Adapting Agile Workflows for Creative Teams: A 10-Step Guide
Agile Working was originally developed as a way to accelerate and streamline the software development process, Agile practices have since been adopted across the technology industry and beyond, revolutionizing the way that marketers, creatives and other skilled knowledge workers get things done.
The core principle is an approach to project management that breaks every project into a series of distinct tasks completed in short, measured phases called sprints. The Agile process has helped distributed teams remain effective, accountable and creative without losing momentum. It promises to be even more valuable as the pandemic enters a new phase and creative teams transition again — this time to hybrid models that include both in-person collaboration and remote work.
Agile is working well. A recent study found Agile teams transitioned seamlessly to remote work during the pandemic while non-Agile teams struggled.
Like any process change, fully adjusting to Agile methods can take time. That’s why we’ve built this easy-to-follow checklist to help you develop a process that fits your team’s unique needs.
- Alignment.Before you can build an Agile process that will help your team deliver,you need to align on what you hope to achieve. Set and prioritize overarching business goals and specific key performance indicators (KPIs) with important stakeholders to get everyone aligned on how success will be measured.
- Planning and ideation. The whole team needs to be on board — from senior leadership to individual contributors. Ideate and plan with the key decision-makers in your organization. This will help you secure early buy-in for broad initiatives, making it easier to deliver down the line without confusion or last-minute changes.
- Validation. Once you’ve made some initial decisions,use data to back up those choices.This could include market data, surveys and other empirical metrics, or qualitative research from focus groups and user studies. Gathering all this data early and testing your planned projects against it will eliminate hiccups and challenges down the road.
- Wireframe. Now it’s time for the more active stages of the process. For most projects, this will involve building a wireframe, or a loose mock-up of the project’s design and UX. This wireframe provides a template for what your team will ultimately design and build, as well as a tool to solicit final feedback before moving into active design and development. Although some see this as another step in an already-long process, itactually helpseveryone save a lot of time on reviews and updates down the line.
- Sprint planning.Break up complex design processes into simple, distinct tasks. Then assign those tasks to team members to complete in sprints. These sprints typically last about two weeks and shouldn’t last longer than four. Breaking down every piece of a project into separate, interlocking tasks and distributing them over a series of tightly measured sprints ensures that projects and teams stay on track. It creates clear expectations and goals whileensuring routine measurement.
- Implement scrums. Accountability within each sprint is delivered at the team scrum. Members of the scrum meet regularly for short, time-limited meetings during each sprint period to assess progress against the goals you’ve set. The purpose of the scrum is to provide a regular check-in that creates accountability for team members. That’s where you identify— and eliminate —blockers that might be delaying progress.
- Centralize information.Agile requires visibility.Centralize all tasks and conversations about a project on one platform so project managers can quickly and easily assess the project, identify blockers and share information. Many teams choose to do this through project management software that can track individual tasks, consolidate documents, and centralize communication to one platform (such as a Slack channel or email chain) to ensure that everyone has equal access to all information.
- Always iterate. Whileyou needhigh-level buy-in to kick off any project, very few projects are perfect from the outset. It’s important to regularly solicit and respond to internal feedback to ensure that the project is not just on track, but also that it meets organizational expectations. Rounds of internal feedback also help test the hypothesis behind a given project privately, before making it available to the public and your clients or customers.
- Field test. Every projecthas toeventually see the light of day. Field testing allows your team to see your product in the real world. You may wish to beta test with a small group of users before a wide release. These field tests can help gather insights that may not have been considered internally. It also helps you keep implicit bias in check, avoid groupthink and clear any organizational blind spots.
- Adapt and learn. Be willing to utilize insights to drive better creative solutions. The Agile process ensures timely,efficient delivery,but also leaves room for feedback and learning. The more open your team is to new information and adaptation, the better your final project will be. Take advantage of the time and learning opportunities created by an Agile work style to create and improve.
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