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Ensuring the full team have a voice in an agile environment

At the heart of agile methodology is the priority of people over processes. It’s a way of managing a project that evolves to changing demands and solutions through self-organising and cross-departmental collaboration.

Unlike traditional office settings where staff are permanently assigned desks, an agile work environment is open plan and encourages people to move freely, working in a space that stimulates creativity on a project-by-project basis.

However, just because this sort of environment is promoted does not mean every member of your team will feel empowered to use their voice. If left unattended, your agile work environment can leave more introverted team members feeling unproductive or like they haven’t contributed to the success of a project.

As a business owner or member of upper management, it’s your duty to foster an inclusive atmosphere where everyone has a platform to voice their opinion and make meaningful contributions.

Here are some tips 6B have put together to help.

The importance of cognitive diversity

Making a case for diversity in the workplace is nothing new. However, when we hear the word ‘diversity’, we typically think of gender, race, religion, age or sexuality. Very rarely do we think of cognitive diversity – the different ways in which we think and problem solve.

Although it’s only natural for businesses to gravitate towards and hire candidates who ‘fit’ in with the company culture, broadening the range of thinkers that make up your company can only have a positive effect. Complacency in your approach will be challenged and you’ll gain new, valuable insights into problems that may have troubled your business for longer than your care to remember.

By prioritising cognitive diversity, your business will enrich itself with a range of different voices and you’ll notice benefits like increased creativity, more decisive decision making, and an enhanced perspective.

Design your agile workplace to work for everyone

Now that you recognise the importance surrounding your business with different thinkers, you need to understand how to get the best out of them. As we’ve mentioned, agile environments place people over processes, so an approach that will work for some will stifle others and prevent them from speaking up.

If you want your workplace to feel inclusive and void of hierarchical structures, you need to incorporate certain elements into the design of your office space. Removing physical barriers between management and staff is the best way to do this. With everyone working in a shared, open space where CEOs sit opposite junior members of the team, you’ll create a transparent environment that promotes open communication and collaboration.

You also need to take the time to observe how individuals work, who they work best with, and what tools and resources they need to do their job effectively. Facilitating this change – whether in an office or with technology in a remote setting – will result in a more engaged workforce, who feel empowered to suggest improvements or raise concerns.

Stand ups

The more established and assertive members of your organisation will have no problem making their voice heard in meetings. But more often than not, you’ll notice it’s the same group of voices dictating the direction of meetings. This isn’t to say that what is being said is any less valuable or relevant, but allowing the same voices to talk endlessly can leave more reserved members of the team feeling excluded from the discussion.

Here at 6B, we conduct a regular stand up meeting at the end of every week. It’s an opportunity for peers to praise each other for exceptional performance, and review what went well and what could have gone better. We follow a set format every week, allowing people the time to prepare a response that they would like to share with the group.

This gives more introverted staff time to consider what they’d like to say and alleviates the pressure of being put on the spot and the chaos that can ensue with open floor discussions.

Cross-team collaboration

As human beings we have a tendency to seek out those who we have most in common with – it’s a survival tactic. In a work setting, this takes shape in the form of departmental silos.

One of the tenets of an agile working environment is cross-team collaboration, so departmental silos pose a very real threat to this. It can also mean that quieter members of the team feel less confident about suggesting or speaking out against processes that fall outside of their allocated department.

To nurture a cultural change that is truly inclusive of multi-disciplinary teams, everything from product strategy to post-delivery reviews using data and analytics should be conducted by teams made up of different departments. This will make sure that everyone feels involved, but there will also be a greater appreciation of the different roles people fulfil and how other departments can best support them to achieve success on future projects.

Help every member of your team find their voice.

At 6B, we’re a diverse bunch and we know the importance of letting everyone have their say, from attentive account managers to dogged developers.

If you’d like to know more about how we empower our team to use their voice and how we could advise on improvements within your business, get in touch.

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