We’ve passed the halfway points! We’re now on the Seventh Principle behind the Agile Manifesto. It looks simple, and in fact is simple, which means I’m going to go on at length about it. Let’s take a look:
Working software is the primary measure of progress.
Yeah, it’s pretty clear isn’t it? I’m very fond of it because the idea is the measure of progress is something that actually works. No maybies, no charges, no plans, no mockups. Something that works is how you measure progress.
But let’s tweak it a bit for creatives, since creative work involves a wide range of stuff from art to presentations to films.
Usable products are the primary measure of progress.
There, not much of a change, but we broadened it out. You measure progress primarily by giving people things that are usable.
Now of course, I’m going to analyze the heck out of it.
You measure progress with something people can use – even if imperfect
Your efforts should focus on giving people something they can use and experience – that’s it. It’s usable/working/review-able or whatever you want to call it. That does not mean it is:
- Ready for public release.
- Ready for all of your customers to use.
- Even that good.
You may deliver work that’s incomplete and lousy, but at least each embarrassingly bad delivery there’s something people can use to give you feedback. You will improve it over time.
As you may guess this means . . .
Delivering usable product means feedback
Giving people something they can use, no matter how incomplete or half-baked, at least means you’ll get feedback on it. It may not be nice feedback, it may mean a lot more work, it may mean a change of direction. But at least you know what to do next.
So the more often you deliver, the better you do getting people to their destination – because you learn how to better get there. It’s a lot like navigation – in fact your customer or client may learn about what they really want once they have something they can really experience.
But it’s not just people who give feedback. You and your team give each other feedback. If it’s just you, then YOU give yourself feedback (even if it’s “that was dumb”). You also learn by making something usable as opposed to reaching abstract deadlines and milestones.
There’s nothing like having to make something workable to really learn what you have to do, and what you shouldn’t have done.
Now to do this . . .
This almost always means iterative development – so plan for it
So as you’ve probably guessed from reading so far, this Principle really hearkens to iterative development. You measure progress with usable product, so you’ll be delivering useable product over time – probably improvements of previous deliveries. That’s pretty common in Agile, obviously and we’ve already discussed it.
But this means that anything useable you deliver is something you should plan for and keep in mind. Don’t just work on something, work on it in a way that helps you give actual results as often as possible. This could mean:
- Constant refinement, like putting a logo through more and more iterations.
- Delivering in usable parts, like a costume where each piece is complete (and, say, at least display-worthy).
- Delivering in review-able parts, like a piece of writing where each chapter is something that can be edited.
So you can keep getting work out, do that work in the best way that keeps delivering useable results. Because when you do that . . .
Usable Products Are THE Way to Measure Progress
Delivering usable products is the way to measure progress. There’s the obvious ones of “this customer is happy,” but you can also use this to get a bit more mechanical and procedural.
- If you have a list of features for something, like perhaps a game, as you deliver them in prototype, you can check them off. Yes, some may be wrong or changed, but you can get a rough idea of progress.
- If you are aiming for certain numbers, such as a performance score or loading speed or image size, then you can measure them – with workable product.
- Of course, you get abstract feedback from others, maybe customers or even beta testers and early access users. They might provide other quantifiable forms of feedback, ranging from yes/no responses to answering polls and questions.
From simple lists of features to complex analysis, usable product is not just a way to measure results in general, but gives you a way to get specific results, maybe even complex ones that need some number crunching. Thinking in deliverables and producing them gives you access to a wealth of data.
Though I wouldn’t overdo it. This is Agile after all, let’s not get complicated.
Let’s review the Seventh Agile Principle for Creatives:
- Frequently produce something usable for your audience, no matter how imperfect.
- Iterative development is the best way to do the above, so organize your work accordingly.
- Because you are delivering something usable, you’ll get feedback and learn, meaning you can produce a better product.
- If you need to have deeper analysis, working products are a great way to do it.
It’s another simple principle, but it’s really great advice – progress is producing something.
Sounds like you could overload yourself with trying to constantly get stuff out, right? Well, let’s move to the Eighth Principle . . .