Pioneering companies like Google have shown the world that efficient processes and harmonious teamwork can have a significant impact on the bottom line. However, many companies have not followed in their footsteps.
Agile vs. Waterfall
One of the common production or development methodologies, for example, is called Waterfall. This approach asks that as one department or team finishes their task, the next team takes over, until the end goal and final deliverable is arrived at and released.
The issues with Waterfall are various: firstly, key knowledge can get lost throughout the process, meaning those working at the end of the project may not be building a solution that aligns with the original team’s vision or purpose; secondly, responsibility for owning the output gets lost amongst the various owners of work down the line, so finding the individual or team responsible for a mistake could be difficult if the situation arises, and in-turn finding a fix to the problem may also prove evasive; thirdly, once the output is released it is considered ‘finished’, so any potential eventualities post-product launch are not accounted for, and are often met with groans and nervousness by stakeholders; fourth, it takes longer to get to product release as all the features have to be built before it is signed off and ready.
Another available approach, Agile, is very different to Waterfall; it consists of a group of methodologies based on iteration; where requirements and solutions evolve through ongoing collaboration between self-organized, cross-functional teams.
Agile asks that digital products be built over a series of short bursts commonly known as ‘sprints’; where the features to be built are broken down into smaller priority lists, and teams tasked to build and ‘ship’ the releases in sets of updates as they are manufactured. Removing much of the inefficiencies endured by the Waterfall production method.
Agile relies on implementing a system of increased creativity, communication, commitment and self-analysis, which if implemented correctly can empower the development and efficiency of a team. Such a system should stop the flow of unnecessary work that is all too often the output of poor organisation and distribution of efforts.
Two basic principles form the crux of Agile methodologies: being adaptive rather than predictive; and being people-oriented rather than process oriented.
In other words, Agile demands that organisations throw away their rigid plans that assume change to be a failure of one part of the system, and embrace more flexible methods that thrive on such alteration; supporting development teams rather than imposing strict and sometimes irrelevant conditions upon them.
Agile principles are meant to create valid workflow by tackling individual habits – often self-serving or opaque – and building momentum towards team habits, that are documented and improved upon over time. This allows for the removal of self-generated obstacles that are frustrating and counter productive.
Agile and common obstacles in the workplace
An Agile process can help overcoming issues such as:
- Lack of transparency, unavoidably leading to misunderstanding and time consumption. Frequent standups, planning and process meetings bring up individual concerns to collective conscience.
- Conflicting Priority over individual tasks, creating inefficiency and confusion. One should communicate the destination and collaborate on the route. Dynamic steering allows small collaborative teams to elaborate short-term goals that satisfy collective long-term objectives. This allows for a conscientious assessment of priorities.
- Incomplete or unsettled information resulting in time consumption. Criteria for success must be clear, and assets should be referenced after commonly agreed guidelines (i.e. graphic production).
- Changing requirements that foster unpredictability. Change should be integrated as part of the process. For developers, Information Architecture and Application Architecture should enable an adaptive structure that requires collaboration and avoids misinformed actions.
- Distribution of responsibility & authority that if mismanaged can create inequalities within the team. Working in short uninterrupted cycles will make objectives predictable and mistakes reparable. It will allow clearer repartition of tasks among employees.
- Excessive decision-making which reduces actual time building the product. Employees should not spend time and energy on decisions that are not theirs to make: write down common decisions, and only alter them if information has changed.
Agile provides an environment where employees have the autonomy to find innovative solutions, grow their potential, and renew the purpose of their task in harmony with others working on similar or related product-goals.
Eventually, the Agile agency model favours a general incentive for excellence, and that’s why many agencies across the world, including Matter Of Form, have chosen to adopt it for their day-to-day project management.