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How Agile can break down silos and improve collaboration (with examples)

Agile working is all about being equipped with the tools and mindset to adapt and react through the course of a project. But Agile goes beyond responding to challenges and change. It's about flexibility, connectivity and collaborative working. Agile processes allow teams to come together to find the most effective way to achieve the desired results.

When teams fully embrace Agile ways of working, it can have a huge effect on workplace collaboration. Here we are going to explore how Agile can break down silos, but first let’s dive into why collaboration is so important.

Workplace collaboration: The secret to success?

When teams from varying sectors collaborate effectively, it can have a profound impact on decision making, innovation and even profitability. Workplaces that foster a culture which values team cooperation can perform better. It enables them to be more responsive and accomplish better outcomes.

Teamwork is great for motivation too. It empowers employees, and is rewarding. Companies which celebrate a culture of collaboration tend to have higher retention rates as it provides individuals with a sense of belonging. They feel their skills are valued as part of the team and that they are contributing to the project’s success.

Within projects, embracing collaboration successfully will allow teams to share the load. It breaks down silos and sees professionals from various backgrounds unite. By removing restrictive structures, project teams can work as one to deliver better results. Collaborative project teams make better use of resources, skill sets and expertise too. Let’s take a look at this in practice…

How collaborative agile works in practice

We’ve established that teams can achieve more when working together within agile processes as they shoot to achieve a shared goal. But let’s take a look at how and when collaborative practices can work within project teams:

Example 1 - At the ideation stage

At project start up, initiation, or in fact, anytime you need ideas and innovation, a great opportunity opens to onboard others. For example, within Agile practices it is possible to enlist other members of the team to contribute to the design of a feature during development. And regardless of design skills, it is possible for the opinions of others to be beneficial to the UX team on a web build. In the early days of a project where perhaps some team members have less on their plate, they can be an untapped resource for another team. In these scenarios, Agile teams learn from each other too. By coming together, team members can learn hard skills and gain insight into how another team works.

Have a read of our recent blog article on the incredible benefits of employee cross-training and skill-sharing.

Example 2 - Planning for the unplanned

Cross-training your employees allows you to be more agile in the case of unplanned events too. The pandemic has given us a crash course in the importance of being prepared for crisis situations and incidents beyond our control. Businesses must take advantage of skill-sharing practices in order to be ready for such occurrences.

Cross-training and collaborating on a regular basis enables employees to step up in the case of absenteeism, and improves response times too. Agile teams can exploit collaborative practices to the benefit of customer experience, and to improve timelines – it's all a matter of smart resource management, the coming together of minds, and skill-sharing.

Example 3 - When it’s ‘all hands on deck’

Finally, one of the best times to embrace Agile is when it’s a matter of ‘all hands on deck’. The saying goes, ‘many hands make light work’, but this is only true if those hands are helpful! Companies which welcome collaboration will find that staff will have the skills to become an additional resource in other areas when they are needed.

Take, for example, a web build project nearing completion. It can be advantageous to deploy marketing or SEO teams to assist with site testing ahead of launch. By collaborating with QA teams, these staff can be a great extra resource, without having to take on costly contract staff. Collaboration brings people together to accomplish more than they could on their own and at greater speed.

Breaking down the silos

These surface level examples aim to show you how breaking down the silos can be of great benefit to companies – as well as demonstrating how siloed working can be restrictive. Compartmentalising means missed opportunities, slower response times, and even greater expense. Conversely, Agile working which encourages collaboration, skill-sharing and cross-training can fill skills gaps, improve retention, build empathy across teams, and allows employees to step-up in the interest of the wider project.

If you are looking to introduce Agile practices to your project teams, PRINCE2 Agile training is a place to start. Agile allows for flexibility and encourages teams to unite, speak a common language within a project, and helps collaborative working to succeed and thrive.