One of Axonn’s ever-growing challenges has been finding the best way to deliver a cross-functional service for clients. Over the course of the next few months, we're going to be keeping a ‘warts and all’ diary of our attempts to overcome this challenge by applying agile principles - also known as ‘agile marketing’ - in what could lead to a full structural revolution for our business.
Part one focused on whether agile marketing can make your life easier
Part two was Is your business ready for agile?
Part three we looked at how homeworkers can use agile
Part four we debated the pros and cons of scrum
Today we're looking at how the management team have made agile principles not only relevant but fun for staff.
Agile, scrum, sprints, scrum masters, product owners, sprint planning, product backlog, lean, sprint review. There is a lot of rhetoric surrounding agile management techniques - and all the different facets can take a while to get your head around.
As a manager, you’re likely to have more control over your own time, meaning that if you want to read endless books on the principles of agile, or research how other companies make it work, it’s relatively easy. But how do you communicate this to staff who may not have the time - nor the inclination - to learn about your fancy new management style?
Well, as is suggested in one of Axonn's core values: Make it fun!
We planned some fun training sessions in order not only to demonstrate the agile principles of Plan. Do. Review, but to show exactly how effective they can be.
This is how a group of staff ended up throwing hundreds of paper aeroplanes around the office. As many planes as they could, that would fly as far as they could - and they had to predict how many they would be able to make in two minutes. As much fun as this task was (A LOT, as it turned out) - there was no doubt that those participating were wondering what this had to do with work at first; however, by the end it was clear they understood the benefits of this technique.
A few days later, another group of colleagues found themselves in a training session contemplating a box of Lego and wondering how it had all come to this. Their task was to build a miniature city to a client brief, before receiving client feedback and trying again. They would also encounter a number of obstacles along their way.
This was all about planning, doing and reviewing, and time and time again it was proven that the more you stick to these principles, the better the finished product will be. Skip a step in the process, and the outcome is likely to be significantly worse.
As it turns out, when it comes to working creatively and collaboratively, the old-fashioned red-tape-y way of working only holds us back. When you’re being creative, you need to cast the net as wide as you can, be as ‘out there’ as you want, and then rein yourself back in. You need to be able to put yourself out there, fail, and then try again, taking into consideration what you learnt from your last attempt. This is not entirely possible in a rigid system where every piece of work has to be recorded and accounted for.
In a workplace where we’re not entirely used to the agile principles, it’s not so much cutting red tape as much as hacking through it with a chainsaw - and that’s why it’s important to try to embed it in company culture and allow people to become accustomed to it gradually, rather than it being a big culture shock. So introducing it in simple situations where the results are very clear - and, indeed, using playthings from childhood - made a lot of sense.
Everyone who attended the sessions seemed to come away with, not just an understanding of what agile is, but how the principles could actually benefit our work. This was because with both the paper aeroplane and the Lego sessions, our attempts got vastly better, and significantly more efficient, after every review session.
Indeed, the more we looked at what went wrong with our previous efforts - the more reviewing we did - the better our new attempts got, and the more we were able to achieve.
Not to mention that everyone got to spend a couple of hours of the working day playing with toys