which is not always possible with an agile approach.

How to implement an agile approach

Agile work methods don’t follow an exact manual. Instead, they are a mentality all about freedom to review, change and improve the process. This does not only apply to the staff but also to management responsible for implementing the agile work method. Try to have an agile approach to the transformation of the organization too; one thing at a time, trial and error, and continuous evaluation. Another aspect, which can be good to keep in mind, is that not all parts of the company necessarily improve with an agile approach. You need to identify the functions with the most to gain from the change, in order not to waste time and resources on transforming what already works well.

How PostNord can aid in agile work methods

Continuously adjusting one’s methods based on results is the foundation of an agile approach, but one condition is that trustable data is available in order to evaluate and compare results. In Portal Business, the PostNord platform for businesses, you get access to statistics regarding the deliveries, returns, environmental impact and more related to your company, if you’re a contract client. The idea is that it should be easier for you to identify shortcomings in work methods as well as structures, to make changes that bring you closer to your goal.

Different types of reports are not all that Portal Business can offer. You can also schedule shipping, track deliveries, manage irregularities and handle your customer communication – all in one place. All you need to do to get started is to create a business account, it’s free and only takes a minute.

Frequently asked questions about agile work

What does agile mean?

Agile means flexible and elastic.

In which areas can agile methods work?

Environments that are affected by external conditions often benefit from agile work methods, because actions can be adapted to what the situation requires at the time.

When is an agile approach not necessary?

When conditions are always the same, there is usually no great need for agile methods.

What is typical of an agile approach?

An agile work method involves working toward a goal but adapting actions during the project, which requires constant evaluation and a will to be flexible.

What is agile leadership?

Agile leadership is when management creates conditions for staff to make decisions rather than controlling the business in detail.