why teams need to be agile in the Next Normal

Why teams need to be more agile in the "Next Normal"

Reading time: about 8 min


  • Hybrid work
  • Product development

It's said that the only constant in life is change—or adapting to it. There will always be a new "New Normal," and the businesses that can effectively adapt to changing dynamics are those that survive and thrive.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to rethink processes, resources, and communication to meet the challenges posed by such a sweeping change. The sudden shift accelerated the future of work and positioned organizations to keep what's great about a responsive work environment and adjust what isn't working. Underpinning that kind of flexibility is the Agile methodology, an approach that has helped organizations meet the unexpected with grace.

Let's take a closer look at how Agile methodologies have prepared us for the future of work and why teams need to continue to embrace agile processes in the New and Next Normal. 

How Agile has prepared us for the future of work

The Agile methodology focuses on cross-functional collaboration, iterative processes, and flexibility. These priorities make it perfectly suited for organizations that have to function in the face of uncertainty. Today's successful company is facing that challenge head on with a workforce of empowered teams who can swiftly collaborate to meet the current need and the opportunities of the future.

A McKinsey study on the future of organizations noted that "what companies have learned cannot be unlearned—namely, that a flatter organization that delegates decision-making down to a dynamic network of teams is more effective."

Meeting the imperatives posed by the pandemic was much more accessible for organizations already focused on the Agile framework. An Agile principle like “building responsive and empowered teams” meant that setting up employees to work remotely was easier to achieve and less disruptive to overall productivity.

Companies were even able to more easily adjust their processes to meet specific demands. For example, car companies could quickly rework their supply chains to create ventilators for COVID-19 patients. In a traditional environment, that kind of change would have taken months or even years to realize. Tech companies quickly realized the opportunity to capitalize on the need for more reliable, seamless ways to encourage remote work collaboration, and new features in Zoom, Slack, and other workflow tools rose to meet the moment. The Agile framework gave companies that would have been inert in this situation 20 years ago the ability to deliver significant value to both the economy and society almost immediately—without experiencing a breakdown in their internal processes.

In the future, this kind of flexibility will make companies not only more responsive in a crisis, but also more responsive to new opportunities. While some parts of everyday life are returning to “normal,” there is still a lot of uncertainty about what day-to-day life and work activities will look like in the future—and that uncertainty is likely to continue for a while, especially as we’ve learned that our previous ways of managing work weren’t as rigid as we believed. 

As post-pandemic society continues to adapt to new realities, new opportunities will arise. Companies will need to regroup quickly to take advantage of trends both early on in the post-pandemic world and the long term.

Initially designed to support software development, the Agile framework will continue to add value to that space in the future. Digital solutions will only mature from here, making agile teams well-positioned to recommend, assess, design, build, and implement technologies that will support growth today and in the future. 

Here at Lucid, for example, we recognized that users needed a virtual space for collaboration and brainstorming to replace traditional whiteboarding sessions, so we moved quickly to build Lucidspark, a virtual whiteboard, to support those needs.

There will also be a period of really shaping the New Normal for resources and staffing. While companies will eventually have more people back in the office, they may never return to full occupancy. Leveraging the Agile framework can serve as a compass for understanding how best to staff and structure teams.

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How to make your team more agile

For teams who have not yet prioritized business agility, whether through the Agile framework or other methodologies, now is the time. McKinsey explains, “Enterprise agility was desirable and is now becoming essential.” Based on insights from over 2,000 global respondents, the management consulting firm found that:

“Highly successful agile transformations typically delivered around 30% gains in efficiency, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and operational performance; made the organization five to ten times faster; and turbocharged innovation.”

Below are a few steps you can take to begin the transition.

Give teams more authority

Teams that can make critical decisions can iterate more quickly and meet pressing needs. With that kind of empowerment, teams can become problem solvers as opposed to just sources of output.

Remove the red tape

Too many controls can prevent people from working together and deepen silos. One of the main advantages of the Agile framework is changing direction quickly—that's not possible if teams have so much red tape that they are entrenched in their patterns. Instead, aim to structure teams in a way where they are encouraged to interact with each other to get the best results. 

Embrace visual collaboration

Collaboration and team alignment are key to the Agile framework, as highlighted in values such as “individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “responding to change over following a plan.” But the shift to remote and hybrid work aggravated an existing problem: The ways that teams have collaborated in the past are insufficient for a modern workforce dealing with more complex problems, rapidly changing customer needs, and distributed teams.

To prepare for the Next Normal and become more agile, companies need to rethink the way teams work together. Without the guarantee of a shared in-person space to meet and collaborate, how can teams ensure the best ideas are heard and brought to life? The answer is visual collaboration.

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A common visual language breaks down communication barriers so teams can stay aligned and move faster toward a shared vision, whether that’s a process change to make workflows more efficient or a brand-new product. 

Say, for example, that your team wants to build new features that address customer needs. Team members could visualize and sort customer feedback to find common themes, drag ideas into a matrix to prioritize by impact and effort, and then build out timelines, product roadmaps, and similar visuals to assign out work for building those features. Using visuals, team members can more easily understand current state, gather insights from data, voice their opinions, and make actionable plans, no matter where they are located.

Of course, organizations will need to adopt new technologies to support this type of collaboration, leading into our next tip.

Prioritize collaborative tools to keep teams engaged

Teams structured for communication and collaboration work best when they have integrated software solutions to help them collect, display, and act on input. 

For example, Slack enables quick, seamless collaboration between employees and teams, whether they’re working together onsite or remotely. Prototyping tools make it easy for creative teams to quickly share and collaborate around edits without sending emails or losing track of versions. 

Similarly, because visual collaboration and communication helps teams stay aligned and act quickly, solutions like the Lucid Visual Collaboration Suite can help teams easily visualize brainstorm sessions, align on project workflows, and map out sprints. 

Prioritize solutions that complement each other with integrations to further streamline collaboration. For instance, Lucid’s integrations with tools like Zoom, Slack, and product management software make it easy for cross-functional teams to stay aligned and innovate and adapt quickly. 

Place a heightened value on people

When given the chance, employees can be multifaceted problem-solvers who bring more to the table than just productivity. Organizations that see their people in a layered way end up with employees who are more apt to meet challenges and identify opportunities for the company. 

This focus on people is especially important as employees continue to work from home. For many companies, a traditional 9-to-5 office environment will remain a thing of the pre-pandemic past, and leaders must adapt culture to ensure teams maintain strong working relationships and collaboration when they don’t see each other every day. With a heightened value on people, the Agile framework functions better because employees feel supported to optimize.

Set agile expectations

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that life can change in an instant, and new information can change even the most flexible plans just as quickly, By applying an agile approach to your overall product development mindset, you free your teams to experiment, iterate, and find solutions that work best amid ever-evolving circumstances. 

Both organizations and people have been through quite a bit during this challenging period in history. Still, the Agile framework has proved capable of supporting organizations through difficult times and forging teams prepared for both today and the future.

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About Lucid

Lucid Software is a pioneer and leader in visual collaboration dedicated to helping teams build the future. With its products—Lucidchart, Lucidspark, and Lucidscale—teams are supported from ideation to execution and are empowered to align around a shared vision, clarify complexity, and collaborate visually, no matter where they are. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucid.co.

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