I work with a lot of start-up technology companies. Big companies are usually a bunch of business people with an IT department, while tech start-ups are an IT department with a few business people around them. Their focus is different and they bootstrap almost everything, but they have a host of valuable lessons to teach those business people in those big companies they may aspire to be someday: be agile.

The Agile Methodology is a well-respected and widely adopted philosophy of modern dev shops. I’ve had personal experience with Agile and it has transformed the way I do business and made me better and more effective. The Agile Manifesto, created by an amazing team of software development ninjas is as follows:

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

You can read all about it here.

There is so much to be learned from these statements, there is no possible way to capture it all in one blog post. So let’s focus on one the biggest changes you can make for almost zero money: Agile Goal Setting.

To set goals in an Agile environment follow these basic rules:

  • Find a big wall that your team can gather around and can accommodate a white board.

  • Split the white board up into sections:

    • Each member of the team gets a row

    • There are three columns: To Do, Doing, Done

  • Have each member of the team write goals on Post-Its. Have them include the goal itself in the middle of the Post-It, the desired due date in the top left corner and how long they think it will take in the bottom right corner. 

  • Put the Post-It goals up on the board in the member’s row and in the right column.

Every day, at a time agreed upon by the team, everyone comes to the white board and spends 30 seconds each talking about their objectives for that day surrounding the goals in their lane. In that short time they indicate what they did yesterday, what they are committing to today and if they have anything blocking their progress. Any further detail or discussion happens outside of this team meeting.

Being Agile means that you adapt your day to changing priorities. Agile Goal Setting is no different – you may have a situation where your entire team is needed and doesn’t make any progress on your goals that day. That’s fine! The due date gets pushed. It adapts. 

The simplicity of this process may make you think it can’t make that much of a difference, but consider this:

  • Team members are now accountable for doing what they said they were going to do, or explaining why they didn’t to the rest of the team.

  • A team member’s accomplishments are immediately public knowledge and should be celebrated.

  • Open communication is a by-product, it happens naturally.

  • It feels really good to move a Post-It from ‘Doing’ to ‘Done’.

I have had a client institute Agile Goal Setting in their office, with a team of business people. They have realized an immediate improvement in culture and productivity. They set it up in 1 hour with existing office supplies and are realizing a direct return on that small investment of time.

If you have a team of people and don’t have a structured way to set and track goals, adopt Agile Goal Setting. I promise that you’ll see the difference a few Post-Its make.