Artículo Forbes

Jose Luis Castro Forbes Councils Member
Forbes Nonprofit Council| Membership (Fee-Based)

Adopting Agile Practices? 13 Common Mistakes According To Nonprofit Experts

diciembre 30, 2022


When it comes to adapting to today’s unpredictable business environment, nonprofits need concrete strategies and solutions. The adoption of agile practices has become one way these organizations are able to thrive, facilitating progress on set goals while also allowing for increased productivity, flexibility and speed.

While there are numerous benefits, these practices cannot be adopted without full consideration of the potential impact on both internal and external stakeholders as well as on the nonprofit itself.

Without careful planning and the establishment of structured processes, nonprofit leaders run the risk of doing more harm than good. To help reduce the risks, the members of Forbes Nonprofit Council each share common mistakes nonprofits make when adopting agile practices and what leaders can do to prevent or overcome these missteps.

1. Being Agile Only In Name

Don’t be agile in name only. So often, I see nonprofits define themselves as agile while not creating enough space in project timelines for feedback loops. User feedback cycles must happen throughout the process so that you can test your hypothesis and relevance well before a project is «ready to ship.» Make sure to leave time and space for actual agile development and refinement. – Erin MoteInnovateEDU


2. Lacking Employee Buy-In Beforehand

We often assume that adapting to new policies and procedures is easy for team members, but that may not be the case. When introducing more agile practices to your organization, make sure everyone is on board. Increase communication and incorporate feedback from your team into your plans. Provide ongoing training, even one-on-one sessions, to ensure practices are understood and implemented consistently. – Victoria BurkhartThe More Than Giving Company

3. Allowing Unstructured Systems To Hinder Work

Agile doesn’t mean unstructured. Even organizations that nimbly move, adapt and innovate rely on good systems and processes. The key is that these systems and processes enable work rather than become red tape or excuses for getting bogged down. So, consider what begs for standardization or consistency to remove the burden of work and provide a platform for agile performance. – Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHPAccordant

4. Having Undefined Roles And Too-Large Teams

To be effective, agile teams need to be as small as possible and inclusive of the cross-functional skills necessary for success. Guided by a common goal, defined roles and communication of expectations, collaboration thrives. If roles are confused or the group expands due to trust gaps, the quality will diminish and the team’s cohesion will decrease. – Patricia McIlreavyCenter for Disaster Philanthropy

5. Failing To Offer Knowledge And Mentorship To Employees

Agility is paramount for nonprofits. Check team members’ comfort levels with new or evolving responsibilities, clearly explaining how the changes make overall processes more dynamic and interdepartmental. If training is needed—in technology or any other facet—take the time to offer it. Your patience and mentorship will pay off as much as their flexibility. – Jose Luis CastroVital Strategies

6. Losing Sight Of Core Business Fundamentals

Trust, respect and synergy across teams is at the core of developing effective organizational agility. Deep understanding of core values, best practices and organizational policies are the «guardrails.» Losing sight of any of those fundamentals is where the most common mistakes are made. – Deidre LindMayor’s Fund for Los Angeles

7. Instilling Micromanagement In Processes

Remove the power struggles. Teams need to be able to exercise some creativity and learn from successes and failures without always having to «check in» with their supervisor every time they need to make a change to increase production or work around an obstacle. – Kimberly LewisGoodwill Industries of East Texas, Inc.

8. Using Chaos To Achieve Flexibility

The main mistake when adopting agile practices is to go into chaos mode as a way to achieve flexibility. What organizations should try to achieve is a controlled chaos, promoting creativity while following certain processes. Also, the agile framework should be analyzed to define which parts should be implemented and which ones shouldn’t. There is no one unique solution. – Pablo ListingartComIT

9. Forgetting To Explain What Employees Can Expect

Agile can be a little scary, so before you invite the team to operate this way, explain what to expect. Offer training so that people are more confident in their roles and responsibilities. When things need to change, explain why and how. Also, always listen to the system for symptoms of confusion or frustration. – Magdalena Nowicka MookICF (International Coaching Federation)

10. Failing To Prioritize The Mission Statement

Watch out for mission dilution and scope creep because these pitfalls are strongly interrelated. Oftentimes, new business methodologies bring with them new possibilities for what we could do. However, in the initial excitement, we can forget to ask pesky questions, such as, “Yes, but should we be doing that?” As you adopt new agile procedures, keep your mission statement front and center. – Gloria HorsleyOpen to Hope

11. Diving In Using Intuition

The pandemic showed us all the benefits of agile practices, which required swift, efficient adaptation to a remote environment. The most common mistake nonprofits make is jumping in headfirst based on intuition. Instead, we need discipline and systematic thinking to identify patterns and underlying issues. Then, develop a sound project plan to effectively manage disruptions and unpredictable issues. – Thomas BognannoCHC: Creating Healthier Communities

12. Preserving Outdated Processes

I’ve observed great activity on innovation not getting the result everyone is hoping for. When we step back, whether in a nonprofit, Fortune 500 or startup, the mandate may be there at the top with excellent people carrying out the work, but the systems and processes («the plumbing») hasn’t been updated. Continuing to use the old processes for a new type of work rarely works. – Jonathan ProsserCompassion UK

13. Centering Productivity And Revenue Over People And Relationships

One mistake is not keeping people and relationships at the center of the agile process. Agile processes are about more than increasing productivity and revenue enhancements. A human-centered design will ensure buy-in and help you avoid getting caught in systems and processes that prioritize extractive gains at the expense of individual or group wellness. – Jono AnzaloneThe Climate Initiative

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