Nonprofits serve, sacrifice, and champion their mission every day. But it’s easy to get sidetracked managing the day-to-day operations of your organization. There’s never enough time in the day to get everything done. So how do you get back to the mission at hand?

By being Agile.

Agile has been a buzzword for many years, especially in the software world where it originated. The most innovative companies in the world use Agile to create amazing products, while also using it to overcome their biggest challenges. I was formally introduced to Agile six years ago through a previous job. While sitting in the certification class, I thought how this is such a revolutionary way to work. I was hooked.

Since then, I have integrated Agile principles daily in my role as a leader of software engineering teams, my personal life, and now at Impaktfel. The concepts are simple, but powerful if applied correctly. It can make the way your work more efficient, allowing you to tackle complex problems through a measured, iterative approach.

How you ask? First, let’s dive into what Agile is exactly.

What is Agile?

Agile is a set of methods and practices (based on values/principles defined in the Agile Manifesto) that help software development teams succeed in uncertain and changing environments. Agile’s origins are traced to techniques used by innovative Japanese companies like Toyota and Honda in the 1970’s. Today, Agile is widely accepted as the most effective methodology to deliver software products by emphasizing concepts such as collaboration, self-organization, regular reflection, and sustainability.

There are different types of frameworks used to implement Agile. One framework that we’ll focus on here and in future posts is Scrum. While originally created for software development projects, Scrum can be applied to complete any type of project.

What are the benefits?

Innovative is a common word associated with Agile. Part of the definition for innovative is “introducing new ideas; original and creative in thinking”. Organizations that have embraced Agile develop an environment where new ideas flourish and experimentation is welcomed.

Some benefits that you can expect from using Agile/Scrum:

  • Higher productivity as large projects are broken into smaller, prioritized tasks that are completed in short iterations
  • Products/services that your customers value are built and delivered quicker
  • Ability to pivot efficiently to take on opportunities and challenges
  • Continuous improvement through learning from regular feedback loops
  • Teams that are more collaborative, productive, and engaged

Agile nonprofits?

Now that we covered some of the benefits of Agile, let’s talk about the question that’s probably on your mind. Can nonprofits use Agile? The answer is a resounding YES. If you look at a nonprofit closely, it essentially has the same components and needs as a software company or any for-profit business. From this point of view, there’s no reason why a nonprofit can’t use Agile to work toward successful outcomes.

Struggling to get your team to focus on the most critical tasks? Are you rehashing the same conversations without producing solutions or making progress? Agile is designed to solve these type of problems.

To see how Agile/Scrum techniques have been successfully applied in the context of a nonprofit, take a look at our work with Project: VISION to better understand the potential here.

How do you get started?

Changing how your organization operates is not a trivial thing. It can be daunting to know where to begin when trying to implement Agile into your environment. Where do you start?

In keeping with the principle of being Agile, start small. Begin with one team, not your entire organization, then learn and iterate. Align everyone on the goals of an Agile implementation. You will need the right mindset by being open-minded and to embrace feedback. Be comfortable asking questions, specifically those that challenge status quo.

Questions that you will become familiar with include: What didn’t go so well? What are my blockers? What do we want to start experimenting with?

Impact amplified

At Impaktfel, we believe in being Agile so much that it is one of our core values. We believe Agile can be used by nonprofits to help elevate their organizations in order to deliver on their mission. Imagine an organization consisting of engaged teams, continuously learning and improving, that are operating at a very high level.

The social impact delivered from this type of organization will be game-changing.

While Agile/Scrum is easy to understand, it can be difficult to master. That’s where Impaktfel can help by leveraging our experience to get you started. In upcoming articles, we’ll talk about the Scrum ceremonies that are critical to becoming Agile.

Interested in learning more about Agile and how it can help your organization reach its potential? Check out our Agile workshop to learn how Agile can provide you the structure to innovate. Or feel free to reach out to me at andrew@impaktfel.com.