Have you ever wondered why your apps need to be updated so often? Or how big companies launch innovative, gorgeous digital products so quickly? Agile is a big part of that.
For some reason, agile has remained mostly a topic for tech-focused corporations and startups. Agile is both a mindset and set of values, as well as a concrete set of strategies and routines that teams and individuals can use to produce results faster, with more flow, and less stress.
My two cents: ALL creatives need agile.
If you are in tech, this will almost definitely be an over-simplified review of agile, but you might still find some nuggets of wisdom in here. If you aren’t in tech, definitely stay with me.
If you are totally new to agile, we need to start by reviewing some of the basics.
Today we will just review the manifesto and principles, and I’ll translate those so they can be applied to whatever you do. Whether you launch online courses, do freelance graphic design, or run an Etsy shop – doesn’t matter. You can apply agile principles to your workflow and become much more efficient.
What is Agile?
Agile is a set of principles and values that guide a business in how they work and think about work. Even the agile manifesto is written specifically for software development, so I’ll translate the core principles below so you can see that it applies to everyone.
Agile is about developing products and services in a way that values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working products over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
This means that to be agile, you work collaboratively and quickly create finished products that involve the feedback of your customer and remain flexible as you progress, rather than creating a rigid plan of what you want to create, not validating your products or services with your potential customers, and strictly following a specific set of guidelines or procedures, refusing to deviate from it as you go.
Agile Is About Iteration
Some of the core principles of agile are to create a working product, to deliver this product frequently, to assess the value of what you deliver, and to reflect and adjust your methods often.
So let’s say you sell custom t-shirts on etsy. This means that instead of taking a TON of time designing your shirts and perfecting the images on them, you quickly release a few options at a time. You DO pay attention to detail and deliver high quality. You DITCH perfectionism.
Then you get feedback. And you improve the designs as you go. You welcome changes and setbacks. You adjust. You reflect. You iterate.
This is so different from how orgs traditionally function.
I’m a psychologist and so I was trained in the old-school world of academia. The policies and procedures manual is alive and well in academic. This is an exhaustive document created before a study launches, that is supposed to be followed to a T once it is completed. It takes a lot of work on the front end, and leaves little room for things to change as time goes on.
But we ain’t in Kansas anymore. This method doesn’t fit the digital world we now live in.
Agile Is About Teamwork… If You Have a Team
Some principles of agile will seem really irrelevant to you if you don’t have a team. But if you work with others in any capacity, they still apply. If you have a VA, or contract with different services to create a product, you can apply these things to some degree. If you are a small business with 2 or more employees, you can DEFINITELY apply these principles.
Face to face over email. Get on a zoom call if you aren’t physically in the same place, but look each other in the eyes.
Meet every day. Work together. Collaborate. Support one another. Motivate each other.
Be self-organizing. Be willing to cross over to another area of the work if it’s called for. Don’t be rigid in your role.
If you do have a team of permanent or contracted colleagues or employees, take a look at the workflow and how you collaborate. Is it rigid and hierarchical? Do you send emails and texts to each other instead of actually seeing each other? Do you build time in for everyone to have a voice and feel motivated and supported?
Agile as a Solopreneur
As a serial solopreneur myself, I apply agile principles to how I approach my businesses in several ways. I launch updates on my websites frequently, rather than batching together all my updates for one big go. So if you’ve been here for a bit, you might not even notice as things change. I’m iterating. I do that with my social media content, video content, and coaching packages.
So I’m strategic, but flexible and open to change and feedback.
And while I don’t currently have a team, because I’m being strategic and agile about how I go about things now, I know how I want to lead a team when the time comes to do so. I have applied the team-focused principles when working with services I contract with and will continue to keep a focus on collaboration over rigidity as I scale.
To Recap, the 12 Agile Principles are:
- Deliver value faster
- Welcome change, even when late in the game
- Deliver working products/updates on more frequent timelines
- Work together every day (for teams)
- Build your projects around motivated individuals. Give people the support they need and trust them to get the job done (for teams)
- Face-to-Face conversations are the most efficient way to communicate (for teams)
- Working products are key – not a plan, blueprint or an idea!
- Work at a sustainable pace – you and your team should be able to keep up that pace indefinitely. This doesn’t mean constantly stay in launch mode, but rather speaks to the baseline pace you work at week-to-week.
- Attention to detail and excellence – just because you are launching things faster doesn’t mean the quality should be lower.
- Simplicity is key. Minimize the amount of work needed to complete the task at hand.
- Allow your teams to be self-organizing and flexibly move through tasks (i.e. avoid rigid roles and hierarchies).
- Reflect and Adjust! At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then adjusts accordingly.
To read more about agile as it pertains to the world of software development where it originated, head here.
So whether you were already familiar with agile or if this is brand new, take a moment today to reflect on how you work and where you might be able to apply these principles to help you become more efficient.