Agile and the Workplaces of Tomorrow

Agile and the Workplaces of Tomorrow

Insights | 08 March 2018

Agile has transformed the way software is created and exported across the world. Can it also shape the future of our workforce?

Ruha Devanesan, the former head of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Symantec, posed this same question in a presentation[1] that asked whether Agile can help unlock the potential of diverse teams.

“To leverage diversity within teams,” she shared, “they need to function in a manner that fosters open communication and dialogue, come together around a set methodology for working together, and prioritise different perspectives as input during the process.”

Devanesan went on to outline that all the above mentioned can be found in Agile and scrum teams:

  • Scrum by nature is about bringing diverse perspectives together
  • The emphasis on removing blocks encourages teamwork
  • Daily standups instill accountability and shared ownership
  • Introverts must speak but are also given multiple avenues for feedback and input
  • Includes self-reflection on team dynamics

However, Devanesan then continues to explain that simply using Agile techniques does not render a team diverse. Look to Agile as a means of unlocking diversity within your teams and the “potential that comes with different perspectives, different work styles, different personalities” she writes.

“Retrospectives are another powerful tool,” Devanesan told the Tech Inclusion blog. “Imagine if every team stopped every once in a while and evaluated how they were working as a team. When you give yourself an opportunity to talk about team dynamics you can bring up issues that can otherwise go unaddressed.”

Others are sharing her call to action.

Agile expert Katrina Kolt tells Agile Today[2] that Agile can help foster the right environment for diversity to flourish.

“Good leaders will leverage Lean Change Management approaches to prioritise experiments and try a new way of working,” Kolt said. Those same techniques can “get folks involved in generating ideas for these new ways of working and in evaluating what fits and what doesn’t.”

What can we do to leverage Agile principles for a more inclusive workforce? Here are two simple steps to start:

  1. Be a role model. An Agile Australia 2015 session on diversity called on advocates to make their views known and challenge practices that hinder diversity.[3]
  2. Encourage further exploration. The passion for Agile as a way to improve diversity in tech is impressive but so far anecdotal. More research would be welcome.

Tell us how Agile has affected your workplace in terms of diversity and inclusion? Do you believe Agile can unlock new pathways to greater diversity?

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