Agile methodology has been around for decades, but the publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001 brought the concepts of quick, iterative, results-driven processes into popularity. How can you use the concepts that have transformed software development with your creative team? Here are three of the most important agile elements, and how you can apply them to better work with your creative team.
Key 1: Quick Production Being quick to delivery a working, if imperfect, product is a key part of the agile approach. The focus is not on reaching perfection, as defined by the customer spec or the work documentation, but on delivering a functioning and improvable product that can be user-tested. Rather than working, iterating, testing, and fine-tuning a product in house, the agile approach pushes to get a real product out there for real-life, real-world testing by real users.
Creative Team Application When working with clients on creative team projects, an agile approach can save you from losing time in assumptions, misinterpretations, or perfecting details that ultimately don't matter. When you present a quick mock-up, a working prototype, or a rough design to a client, you can clarify objectives, needs, priorities, and request. There's less time spend on redos and more time spent working on what the client and the team truly deem important.
Key 2: Real Feedback Feedback, gathered consistently and analyzed intelligently, is what agile businesses use to figure out how to improve their products. The user, or customer, is the ultimate judge of a product's value or helpfulness. It doesn't matter if the team loves the product; it matters if the client, the end user, loves the product. By releasing early and often, and getting feedback from real users, you learn, in the process, how to make a product that works for them.
Creative Team Application Look for ways to get more feedback from surveys, polls, customer questionnaires, and client conversations. Feedback can help you improve in everything from customer relationships to end products and design processes. Also, build and use regular feedback avenues between you, the team lead, and your team, both collectively and individually. Ongoing feedback makes improvement and encouragement a regular part of work, and removes the drama and stress of those annual reviews.
Key 3: Quick Adaptation Feedback is useless if you don't act on it. Let the feedback influence your team, your product, your process. That's how agile works: the power of relevant feedback informs intelligent adaptations for the next iteration. Pivoting to the feedback may mean dropping a feature that was part of the initial plan, throwing out an old solution, or radically adjusting the functionality and design of the product to meet user requirements.
Creative Team Application How can your creative team use feedback for better adaptation? First, you've got to take user, or client, needs seriously. It doesn't matter, ultimately, if your client's desires meet your design aesthetic or not; what matters is that the client gets an end product that serves their purposes. Adapting means marrying the lessons learned from each "release" of your idea, product, or design with your team's creative ability and sensibility. Arguments, discussions, conflict, and some angst are going to be part of this process. However, as your team gets into the rhythm of quick releases and quick adjustments, they begin to trust the process: even if a particular iteration is not up to their standards, the next chance to reimagine and redesign will be coming soon.
Using the agile approach can help free your creative team from the angst-ridden roadblocks of uncertainty and perfectionism. It may also mean changing long built-in processes and traditional patterns of work. The result, however, can be a freeing, unifying workflow that releases stellar creativity. With one iteration after another in process, and with continual feedback and pivoting opportunities, the more ideas and creative inputs you have the better. Everyone quickly learns, hands-on, which creative applications work best and which stay on the drawing board. That continual learning results in dynamic, growing creativity and confidence as a team, and leads to innovative products and efficiency in action.