Welcome to Agile for Creatives, where we will explore applying Agile methods to the content that creatives deliver to their customers.
What is Agile?
Before we jump into how creatives of all types can make use of Agile methods, it seems best to give a brief history and overview of Agile as a movement in software development.In 2001, a group of software developers created a statement of principles called the Manifesto for Agile Software Development which is commonly known as the Agile Manifesto.
The Manifesto for Agile Software Development
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:
* Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
* Working software over comprehensive documentation
* Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
* Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
The original signatories of the manifesto were:
- Kent Beck
- Mike Beedle
- Arie van Bennekum
- Alistair Cockburn
- Ward Cunningham
- Martin Fowler
- James Grenning
- Jim Highsmith
- Andrew Hunt
- Ron Jeffries
- Jon Kern
- Brian Marick
- Robert C. Martin
- Steve Mellor
- Ken Schwaber
- Jeff Sutherland
- Dave Thomas.
Principles behind the Agile Manifesto
We follow these principles:
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
This manifesto is at the heart of all of the Agile methods. Many of those original signatories have become the thought leaders of the Agile software movement. However, Agile methods and practices are now being applied to areas other than the development of software. Any creative endeavor designed to deliver value to a customer can benefit from Agile.
Agile Methods and Practices
Ok, so that all sounds good but how is Agile actually practiced by creative teams (which includes all creative endeavors that aim to deliver value to a customer including software development). While there are many Agile methods and practices most of them boil down to a similar pattern.
Agile teams divide up the work to be delivered to the customer into stories. Those stories are organized into iterations which are usually one to four weeks long. The iterations are organized into releases which are the delivery of the work to the customer. The teams usually have a team leader that tracks the progress of the work and helps remove roadblocks that would impede the team. Stories that are not currently being worked are in kept in a backlog. Prior to each iteration the customer and the team determine which stories should be a part of the upcoming iteration. In many Agile methods, the customer routinely prioritizes the backlog in order to speed up the iteration planning session. After each iteration, the team meets to discuss the iteration and look for ways to improve.
Scrum is one of the most popular Agile methods. Scrum is an iterative and incremental Agile framework for managing projects. It matches the basic Agile pattern described above. Scrum teams have three roles, Product Owner, Scrum Master and Team. Scrum uses time-boxed iterations that are called Sprints. The Sprints usually last from one to four weeks. The Team is expected to complete a potentially shippable deliverable which has value to the customer at the end of each Sprint.
In addition to task work, there are four events during each Sprint: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective. There are three main artifacts that are used to organize and track the Team’s work: Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog and Burndown chart.
The Product Owner is accountable for ensuring that the team delivers value to the customer. The Product Owner is responsible for managing the Product Backlog. The Product Backlog is a prioritized list of features or outcomes that are usually written as stories. It contains all of the desired features for the product. The Product Owner is a single person not a committee.
The Scrum Master is the servant-leader for the Team. The Scrum Master is responsible for making sure that the Team is functioning well and is productive. The Scrum Master serves as a coach for the Team to ensure that the Team follows the Scrum practices. The Scrum Master facilitates the events of the Sprint and removes impediments to the Team’s progress.
The Team is a self-organizing group of professionals that work together to create the features for the product. No one in the organization tells the Team how to create the features in the Product Backlog. Teams are cross-functional, they contain all of the skills needed to produce the features. The Team determines which team members will perform a given task based on the needs of the Team and the skills of the team member.
Sprint Planning takes place at the beginning of each Sprint and has two parts. During the first part of the event the Product Owner and the Team meet to decide which features or stories will be worked on during the Sprint. During the second part of the event the Team decides how the work will be accomplished and which team members will perform the needed tasks. This list of stories and the plan for accomplishing them is called the Sprint Backlog.
The Daily Scrum is a 15 minute time-boxed event for the Team to synchronize their work and plan for the day ahead. Each team member usually answers 3 questions during the meeting, What did I do yesterday, What will I do today, and What obstacles are preventing me from completing my tasks. The Daily Scrum allows the team to assess their progress towards the goals of the Sprint. While the Scrum Master facilitates the Daily Scrum, the meeting is for the Team. Outsiders may observe but they usually do not participate. The Burndown chart is used to show the work remaining in the Sprint.
The Sprint Review takes places at the end of the Sprint. During the Sprint Review, the Team demonstrates what was accomplished during the Sprint. Only those stories that have met all of the criteria for Done are considered to have been completed during the Sprint. Those that do not meet all of the Done criteria are carried over into the next Sprint.
At the Sprint Retrospective, the Team looks for ways to improve their process and the product. The Team usually answers three questions, What went well, What did not go well, and What can we do as a Team to improve. The meeting is for the Team and outside observers are not usually invited.