(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)
Now the fourth Principle of Agile Software, which we’ll be re-purposing for creative work, is simple until you think about it for two seconds. It states.
Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
Easy, right? First, let’s tweak this a bit for creatives
Customers and creatives must work together daily throughout the project.
Still simple, but I’m pretty sure you’ve been in situations where you couldn’t get someone to talk. Or respond to email. You probably wondered if they were OK. Maybe the Fourth principle is harder than it looks . .
At the same time, despite your disbelief, you probably see the value in this. If you and whoever you’re doing work for are in communication, you work better, get feedback better, and so on. Work becomes easier, faster, and friendlier.
It’s just that this sounds like it’d be real hard to implement.
So let’s break this Principle down – and focus on how you make it work – to everyone’s benefit.
Customers And Creatives Must Work Together . . .
This is a bit of a “duh” rule. But pause for a second and ask yourself what working together with the customer *really* means.
This Principle doesn’t say one is in charge and the other isn’t. It’s not about following a plan or not doing it. It’s the idea that you and your customer work together. You’re a team, even if one of you sort of started all of this and is probably paying the bills.
So you want to make sure you and whoever you’re doing creative work for are actually cooperating together to get a result and thinking of yourselves as working together. This is a bit of a radical mindshift (probably for both of you) and you can help encourage it because, well, you’re reading this. Approach working with your creative customers as a team effort, which means:
- Encourage cooperation (of course).
- Treat work as succeeding (and failing) together.
- Develop a team approach, think of yourself as a team, cultivate that.
- Include customers (when appropriate) in activities, from status reports to team lunches.
By the way, this may have you askin “hey, who is my customer.” We’ll get to that, but let’s finish off looking at the Foruth principle.
. . . daily throughout the project
Yes. The Fourth Agile Principle expects you to work with your customer daily throughout the project. The reason for this is obvious – you’re in touch with the people you’re doing work for. Talking to them and communicating with them to get questions answered, get feedback, etc. means two things:
- You’re better directed towards the goal (even when it changes).
- It develops good teamwork (which leads to informal improvements).
Yes, you are in contact daily, interacting, daily, and by now you’re probably thinking “how the heck can I do that?”
Ideally, you’d be in touch with people you’re doing work for all the time; indeed, ideally you’d work with them in person. In actual reality, in an age of conference calls and distributed teams, it’s a lot harder to work with people daily. I find the best way to solve this is – literally – just do your best and be aware of it.
It’s an ideal to aspire you. A few things I’ve found that help are:
- Chat programs. Just passing an update to someone can help.
- Email summaries and statuses. Sending quick daily updates helps.
- Open Hours. Have a time in your schedule where someone can contact you; maybe you even sit in on a conference call or voice chat and anyone can swing by.
- Talk to some if not all people. If your customer contact involves multiple people, touch base and work with as many of them as you can, even if it can’t be or doesn’t need to be all.
- Cultivate customer communication. Help the customer develop this communicate-with-team attitude as well.
- Radiators. Have some kind of chart, status sheet, document dump, working beta, that people can look at and use to get update. It’s passive communication, but it’s something.
I tend to solve the need for regular communication by mixing regular methods (daily updates, radiators) and informal (using chat programs and upates). Combined together, people stay in touch overall, even if individual methods don’t cover everyone.
And yes, trying to convince people daily communication is a good idea may be hard. If you’ve got people who are heads down, who like their privacy, etc. it may be harder. Cultivating this is going to be a bit of work.
Ultimately, I find this part of the Fourth Principle ultimately wraps up with the first part. You work together, you cooperate. As you do so, you’re better able to communicate daily because you’re more of a team.
But there’s a complication . . .
The Fourth Principle’s Complication: Client and Audience
The Fourth principle may sound hard to implement, but it’s an easy one – except but there’s another wrinkle. There’s the customer and then there’s the audience . . .
If you’re doing a logo, it’s easy – the customer asks for a logo. You make it. The customer’s customers, the “audience” may or may not like it, but it’s probably no big deal.
But what if you’re making a tutorial? Someone may ask you to make that tutorial, and you work as a team, but isnt the audience someone you need to keep in mind, because that tutorial is for THEM. The audience is also a bit more of a customer.
Now take this all the way; you’re an author. You have no direct customer or customer team, just a lot of readers, some of which you’re in touch with some of which you aren’t. How do you collaborate with that ?
When working to use the Fourth Principle as guidance, you’ll need to understand just who the customer is and just who the audience is. It might not be easy.
Let’s review the Fourth Agile Principle for Creatives:
- Delivering useable work focuses your efforts on what to deliver and how to deliver.
- By delivering work as early as possible, you get feedback on the work you’ve done, which improves the results and communications.
- Delivering work frequently creates feedback, communication, trust, and transparency.
- Frequent delivery of useable work requires you to develop the best way to deliver, improving how you operate.
- The shorter the timeframe the better, as it increases all the advantages of delivering useable work.
- Frequent delivery of work provides direction, guidance, communication, and builds trust – areas that creative work needs, but that are also very challenging.
One simple Principle that packs a lot of benefits – and a lot of challenges – in. Worth taking to heart, just be ready for the actions it’ll take to make it real.
But, you’re someone that probably wants to improve and grow – as does everyone on your team. Let’s look at that in the Fifth Agile Principle.