9 Problems Agile Businesses Need to Deal With

The dream of starting a business, and especially one that adheres to agile principles, can be a giddy one, but no dream can be achieved without overcoming obstacles along the way.

Any business worth its salt must overcome a number of hurdles in order to be successful, and agile businesses are no different, even though the methodologies can unlock so much potential in staff and projects alike.

Here are 9 problems your agile business might encounter, as well as tips on how to deal with those problems if they arise.

1. Conflict between staff

Unfortunately, conflict between staff is a reality not only of agile businesses, but of most businesses out there, and it’s almost bound to happen to even the most successful business owner sooner or later.

The fact is that when you bring together talented and creative individuals, differences of opinion will arise, and sometimes, those differences become deeper schisms that are harder to traverse.

Mediation and communication are key when it comes to resolving staff conflicts. You may also wish to embark on a high-quality conflict management course to teach you how to deal with these issues in a sensitive and efficient manner.

2. Unrealistic customer demands

Agile principles can lead to increased operational efficiencies and help you to deliver a higher-quality service for your customers, but sometimes, that can come back to bite you.

If your business has developed a good reputation, then you may find that customers come to you with unrealistic or unreasonable expectations or demands that you could never meet.

When this happens, it’s important to communicate outright to the customer that their request is impossible for you to meet, or you’ll have further troubles later down the line when the stakes are higher.

3. Structural difficulties

When you’re introducing agile to a project or a business, the structure of that project or business is likely to change in a fundamental way, and that might introduce structural problems.

If your business has always done things in a certain way, then agile might shift that methodology in a way that staff aren’t used to, and some projects may suffer as a result.

The best way to overcome structural difficulties is simply to ensure that agile principles are baked into the projects you start from day one, ensuring that it’s impossible for anyone to be confused about how to proceed.

4. Adaptation

It’s important for staff – whether that’s upper management or baseline employees – to adapt to agility and the challenges it presents, and sometimes, that can be tricky.

Some staff may question their role in a project, for instance, while others may find themselves shifted outside of roles they’re used to performing.

If you’re confident that you’re allocating staff to projects and tasks based on their strengths, then you shouldn’t have any problems explaining the rationale of your decisions to them. Just make sure you’re doing it in a way that’s sensitive to their needs and feelings.

5. Remote work

It’s pretty much a given among many people in the working world that remote work is not only here to stay, but could well be the future of work. 

Agile methodologies respond very well to remote working because they don’t require constant managerial oversight, but your employees may still struggle to adjust if they’re used to working in an office.

Consider providing a hybrid work model wherein workers can work from an office if they prefer. If this is not possible, check in regularly with remote staff to find out how they’re holding up and whether you can do anything further to assist in the transition.

6. Management style

There’s no doubt that agile project management leaves more room for employee flexibility and less room for rigid managerial systems, which is why some managers may find themselves struggling.

It’s important to communicate early on that agile does not mean management isn’t needed. Oversight is still crucial for a project to succeed, and managers are still needed to ensure that oversight is provided.

Agile project managers need reassurance that their presence is still valid and appreciated, but they also need to be shown that the project will progress in a slightly more egalitarian and organic fashion than they might be used to.

7. Workload estimation

There’s a tendency among agile businesses to think that workload will decrease as a result of shifting to agile methodologies. This simply isn’t true, and it’s a dangerous assumption to boot.

Your business’ workload won’t magically decrease just because you’ve decided to adopt agile methodologies, nor will a new agile business have less work than one that doesn’t use agility.

Impressing on your employees that work will still be required and that they won’t be able to simply sit back and wait for projects to be completed is a surprisingly common requirement for agile businesses.

8. The “silo mentality”

You may have encountered the “silo mentality” in your journey as an entrepreneur. If you haven’t, it essentially refers to teams withholding information from others due to feeling distant and detached from their peers.

Teams don’t enter into the silo mentality willingly, and they’ll usually correct their behaviour when confronted about it, so make sure that you’re communicating with your staff as and when you need to.

It’s also important to create a sort of central repository of information that employees can always access, and to encourage employee teams to contribute to that repository frequently.

9. Interdepartmental collaboration

In traditional business models, departments are often left to work amongst themselves and don’t need to collaborate with one another on a regular basis.

Agile breaks down those barriers and has cross-departmental teams working together, so it’s important to manage that transition to make sure everyone is happy with the way in which things are proceeding.

Again, check in with your employees on a regular basis in order to ensure that they’re getting the support they need, and listen to any problems they may have attentively and supportively. 

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