“Assistants are catalysts for change, because every time there is a change globally and at their desks, they need to adjust to accommodate those changes.” says Melba Duncan. This statement captures the agile nature of executive assistants. Considering constantly changing responsibilities of certain executive assistants, they are already operating in an agile manner in terms of speed.
Speed is just one of the aspects of agility. The key value of Agile is to continuously add value to customers in projects that we manage. Customers can be external or internal. For instance, customers, suppliers, partners outside of our organisations who are impacted by our projects are external customers. Employees, teams, departments in our organisations who are affected by our projects are internal customers. When we manage projects, it is essential for us to continuously add value to our internal/external customers.
In these challenging times of Covid-19, societies, whole industries, businesses, organisations and teams are undergoing a big change. Only the Agile will survive and thrive in these times. We, as executive assistants, are connectors of employees, bridgers of knowledge and strategic relationships. Therefore, we can contribute to making our organisations more Agile. In fact, we can manage our projects in an Agile manner. More importantly, we can have an Agile mindset to add value to customers especially when we do projects.
In order to show the importance of an Agile mindset, Joshua Kerievsky, a leading Agile thinker and practitioner, created “Modern Agile Values”. These values are essential to us as we plan, start, manage and finish our projects.
Modern Agile Value 1: Make people awesome: This is about making people great. The word “people” includes not only our project team members, but also our employees, customers, partners and the whole ecosystem. We can make people great in various ways. With the help of our projects, we can make people, affected by our projects, become more engaged at work. Also, we can make people great by contributing to a collaborative project team where we are proactive, open and share relevant information with project team members.
Modern Agile Value 2: Make safety a prerequisite: The second value is about psychological safety which is a work environment where employees feel free to express their questions, ideas and concerns. In our projects, when we team up with other employees, we need to create psychological safety. Imagine a project team meeting, where employees feel afraid to express their concerns. It is likely that such a project fails. Having psychological safety ensures that we listen to the concerns of others, our projects are adapted to the needs of our employees and add value to them.
Modern Agile Value 3: Deliver value continuously: Let’s imagine that you are tasked with planning an annual summer retreat. That includes a range of tasks such as finding a venue, organising activities and ultimately adding value to employees who will attend the retreat. Actually, this is a project you are in charge of. In this example, “value” in this project can mean providing a great retreat experience for the employees, whose overall satisfaction of the event is for instance 90%. To do that, it is crucial for us to involve stakeholders or internal customers in certain details of the retreat planning. Maybe, employees, who will attend the retreat, can vote and choose the venue. Involving our internal customers, that is people inside our organisation that the project serves, helps us add value to them.
Modern Agile Value 4: Experiment and learn rapidly: The last value is about becoming more data-driven. In the case of planning an annual summer retreat, we need to get data and information on the retreat experience, such as the satisfaction rate of attendees, number and types of complaints about the retreat. Analysing this information can help us improve the retreat next time. Test ideas, get feedback from people, learn and improve. Continuous improvement is the essence of our Agile way of managing projects. We can proactively ask for feedback from people. “What do you like the most about this retreat?”, “What can be improved?” are two simple and powerful questions.
Sometimes, we plan, start, do and finish projects without focusing on internal/external customers, who are people affected by our projects. The cornerstone of managing projects in an Agile way is to continuously add value to our internal/external customers. This way, we can contribute more to our organisations especially in these uncertain times.
This article was written by Mehmet Baha and originally published on Executive Secretary Magazine on July 25th 2020.
Mehmet Baha is Founder of Solution Folder which provides training solutions to make organisations more collaborative and Agile. He has more than 18 years of work experience residing in Germany, USA, Turkey, Cyprus and Ireland. He was one of the first employees of Facebook in Europe where he helped Facebook scale its business. He is also a REMO-endorsed artist. Combining his skills in music and his expertise in business, he designs and delivers unique learning experiences.