Want to create an Agile work environment?
If you want to build superior products using the Agile methodology, you’ll need to create an Agile work environment to support your team. An agile environment will establish the foundations for better team collaboration and delivering amazing results.
But what’s an Agile workplace?
And more importantly, what benefits and challenges can you expect with creating one?
In this article, we’ll be addressing all these questions with the help of examples of Vice President Selina Meyer’s staff in the show Veep.
After all, we know that she too could use some help to get better results from her team.
Oh well. We may have to put in a word with her chief of staff.
For now, let’s move on!
This article contains:
(Click on the links below to jump to a specific section)
- What is the Agile methodology?
- What is an Agile work environment?
- The 5 characteristics of an Agile work environment
- The 4 benefits of an Agile work environment
- The 3 challenges of an Agile work environment (with solutions)
What Is The Agile Methodology?
Note: If you’re familiar with the Agile approach, you can skip this section directly and jump to learning about Agile work environments.
Agile is a project management methodology meant to reduce the length of production cycles and deliver more user-centric products. In an Agile project, teams work in close collaboration with the customer during various Agile development stages.
Is an Agile work environment only for teams following the agile methodology?
Not necessarily. Any team can adopt an Agile or ‘flexible’ work environment, even if they don’t follow the Agile methodology. So if you just want to know about ‘flexible’ work environments, jump to that section by clicking here.
How do you implement the Agile methodology?
The product is developed in short ‘sprints’, each lasting about two to four weeks.
At the end of each sprint, the team presents a version of the software to the customer.
Using their customer’s feedback, they then begin working on the next sprint.
And, nope. Running away from your boss, like Dan Egan (Selina’s Deputy Director of Communications), does not count as a sprint!
Naturally, the Agile method is a huge departure from traditional project management approaches like Waterfall, which deliver working products only after months of work.
That’s why, when you shift to Agile, it doesn’t make sense to retain the processes and tools of traditional project management.
But what does this mean for the team?
Well, for one, they’ll have to be more forthcoming with information than Selina’s private secretary Sue Wilson, here:
To help your team communicate transparently and collaborate better, you’ll need to reinvent the basic structures of your workplace.
And this includes the space your team works in!
You’re about to find out.
What Is An Agile Work Environment?
Agile work environments are workspaces that encourage an Agile culture among its team members.
What’s an Agile culture?
It’s the attitude that helps teams prioritize customers’ needs and bring in innovation to deliver better products and services.
The Agile culture can be summarized in the four core Agile values from the Agile Manifesto.
You must prioritize:
- Embracing change over following a plan
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
While these values aren’t binding rules, they are still significant for the day-to-day functioning of an Agile team. And the design of your workplace will dictate whether or not your team can follow these values.
For example, let’s say you’re developing an app for Selina Meyer’s election campaign outreach. Because we all know that she needs help there!
Unlike her, you’re trying your best to use the Scrum Agile method to build the product.
But your workspace doesn’t support Agile collaboration!
A handful of your cubicles belong to upper and middle management, while the rest of the staff is tied to small, single desks.
And this is just one example!
The fact is that your office space has a direct impact on your team’s culture.
Like how the uncomfortable chairs in Selina’s office explain her mood!
But what does an Agile work environment contain, and how can you create one?
Let’s find out…
The 5 Characteristics Of An Agile Work Environment
An Agile workspace should encourage quick thinking, experimentation, and collaboration.
And to do this, it needs to reflect flexibility.
For example, Selina’s press secretary Mike is a senior staffer. But in an Agile process, he’ll have to work shoulder to shoulder with young blood like Dan Egan.
But this is just one of the many challenges in Mike’s life!
How can a flexible workspace add some agility to Mike’s life?
1. More Agile space to collaborate in
The Agile approach heavily depends on team meetings right from the get-go.
If you’re following Scrum, your Agile process will begin with the Scrum master calling for a sprint planning meeting. And most of these meetings involve at least 5-6 members of the Scrum team.
With so much riding on group huddles, the typical combination of small cubicles and large, open work bays will not serve you. And with several teams wanting to work parallelly, a single conference room won’t work for your entire Agile organisation!
That’s why an Agile working environment should have several small to medium-sized spaces to meet in.
Your Scrum team can use these rooms to meet as well as use their walls for brainstorming or putting up Agile boards.
2. Combination of open and private workspaces
For a while, it looked like open-plan offices have won the office wars against cubicles.
But employers today recognize the importance of maintaining a balance between transparency and seclusion.
So while you want large, open bays for most people to work together, you also need different spaces for more one-on-one collaboration.
In an Agile work environment, you can create small, exclusive meeting areas where your team members can meet as small or medium-sized groups.
It’ll be like the office Selina retreats to each time the President calls!
So, while your team will be able to move around seamlessly, they’ll also have spaces for private discussions.
3. Locations for short bursts of creativity
A monotonous workplace breeds monotony.
And the result can be like the speeches that Mike writes and Selina improvises (unsuccessfully).
If you want your team to think on their feet and hit the ground running, they need a workplace that supports experimentation.
And breaking the monotony in the office design is one way of doing it.
Have small, informal seating areas (maybe with bean bags or couches) and standing workstations in your office.
Changing work posture and moving around during the day is directly linked to improving one’s health! Additionally, with comfortable seating spaces, your team can adapt to the environment quickly.
Maybe if Mike had a comfortable working arrangement, he would’ve been able to impress Selina like this:
4. Video conferencing services
The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced most teams to work from home temporarily.
But experts predict that even after the crisis is over, this trend may continue.
So it only makes sense that your Agile workplace comfortably accommodates remote employees. You don’t want them to feel as isolated as Selina feels from the White House!
A surefire way to include Selina in the administration would be to get on frequent video conferences with her. While the President didn’t take this advice, you can do it in your Agile working environment!
Install video conferencing equipment in all the major meeting rooms of your office. This eliminates the barrier in connecting with your remote team, improving collaboration, and speeding up your Agile process.
And if your video call tech is easy to use, you can encourage your team to use it for various other reasons like peer learning or even small celebrations.
5. Unwind zones
Whether you’re sprinting to finish your product backlog or running for president, everyone needs a break.
Selina may disagree, but science shows how effective short breaks can be in boosting productivity. These breaks are nourishing and can also be the source of inspiration for your work (like when you suddenly get an idea while sipping hot coffee).
Your Agile team can relax and rejuvenate in:
- Open-air terraces
- Library corners
- Indoor sports area
- Silent, meditation corners
You want your employees to unwind in these spaces.
But be careful if Selina is one of them!
The 4 Benefits Of An Agile Work Environment
Selina won’t do anything unless it directly benefits her, not even wearing glasses.
So here’s how creating an Agile working environment can directly benefit your organisation:
1. More flexible working options and collaboration
Do you remember the first value of the Agile approach?
In an Agile working arrangement, individuals and interactions are more important than tools and processes.
Your Agile working environment follows this value by putting the needs of individual team members first.
They can now experience more flexible working options with:
- More space on shared desks
- Rooms and nooks for group huddles
- More space to pin up notes, charts, etc.
- Freedom to customize work stations
And with so many shared spaces between them, your team can socialize like Selina here!
2. Improved employee engagement in an informal setting
Remember when an office meant a certain hierarchy?
Big boss > Middle boss > Everyone else!
Thankfully, this hierarchy does not apply anymore.
And by shifting to an Agile environment, you’ll leave it behind entirely!
An Agile working environment favors transparency over exclusion.
So your new working arrangement will no longer have:
- Clearly defined boundaries separating management bands
- Opaque meeting rooms
- Dark, sunless corridors
Agile office design is an ideal setting to improve employee engagement.
It’s more lively than a traditional office space, with people walking around at all hours of the day, mingling, and generally having a good time!
After all, a team that eats together can overcome almost any challenge in their way!
How does Selina’s personal assistant, Gary, feel about this?
3. Cost-saving with better space utilization
Office design is usually an expensive affair.
So when you spend a fortune on facilities and never end up using them, it hurts.
Well, Selina has her ways of recovering her investment.
*cough* money laundering *cough*
But you can save a lot legally by creating an Agile working environment!
For instance, no room in your Agile office will be dead space:
- A meeting room is also a place for informal get-togethers
- The play area can be the destination for daily standups followed by a quick game of foosball
The potential to reinvent space in an Agile environment is limitless!
And as you’re not assigning desks to people, you can easily move around teams without changing your office design every time.
4. Attract more talent
No one likes working in a boring, old office space.
Not even grizzled White House veteran, Ben Cafferty.
If he feels that way about traditional office space, one can only imagine how millennials and Gen Z might respond!
An Agile environment, however, holds significant attractions for everyone
And it’s not just bean bags and free food!
It appeals to modern beliefs about work-life balance, flexible working options, and following their passion at work.
In fact, companies like Google launched with Agile office design in their startup days.
And this is the main reason why Google still attracts the best talent from around the world!
With an Agile work environment, you too have this power on your side!
The 3 Challenges Of An Agile Work Environment (With Solutions)
Agile or otherwise, every workplace has its challenges: something Selina never forgets to remind her staff.
But even if we decide to forgive Selina’s frequent bouts of rage, an Agile workplace does put up some novel challenges.
So before you decide to transform your workplace into an Agile office, you should learn about the problems with them.
However, there’s nothing that some smart planning and organisation can’t solve.
After all, Agile challenges require Agile solutions!
This is why simply redesigning your office space isn’t enough!
To make the most of your Agile workspace, you need a powerful tool to manage your projects and teams.
And for this, you only need the best Agile project management tool of 2020: ClickUp.
With a wide variety of Agile software development and collaboration features, it’s got everything to make your Agile team as unstoppable as Selina’s staff!
Let’s find out what challenges you’re likely to face in an Agile work environment and how ClickUp can help you overcome them:
Challenge #1: Confusion in collaboration
Agile work environments encourage ‘hot-desking’, where members aren’t attached to a single desk. This makes room for cross-pollination of ideas and free-flowing creativity.
But so many members moving around your Agile office all day long can have some side effects.
Especially if they are like Selina without her glasses.
Plus, bad Agile office design can make it hard to track people’s progress or what they’re working on.
For Selina, the solution might be to wear her glasses.
For you, ClickUp has some features.
A. Discuss everything related to a task with Comments
No matter how hi-tech your Agile workspace is, there are some things that only conversations can resolve.
That’s why ClickUp offers task-specific Comments sections to facilitate easy communication, even between Agile team members doing remote work.
You can use this for:
- Detailed conversations about tasks, activities, and assignments
- Tagging team members to draw their attention to something important
- Sharing documents and files relevant to the task
But even with these features, ask Mike what he remembers from a conversation and he’ll tell you:
We get it. It’s painful to keep track of the numerous messages all day long.
That’s why ClickUp has the Assigned Comments feature!
Use this feature to assign a comment to someone (including yourself) as a task. Once assigned, ClickUp notifies the person and shows it in their Home view.
When they finish the task, they can resolve the comment to mark the task complete automatically!
It’s so easy that even Mike could handle it!
B. Share Custom Access Rights for collaboration
ClickUp recognizes that an Agile working environment requires you to collaborate both within and beyond your workplace.
This means, time and again, you’ll need to work directly with your clients and customers.
In ClickUp, you can share Custom Access Rights with them which helps them see project files, folders, and tasks.
But some of us can be a little more possessive than others.
This is why you’re free to choose what permissions you want to grant your guest users.
You can choose if they:
- Can view: see the project details but not interact
- Can comment: comment on the tasks and task lists
- Can edit: edit tasks but not create new ones
- Create and edit: create new tasks and subtasks
- Can delete: delete tasks that they did not create
Challenge #2: Problems in team management
A typical team leader in an Agile organisation may find it particularly challenging to maintain a balance between team targets and employee engagement.
For example, while you’re on a deadline to finish your product backlog, you must also keep a close eye on how efficiently each team member is working through their tasks.
No wonder Agile teams require a whole new set of managerial skills!
Selina’s solution to such a problem is her if-you-can’t-earn-their-respect-earn-their-fear attitude.
But ClickUp has employee-friendly solutions that would definitely work better.
Built for team leaders, the Profiles feature helps ensure that everyone’s working to the best of their abilities.
It shows you:
- What they’ve worked on,
- What they’re currently working on
- Their future assignments
You can access a person’s Profile (by clicking on their name anywhere in the ClickUp platform) to add reminders and delegate tasks to them.
But sometimes, you’re going to be as preoccupied as Sue here and won’t have time to get into the details.
In that case, you can use Pulse. This feature uses machine learning to generate reports about what your team is most focused on at the moment.
Use it to identify:
- Your team’s activity levels
- Online and offline status of team members
- Who’s actively collaborating
- Recent tasks that team members have been most active in
That’s enough information to give you a daily update on your team!
B. Get a complete overview of your team with Box view
Curious about which team members are zooming through the product backlog and who need some extra support?
Just use ClickUp’s Box view to know that!
Apply various filters like “time estimate” and “number of tasks” to find out your employees’:
- Task completion percentage
- Estimates of total time spent
- Agile and Scrum points
We’re sure that if Selina had access to his information, she would be better equipped to make important decisions.
Challenge #3: Difficulty in tracking productivity
Managers in a traditional office space had it easy.
If an employee was not at their desk, they probably aren’t doing their jobs.
These simple rules don’t apply to an Agile workplace and that’s a good thing!
As a manager, the last thing you want to do is stifle your team’s creativity with too many questions about their productivity.
But then, not everyone in an Agile organisation is as efficient as the stats wizard Kent Davison:
So, if you can’t ask questions or keep a watchful eye on them, how do I know that my team is working?
Simple: use ClickUp!
A. Track your team’s performance with detailed Reports
When it comes to her daughter, Selina feels she knows exactly what to do or say.
However, she would be tongue-tied if she was asked about her team’s competence.
But you can learn more about your team with ClickUp’s detailed Team Reports.
You can access various reports like:
- Tasks Completed Report: shows the tasks completed by each member
- Worked On Report: displays the total number of tasks each member worked on during a specific day, week, or month
- Workspace Points Report: gamify your Agile tasks to identify excellent performers
- Who’s Behind Report: highlights members with “Work In Progress” or uncleared tasks
- Time Tracked Report: shows how much time was spent per task
- Time Estimated Report: match time estimates with total time spent to make better estimates for future sprints
B. Monitor time usage with Time Tracking
You may not have access to a time-traveling machine to correct past mistakes.
But with ClickUp, you can keep an accurate record of your tasks’ time with its Time Tracking feature.
You can use the native Chrome extension to track time according to tasks without downloading more apps.
For better flexibility, ClickUp integrates with many third-party time tracking apps (Everhour, Time Doctor, Toggl, etc.) to help you track time in the software that your team’s already using!
And we can guarantee it works better than the fancy smartwatch Selina found in Silicon Valley!
Just like how Gary is never tired of bringing Selina snacks, ClickUp adds new Agile working environment features to the list every single week!
Here are some other ClickUp features to help enhance the Agile practice of your team:
- Priorities: take care of the most urgent and important tasks first
- Multiple Views: manage your project with flexible views like List view, Board view, Box view, Calendar view, and Me Mode
- Dependencies: always tackle your tasks in the correct order
- Custom Statuses: create customized task statuses for your projects
- Gantt charts: get a complete overview of your project’s timeline at one glance
- Docs: document every detail about your project
- Powerful iOS and Android mobile apps: for on the go flexible work collaboration
If a traditional workplace offers a stable ground for your organisation, an Agile workplace is a jetpack that’ll propel you into the future.
However, just like how Selina had to overcome various campaign challenges, adapting to an Agile work environment can seem difficult.
Luckily, all you need is a powerful Agile project management solution like ClickUp!
Be it detailed sprint planning or cross-functional collaboration — ClickUp has everything for your Agile working needs.
So why not sign up for ClickUp today?
Now that’s a choice that even Selina will honor with her rare praise!
Erica is ClickUp’s Senior Content Manager and professional beach bum. She spends her days creating emails, blogs, landing pages, and more to help people increase their productivity so they can save one day every week to do more of what they love.