What is agile working?

Agile approaches have been used to get people talking and working together since the 1970s. And agile is now proving itself to be a method that’s particularly suited to today’s world of remote and hybrid working.

agile collaboration - Workplace from Meta
What is agile working?

What is agile working?

Fast, responsive, efficient, cross-functional - these are all characteristics of an agile working environment. It’s an approach to work that aims to maximize flexibility and visibility while eliminating as many barriers to getting things done as possible. It does this through a combination of processes, people and technology.

Today, agile working is a productive and popular project management technique which is being adopted increasingly widely. In 2022, digital.ai found the adoption of agile increased from 37% to 86%for software development teams, and doubled for non-IT groups.

Agile working helps people and companies shift quickly, address emerging needs and respond effectively with little advance notice. It’s all about streamlining processes and bringing multi-disciplinary teams together, outside of traditional hierarchies.

It’s particularly useful for hybrid or remote companies, where employees are working from different locations and juggling different responsibilities.

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Agile ways of working

Agile ways of working

Agile isn’t just one method. There are different ways of agile working, each with its own pros and cons.

Ivy Lee method

The Ivy Lee method is a time management technique that informs some agile methods. The five-step prioritization strategy works like this:

  • Step 1 – list six tasks that are most important to get done the next day, or by the end of the day

  • Step 2 – number your tasks in order of importance

  • Step 3 - begin your workday with the first item on the list. Work on it until you’re completely finished

  • Step 4 – mark each item as completed once you’ve finished it

  • Step 5 – repeat the process again for the next day

This method helps you prioritize your time, and boosts productivity, but it doesn’t account for unexpected tasks or changes in plan.

Scrum sprints

This agile way of working involves teams splitting work into sprints – short periods attached to specific, small goals. Each sprint contributes to the overall deliverable of the project.

  1. Plan

  2. Develop

  3. Deploy

  4. Evaluate

Teams work collaboratively to the sprint deadline, with the relevant people working together on a specific task. With each sprint working efficiently and effectively, the overall project is more likely to be delivered on time, to a high standard. What teams learn from each sprint is evaluated and taken into the next one, so the project can evolve to cope with challenges along the way.

However, it can be difficult to upscale the scrum approach and it works best only with small teams.


Kanban, which means ‘signboard’ is a very visual agile method, originally used in manufacturing. It works by using boards with cards which represent tasks. These move through workflow stages, which are represented by columns.

One of the main advantages of Kanban is that it enables teams to see at a glance where each task of a project is in real-time. It can also show you how team members’ work is progressing, which can be particularly useful in hybrid and remote teams.

Its downside is that an overcrowded kanban board can be confusing. And if a card isn’t moved, other tasks can be prevented from progressing.


As the name suggests, Scrumban is a combination of Scrum and Kanban.

It uses a Kanban board for short workflows, and anyone can choose a task that they want to do from the board, rather than waiting for jobs to be assigned by a project manager. The board doesn’t get too crowded because a limit is set on the number of tasks that can be in it at one time.

It’s more flexible than traditional Kanban, but it can also be more difficult to keep tabs on what everyone is doing, making planning harder.

Creating an agile work environment

Creating an agile work environment

To create an agile work environment, here are some best practices to follow:

Set clear goals

Make project management transparent by setting clear goals and expectations and sharing these with the team. This will ensure that everyone has visibility of the whole picture and can easily track progress.

Offer shadowing or mentoring to make sure you immerse new team members in your agile processes and set expectations before kicking off the project.

Give the team autonomy

Giving teams clear responsibilities and providing space for them to organize and manage themselves allows more freedom to meet goals and overcome challenges.

Provide tools and training

Agile values rely on people, so team members need to understand how to work using agile methods. Take time to train employees in agile ways of working, make sure they understand how methods work and what’s expected from them.

Focus on collaboration

Each agile iteration focuses on getting something done rather than getting stuck in a maze of upfront planning. This means greater focus is needed on team collaboration and communication.

Daily 15-minute stand-ups or ‘scrums’ can help achieve this. Sprint planning, review and evaluation meetings cover more specific aspects of projects, with sub-groups focused on individual tasks. Teams also consult vital stakeholders regularly to make sure the project is addressing business priorities. Make sure these small and large groups are working well together and that any concerns or worries are being addressed.

Get the right collaboration tools

Collaboration tools are crucial to enable teams to work together. These include:

  • Collaborative dashboards to track work and provide details of sub-tasks as part of the bigger project picture

  • Communication tools that connect team members, including office-based and deskless workers wherever they are in the world. This is even more important with hybrid working and also means teams can work internationally with fewer barriers

  • File sharing tools to give every team member access to the documents they need

  • Integration tools to bring all software and applications together, so there’s no wasting time when continually moving between them

  • Progress monitoring tools help project managers plan more effectively and keep teams on schedule by tracking progress in real time

Embrace change and evolve

One of the most significant benefits of agile is flexibility and adaptability. Teams can learn from each sprint to carry the most innovative solutions through the whole project and onto the next one.

Agile ways of working principles

Agile ways of working principles

Agile working isn’t just a methodology - it’s a mindset. It’s a way of being and doing. It’s about valuing people and measuring success in performance and results rather than time and individual input.

It might have started with software development, but agile working isn’t just for tech.

It’s a smarter method of project management that works across global industries. In an age of remote and hybrid working, agile collaboration can help people and teams to adapt to economic and consumer challenges. And these are solutions that will be crucial to business success in the months and years ahead.

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