Ah, the showmanship of Don Draper’s creative process. Months of work culminating in an elaborate presentation, highlighting the genius of Don and the Mad Men around him. Sometimes he nailed it. Sometimes he crashed and burned. But he always entertained.
That kind of drama makes for great TV. But can you imagine functioning in a creative environment like that? One word: nightmare.
Yet the truth is that creative teams do face the risk of unnecessary drama in their process. This is especially true when you take a purely Waterfall approach. When every step of the process depends on what comes before it, one missed deadline can derail your entire project’s timeline. Likewise, if creatives own only their piece of a project or campaign, the likely results are a siloed team, an incohesive final product, and an ultimately dissatisfied client.
All of these factors make the Agile approach to project management that much more appealing. Created in the software development world and adopted by a wide range of industries, Agile was designed to help teams work iteratively and collaboratively toward a common goal. As its popularity rises, more and more teams are evaluating how Agile processes can help meet the ever-increasing demand for creative content.
What are Agile’s overarching ideals, and how can you apply them to your team’s creative workflows?
More than a Buzzword: What Agile is and What it’s Not
The benefits of an Agile approach to project management have been touted through webinars, industry podcasts, and events for quite some time. But how do you separate the hype from the reality and determine if Agile will really work for your creative team?
First, it’s important to understand that Agile is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Although there are methodologies like Scrum and Kanban that can help you function within an Agile framework, there is no silver bullet to becoming agile. Rather, Agile is about values and principles.
The 7 Values of Agile from the Agile Marketing Manifesto
- Validated learning over opinions and convention
- Customer focused collaboration over siloes and hierarchy
- Adaptive and iterative campaigns over Big Bang campaigns
- The process of customer discovery over static prediction
- Flexible vs. rigid planning
- Responding to change over following a plan
- Many small experiments over a few large bets
Put these values together and you can see that being agile means approaching work with a different mindset. It entails breaking projects down into smaller chunks and testing the outcomes all along the way. It involves failing early and often so your teams can adapt to change and actively iterate their work based on concrete findings. Furthermore, it calls for breaking down silos and championing collaboration with the ultimate goal of achieving the best result for each client.
Agile Methodologies for Creative Teams
Adopting key Agile practices could transform your teams’ productivity and help them stay on track.
There’s no doubt your creative team needs a boost. In fact, 58% of creatives saw their workloads increase throughout 2020. With higher expectations comes a greater risk of creative team burnout, which can in turn lead to sub-standard work and low morale. To address this, consider adopting one or both of these two Agile methodologies. Both have been proven effective and beneficial for many creative teams.
The term ‘scrum’ comes from rugby and describes a part of the match when teams (literally) come together to advance the ball. In Agile, Scrum functions in much the same way. Using Scrum fosters collaboration and breaks down silos by establishing a focused, productivity-driven work timeline and meeting cadence. Scrum doesn’t just invite teamwork. It demands it.
Projects are broken down into sprints, usually two weeks in duration (although length can be adjusted based on your team’s needs). The objective is to reach a tangible goal within a short timeframe so the team can quickly move on to the next part of the project. A specific meeting cadence is followed in order to keep teams on track This includes 1:1 meetings, kickoffs, daily check-ins, mid-sprint team check-ins, retrospectives, and reviews.
This may feel like a lot of meetings at first, and you might experience some resistance from your team when transitioning to this cadence. The purpose is not to fill your calendar with meetings, but rather to provide your team ample opportunities for meaningful collaboration and connection. Especially in a remote environment, a thoughtful meeting cadence can make all the difference in allowing teams to stay on schedule and reach their production goals. Keep in mind, anything that isn’t beneficial for your team can and should be dropped. Scrum is not a formula. It’s a framework. You are free to adjust the cadence to meet your needs.
Kanban is a Japanese word meaning “billboard” or “signboard.” In the creative realm, a Kanban board puts all the elements of your individual team members’ to-do lists in one visual space. Using physical or virtual cards, each piece of the work process is placed onto a physical or virtual workflow board.
These Kanban cards “swim” in lanes and visually illustrate work status. This provides you at-a-glance insight into any backlogs keeping your team behind schedule and gives a big-picture view of whether tasks are not yet started, in progress, in review, or completed.
Depending on your preferred work styles, Kanban may be more useful for some team members than others. But it can be a powerful tool for clients and managers to quickly check in and chart progress.
Shopping for Agile Technology? Get Support for Your Creative Process
Beyond implementing its methodologies, you may be shopping for Agile technology to help your teams adhere to your new workflows. The truth is, any vendor who slaps an “Agile” label on their product is just trying to benefit from the popularity of the concept. In reality, no technology can magically make you agile. Rather, technological tools should be designed to give you the freedom to set your workflows and processes in whatever way you decide is best for your team.
What does that freedom look like? If you need some elements of a Waterfall approach — like blockers or prescribed steps — you should have the option to incorporate those. If you want to offer your teams Kanban boards or set up workflow deadlines based on your Scrum meeting cadence, your software should allow you to do that, too.
That’s exactly how we designed inMotion ignite, our signature workflow management platform. On the one hand, ignite is robust and flexible enough to support an agile process. More importantly, however, it will mold to your team’s unique needs.
How Agile Do You Want to Be?
Only you can decide how to best support your team and structure your creative process. As you consider whether to adopt an agile approach, remember: The beauty of Agile is its flexibility. There is total freedom to incorporate the values and principles that make sense for your team. Take what you need from Agile and simply ignore the rest.
No matter how far you go down the Agile path, you’ll need the right tools in your creative toolbox. We’d love to show you how ignite can help.