THE BLOG
09/06/2016 10:08 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Agile Innovation for Jobs of The Future

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Across countries in various offices many employees are developing more agile outputs in their workplace.

Agile approach in project management entails that every aspect of project can be continuously iterated and revisited during the project lifecycle. With this strategy, the waiting gets shortened and the sequential development is optimized: there is no need to complete every phase of the project before the next phase can begin.

What does it mean to be agile now?

Thanks to Dr Winston Royce who wrote a paper "Managing the Development of Large Software Systems" in 1970 knowledge workers in various industries have started to realize that projects and software could not be developed like automobiles on an assembly line.

The most wide-spread version of Agile, called Scrum focuses on obtaining empirical team feedback, creating incremental innovation in real-time as well as testing products or services with iterations that can be adapted easily.

When you compete globally and when you look at the time as your most valuable resource, your main metric for success becomes to get things done. In other words, you strive to produce tangible and measurable results every single day.

But in order to get things done we need to get down to work. How do we start working?

If we react to every single stimulus we receive, we will never get anything done.

For example, studies have indicated that on average three minutes pass by before an employee gets interrupted or switches to a new task. And usually after interruption it takes us around 23 minutes to get back to the state of flow and performance we had before the interruption.

Gloria Mark, professor at the University of California, Irvine elaborated on the aforementioned research results with the thought, ''We don't have work days - we have work minutes that last all day.''

This may sound grim, but it is a starting point to figure out where we are right now and where we are heading to. So many times per day we interrupt ourselves when we switch tasks and so many times we receive external interruptions as we made ourselves available to others.

Although task switching is unavoidable and everyday emergencies will continue to pop up, the focus is created when we pair similar tasks in advance and we organize priorities around three to five items that we must accomplish in a day. Also, it helps us to identify one of our activities that we will try to do better today than yesterday.

Now that I figured out how to laser focus and mitigate interruptions, how can I delegate non-core activities to others?

Yes, you need to learn how to empower your teammates to make decisions for two very simple reasons. First of all, you cannot be everywhere at the same time and you need to create the organization where people expand their knowledge by widening their comfort zone. On a daily basis we make around 227 decisions according to 2007 Cornell University research.

Therefore, it should be clear which teammate is responsible for the each project task. It would be ludicrous that the leader becomes the bottleneck in communication without whom not a single decision can be made.

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Let's look how agile methodology can be implemented in three different industries: textile, law and healthcare.

No longer should management experts and futurists tell us which industries got disrupted. We just need to look at the way how we consumed information before social media boost in 2008 and nowadays that Snapchat targets marketing segments with minute precision and within a minute.

Twenty years ago it was difficult to predict in advance such a massive upheaval in retail, travel and ICT sectors we witness nowadays but in retrospect those incremental changes seem quite reasonable.

In textile industry you may adopt the entrepreneurial, agile approach both as you grow big or decide to stay small.

The towel company Southern textiles has optimized its production process since their technicians handle every single step from customers' perspective. Their system behind manufacturing, dying, printing, processing and packaging led them to produce up to 60,000 towels per day. Brands can also get personalized representation on towels thanks to advice and customized solutions of the company team.

How could you test a small retail business before launching it full upfront?

You should get agile in your approach again. You make an item of clothing by sewing and cutting; you post a photo of your creation on social media and you boost it to a pre-determined audience; then you test the demand and tweak the promotion. Go where the market is and instead of getting into the saturated area, create your own niche on marketplaces such as Etsy, Ebay or Amazon.

The first step in harnessing your fashionista entrepreneurial juices is to decide about the serger machine you will need to make items of clothes or accessories. Go to this serger comparison chart and decide what machine will satisfy your needs at best. Tech tools also become an agile ace up your sleeve because you can figure out how to push demand, decrease waiting times and engage those who may not have previously thought about buying from you.

Move beyond healthcare as we know it.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on agenda of all committed individuals, institutions and businesses, thus reminding us that fundamental healthcare needs to be provided for all people on our planet by 2030 latest.

If we apply agile principles in our work, we realize that there are several roads to take in meeting this lofty goal. The first one is to educate more medical staff for the higher demand not only because of the SDGs for the impoverished ones who lack basic medical amenities at the moment, but also for the aging population that wants to invest in prosperous and healthy longevity.

In order to coordinate the increased workforce, the new generation of experts with knowledge of medicine and project management needs to be trained. The profession of a healthcare administrator is on the rise since the ones who can supervise the medical staff with their flexibility and reliability get to mentor their colleagues and receive higher salaries.

Finally, medical services on demand and remotely will become the new standard since the virtual and augmented reality are developing at a steady pace. In the world where 2.2 million surgeons, aestheticians, and obstetricians are required for 143 million operations, the impeccably focused and coordinated staff which communicates remotely via VR and AR solutions may bridge the gap between the demand and supply in medicine.

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Law services get also more agile and disrupted.

By now we have learned that agile teams which work side by side, especially in software industry, get to produce new products or features and to test them within several weeks.

When it comes to legal offices, the incredibly successful ones focus on the niche service they can provide better than anyone else. They both acknowledge possible glitches which may occur along the process and continue to expand on the expectations of their users.

Legal project management is different than industrial project management because the focus is not on creating uniformed products, but on personalized outcomes for clients.

For example, Mastriani Law Firm has identified eliminating debt for their clients as primary value proposition. Their process of protecting clients' interests focused on the results and for more than 95% of clients they have managed to completely eliminate interest or reduce the principle, without debt consolidation or bankruptcy.

Attorneys that want to adopt Scrum in their work will need to face the music like professionals in other industries. They will get exposed to a steep learning curve as they realize exactly in which segments their firm has not been managed completely efficiently. Likewise they will implement IT tools and new procedures in their own legal field, but with a new perspective.

Because agile project methodology focuses on rapid team feedback and fierce collaboration, it can be implemented in law offices fantastically because high demands of this job may require ''fighting in trenches''. Californian-based attorneys at Mova Law Group have specialized at helping clients experiencing traffic accidents and their value proposition is not to charge any fees upfront unless they win in the court. This strategy takes the pressure off clients and embodies greater trust in the legal team who can focus on their best performance.

It was noticeable in legal companies which became more agile that there was an overlap in responsibilities among staff, so once they re-organized a task list so that one key person was required to deliver results, the efficiency increased significantly.

Sometimes law experts create innovative compensation schemes so as to incentivize their staff or contractors. Air miles may be the perfect gift for driven people fond of travel. That is why The Smith Investigation Agency has decided to award those who engage in activities such as Private Investigator Training course, Investigative Research Services or Reward Milles for Surveillance. Apparently, for those interested to contribute to investigation niche the sky is the limit.

Hopefully, now you feel more at ease to question your work methodology until now and to use processes so as to deliver more successful, efficient projects.

Agile method and Scrum in particular will increase your productivity, but you need to spark creativity in your life occasionally, which is measured by a gut feeling and intuition rather than different charts and bars. From this week onward start question yourself more often not only what you do during your working hours, but also how you do it.

Photo credits: Daily Burn, Stroke Interiors, Setster