Some agility before Agile

I’ve spent the last 5 years or so, mostly digital project managing all sorts of things, web and mobile. While we managed to adopt some artefacts and ceremonies from Kanban and Scrum neither the organisation nor clients were configured such that we could fully adopt an agile culture.

Meanwhile adoption of agile has continued to grow in larger organisations. Accelerated in part by the recognition of Product Management disciplines and approach.

There was however some agility before the big bang of the Agile manifesto….

I think back to my time as a Studio Manger (a shocking 20 years) having previously been a software engineer and project manager. Essentially this was a Digital Studio, although we simply called it Interactive at the time.

Something we got right back in 1998 was relevant in particular to:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

We certainly recognised and valued staff who could work in multi-function teams.  We hired designers with technical aptitude and developers with an interest in the creative. Typically we structured projects with a designer, developer and account manager. Any of whom might be designated project lead based on the nature of the project and it’s stage in the life-cycle. i.e. a very creative project may well be lead by a designer. Functionally complex project lead by the developer and content driven projects typically by the account manager. Whoever lead would have client contact.

At that time,  laptops were rare and hot-desking seemed impractical. Each person having a workstation often significantly customise, big and heavy.

We did however take the opportunity to redesign the studio and it’s furniture. Instead of benches of workstations and hot desks, we had project clusters of 4. The furniture specially designed to allow project teams to be quickly and easily reconfigured. Simply unplug from the network and wheel your cabinet and workstation to the new cluster.  Within a cluster, screens were positioned outside such that they are easy to see, and each team member can see and communicate with the other without having to shout over or walk around a stack of equipment.

Two clusters of 4, ready for workstations
Wine and beer for the opening of the new studio

I have yet to work in an environment quite like it since. Of course, laptops make the ‘wheelie-workstation’ less necessary. I remain proud of the work we did in that studio, the staff who did it and the way we worked.

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