Agility before Agile

Having spent the last 6 years or so, mostly project managing things digital, web and mobile we selectively adopted some artefacts and ceremonies from Kanban and Scrum. However neither the organisation nor clients were ready to fully adopt Agile culture.

Meanwhile Agile has found its way beyond tech’ into traditionally conservative organisations including banking.

There was agility before the Agile manifesto formally pulled it all together. As a Studio Manager in the late 1990s we had a few things right which map to Agile priorities:

  • 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 sought designers with technical aptitude and developers with an creative flair to ensure some overlap in skill-sets (T-shaped capability). A core project team consisted of a designer, developer and account manager. Any of whom might be project lead, based on the nature of the project. i.e. a very creative project may well be lead by a designer, functionally complex projects lead by a developer and content driven projects typically by an account manager.

At that time,  laptops were rare and hot-desking impractical with each person’s workstation often highly customised, big and heavy.

We redesigned our studio and it’s furniture to facilitate quick and easy team flexibility. Instead of benches of workstations, we had specially designed furniture arranged in clusters of four. Within the cluster, the centre space was kept clear with computer screens were arranged to the outer edge ensuring team members can see each other, easily communicate and view each screen content with a slight turn. Workstations consisted of desktop computer and monitor both on top of a customised mobile pedestal. Changing teams was simply a matter of unplugging and wheeling the workstation to the next cluster.

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

I haven’t found an environment quite like it since. Of course, laptops and WIFI make the ‘wheelie-workstation’ less necessary. I remain proud of the work we did in that studio, my colleagues and the way we worked together.