Getting in shape is crucial for changing agency culture

Charlie LSNowadays, tight deadlines, constant requests and 24/7 communication mean it’s increasingly hard to stay on top of everything whether it’s personal or professional. However, in a progressively digital world, there’s constant room for improvement.
To combat these challenges, it’s extremely important to work with agility. But what does this actually mean? And should everyone rush to jump on the bandwagon?
It’s true that most agencies throw the term agile around, professing to work in certain ways when the reality is starkly different. More often than not, companies have outdated processes and business systems that hold them back from achieving any kind of “agile” working practices.
It’s one thing to recognise a problem, it’s another to address it head on. Currently, most agencies only manage to harness glimpses of agility. From client wants and needs, to lack of internal capacity, there are many barriers that stand in the way of making agility a core value.

The steps to establish an agile system
The first step to business agility is to look at team skillset. In some cases, you’ll have a large team dealing with one client, whereas other agencies may service clients on a more individual basis. Whatever your situation, you need to make it a priority to learn about your team and understand from a strategic level what can work more efficiently. You can use risk analysis to make sure you don’t upset the apple cart, particularly when dealing with long-standing clients.
When Organic moved towards an agile way of working, we had to be brutally honest with ourselves. This meant taking a good hard look at our work, people and numbers so we could put together a bespoke, agile framework for the agency. This is key, because there’s no single solution that will work for every business. It’s important to treat each situation as distinct and unique.
Next, don’t just suddenly announce that you’re transitioning to becoming more agile. Everyone on your team has to buy into it, so it needs to be a collaborative approach. Assess how you plan to roll out the strategy; for example, are you introducing Slack or trialling Trello?
When implementing these steps, you need to consider timing and create a plan that fits within a pre-determined schedule. The “two-week sprint” process works well, as you can tweak in real-time, based on employee feedback, and judge what has worked and what hasn’t.
Above all, flexibility is key. Change needs to be monitored, which means ensuring proper organisation before undergoing such a radical culture shift.

The benefits of working in an agile environment
Before you make the shift to an agile approach, you need to be confident that the transformation process will lead to positive results.
One of the main benefits is that you can cope with change positively and start to act proactively – not reactively. There’s always a knock-on effect with how situations are handled, so planning in advance can make a real difference to performance outcomes.
Agile working also means you know how to add value and where. Resources and time aren’t wasted, which is actually much better for staff. This gives employees the freedom to manage their own time and take ownership for their responsibilities. Of course, line managers can still monitor their work.
Overall, this shift to an agile approach empowers people and boosts productivity.

Don’t let fear hold you back
Businesses shouldn’t be worried to step outside their comfort zone. That’s only natural of course but you shouldn’t let that get in the way of experimenting and trying something new.
You can’t expect everything to just change overnight. You have to do the groundwork and start with your people. If you’re afraid of taking the plunge, then test different “flavours” of agility and see what works for your company and your employees. Remember, every agency is different.
That’s why the tactics and processes you employ should reflect your company’s values and beliefs. Taking the process seriously is the only way to truly reap the full benefits.

Should we jump on the bandwagon?
While “agile” has become something of a buzzword within the marketing sphere, it’s not suitable for everyone.
Agility is, at its core, the ability to reach and change. If you don’t want to completely overhaul and rethink your methodology, you can start by defining things in small chunks and deliver “agile” projects in small iterations.
Start little and do it often. When you test and learn, you’ll be able to determine what works and what doesn’t. That knowledge is incredibly powerful.
But a final word of warning – be careful! Another agency’s agile framework might be completely ill-suited to your brand, so don’t just lift, copy and recycle. Be open to changing direction but lean into what makes your agency unique. That is how you champion real, meaningful change.

Charlie Lycett-Smith is general manager at Organic

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