6 Ways to Become an Agile Ops Pro

6 Ways to Become an Agile Ops Pro

It takes a lot to build an agile ops environment in any company. But one of the most important steps to take is focus on your own development as an agile operations professional.

There are two sides to creating an agile ops environment and becoming an agile ops pro. First, you need to focus on your personal agile development. Second, if you’re a leader, you need to focus on your agile development as a leader.

These are two distinctly different things. It means that leaders have a little bit more work to do to become an agile ops pro. It also means if you want to be a leader in an agile ops environment, you better start following these principles now.

Agile ops principles aren’t hard skills. They’re all grounded in soft skills, which could be a strength or a weakness for you, depending on your strengths.

Personal agile principles

The personal principles that you need to develop to become an agile ops pro all come from the agile principles. These principles are the basis for all things agile. They were created for agile software development, but they’re applicable for any type of agile — from financial agile operations to personal agile development.

Although there are twelve total agile principles, three of them are especially important on your journey to becoming an agile ops pro.

1. Welcome changes

Change is a central part of agile. Agile is all about moving quickly to get things done. When you move quickly, things are going to change. That could mean a deadline changes, a project objective changes, or even your manager changes.

Becoming an agile ops pro means that you have to not only accept these changes, but welcome them.

Being able to welcome changes is a mindset. You have to understand that changes are going to happen. They’re sometimes completely out of your control. If you have the proper mindset and welcome changes with open arms, you’ll be better equipped to mentally handle them.

For example, say your boss asked you to work on calculating the lifetime value of your customers (CLV). That’s a huge project and not something you’ll accomplish in a few days. So, you start working through the project step by step.

After a few weeks, your boss comes to you and says that management wants to see a breakdown of CLV by acquisition source. You weren’t planning to do that, and it’s going to cause you to have to do a lot of additional work.

You could fight it with your boss and say you don’t have time to do it, but chances are that’s not going to get you anywhere. It’ll just end up with you being angry and your boss thinking you’re trying to get out of work.

Instead, as an agile ops pro, you welcome the new challenge. Since you’re still worried about your capacity to pull this off, you talk to your boss about getting someone to help on the project since it just became more complicated. Now, your boss is much more willing to help out and make sure you have the resources you need.

That small adjustment in your mindset can lead to a better relationship with your boss and a better experience for you at work.

2. Cooperate and communicate effectively

Effective communication and cooperation are crucial to all working professionals, but as you work toward becoming an agile ops pro, you need to get really good at communication and cooperation.

There are two sides to communication that you should master: written and spoken communication.

When it comes to both written and spoken communication, you need to be clear and upfront in your asks. Don’t make long winding statements with a question thrown in at the end. Instead, present the most important information your reader needs to know first and then fill it in with the context.

This is known as the “bottom line up front” approach to communication and it works well when dealing with busy professionals like your coworkers or your boss.

Cooperating effectively doesn’t mean agreeing with everything your boss says. It means that if you disagree with a decision, make your point known. But, if the group still chooses to go the other direction, you need to dive fully into it.

This is known as disagree and commit. It’s something that Jeff Bezos preaches at Amazon. Essentially, disagreeing is a good thing, but if your boss or team decides against your decision, you need to commit to the team.

3. Drive toward consistent improvement

As an agile ops professional, consistent improvement means never being complacent with your skills.

No matter what you’re good at, there’s probably room for improvement. Even if you’re the best person on your team at a certain skill, you can still learn from others about how to be better.

If you’re not sure where to start with this one, start by asking for feedback from your boss and your peers. What do they think your strengths and weaknesses are?

Next, try learning from someone else who you look up to in your organization. If your CEO is an amazing leader, see if you can borrow 30 minutes of her time to pick her brain. If someone on your marketing team is great at communicating, ask that person what they do that makes them so effective.

Lastly, carve out at least 30 minutes per week for reading. Whatever your biggest weakness is, you can find a lot of knowledge in books or articles on the topic. Take 30 minutes on a Friday afternoon or a Monday morning to spend some time learning about how you can improve that skill.

Consistent improvement also means that you need to get comfortable with trying new things. You’ll need to experiment with different processes, workflows, and ways of doing your job to consistently improve. Doing this will help you find efficiencies that you didn’t even know existed.

Agile leadership principles

As an agile ops professional, you might be working your way into a leadership role. Or, maybe you’re already there. Either way, there are three agile leadership principles that you need to become familiar with.

These three principles will help you create a whole team of agile ops pros, which will make your whole organization faster and more effective.

1. Promote experimentation and learning

Remember how a big part of personal agile development is consistently improving? As a leader, you need to promote that among your employees.

Try to foster a culture of experimentation within your team. This might be uncomfortable for a lot of your employees at first. That’s because a result of experimentation is failure. Let your team know that you’re going to support them through their failures. Help your team learn to accept and even celebrate failures -- because failure is one step closer to success.

You also need to help your team learn new skills. If someone expresses an interest in leadership, but doesn’t have any experience, help them find ways to get experience before they’re thrown into a leadership role.

That could be through taking lead on a special project or attending a leadership seminar.

Whatever your team members’ goals are, it’s your responsibility as a leader to help them accomplish those goals.

2. Collaborate with employees at all levels

This can be a hard one for leaders to get good at, but it’s really important to becoming an agile ops pro.

Collaboration, cooperation, and communication are essential to agile ops. As a leader, collaborating with employees at all levels is a way to show cooperation by doing it. It shows your team that no one and nothing is beneath you.

That can go a long way toward improving morale and help employees buy into you as a leader.

For example, let’s say your CEO gives your team a special project. It’s a big project so everyone on your team is going to need to help out. You could easily hand off all parts to your team and let them do it, or you could jump in and help out too.

That’s going to go a long way to showing your team how important this project is and that you’re always willing to help out.

By doing that, you’ll also be promoting the idea that your team is more important than the individuals. That can help your team come together and work better in the future.

3. Reward employees who are good at the first five principles

As an agile ops leader, your goal is to create an agile ops environment, right?

That’s why you need to reward your employees who exhibit any of the other five agile ops principles.

These rewards don’t need to be monetary or even physical rewards at all. Sometimes, public praise is all that’s required. Call out those employees in meetings, send emails or Slack messages to your whole team, or do something else that makes sense for your company.

Rewarding employees in this way does two things:

  1. It makes the employee feel like their hard work is being noticed
  2. It helps other employees understand what they need to do to fall in line.

Setting those kinds of expectations can go a long way to creating an agile ops team, making you a better agile ops leader, and agile ops professional.

Wrapping it up

If you follow all six of these principles, you’ll be on your way to becoming an agile ops pro. But, if you want to fast track your agile ops development, grab your ticket to our Agile Ops Summit taking place in Boston on November 6th. Learn more here.

About the Author: Mike Volpe
Mike is the CEO of Lola.com and an active member of the startup community as a board member at Validity and Privy, and as an angel investor in more than 40 startups. Before Lola he held executive positions at HubSpot and Cybereason.