On bigger projects, using scrum or Kanban creates rhythm and accountability. By pooling actions in a pipeline, you create a sense of necessary features, developments ahead and deadlines. This deadens the age old habit of ramping up to one massive deadline, and instead embeds a habit. No-one has to chase anyone else. Fewer arguments happen, because the habit of action and delivery is always there. Scrum can be effective at removing clutter from the diary and brain, removing obstacles and instead creating productive teams.
We spoke to some attendees from the event, ‘Agile for Agencies’ to find out what current problems businesses are facing. They were pretty candid about the problem with agile.
‘The problem with agile is that everyone is too optimistic. We think ‘it’s easy to get this done’ but actually it always takes longer. For us, we’d rather drop features than delay releases, but some businesses won’t do this. They stick too rigidly to the tickets, but I’d always advise to drop features before you push back a release.’
Agile is not a fixed way of doing things, I’d argue it’s a philosophy that is there to be adapted. Businesses should study the main agile methodologies, and learn to play by the rules first, but it’s the teams that adapt agile to fit their needs that win more. Like football, learn to play 11-a-side before you decide to move the goalposts, reduce the number of players or get rid of the offside rule.
We worked on the relaunch of Tottenham Hotspurs website for a year. From the start, we used a scrum based delivery system. This meant daily catch ups, twice weekly iterations, regular planning and ‘show and tell’ from the beginning. We delivered every fortnight, whether it was UX, design work, or code. This created the same cadence for an entire year, and benefited both us and the client. Full transparency, and delivery at pace with consistent communication enabled us all to stay on cost. The client could change their mind, we could meet deadlines, and the result was trust, because we worked closely together throughout.
So, what’s the cure for agile? I’d argue that what’s important in agility, and in agencies, is to not try to do agile, but to be agile. For example, we favour interactions over contract negotiations. We try to talk to our clients every day. We plan every two weeks. This daily, constant relationship with our client and their product means we can deal with problems, negotiate in person and not get bogged down in contracts.
So, choose a methodology that works for you. Try more interaction internally. Try more regular catch ups with clients. See what happens. We experienced more trust, and more rappor. Use this same principle in having more regular planning meetings, so the entire team knows where they’re at, and what the deadline is. But if these things don’t work, don’t feel duty bound to them. One size doesn’t fit all.
Even if you’re not doing scrum, there are two important things to remember with agile. Being agile means using the principles of human interaction to create a good product. This principle is important, but not necessarily the full agile methodology. Be agile, but don’t do agile. Whatever you do, whether it’s lean, scrum, kanban, or just a morning standups.
For us, being agile meant a better end product, that clients care about, happier clients, more retention of our people, clients and better relationships. We retained clients, and became friends with them, by applying the principles but not the rigid architecture of agile ways of working. I’d urge you to do the same.