What I like the most about Agile-thinking is the principle of taking action with very little planning. This philosophy of learn-as-you-go creates space and time for the team to experiment with ideas to create a successful product.
For the past year, I have participated in an agile experiment of sorts. Basically, the goal was to write a weekly newsletter. But more specifically, the intention was to create meaningful content to readers of the newsletter which would empower them to continue to make positive change in their organizations by applying Agile methods.
Six weeks after starting the newsletter, I attended my first Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) training in Toronto, Ontario. At first, I thought I could manage the newsletter content and delivery using Scrum. I quickly realized I couldn’t. Even if I viewed myself as a ScrumMaster, I wasn’t working on a Scrum team. There was no Product Owner. It couldn’t be run using Scrum.
However, I realized something essential that I could glean from Scrum and that is the idea of Sprints. I realized right away that if I viewed the creation and delivery of the newsletter in one-week Sprints I likely could be successful. And indeed, this application of a Scrum method was extremely useful.
Thinking about delivering a newsletter in one-week Sprints helped me to think about the smallest amount of content which could be easily and predictably delivered weekly. As my capacity, and the capacity of the team improved, so could the level of complexity also increase.
As the level of complexity increased, the newsletter itself improved in quality.
I would like to write more about how a newsletter can be created and distributed using Sprints and other Agile methods because doing it this way helped me to stay adaptive & flexible as the newsletter was refined.
5 keys for using Sprints to create & distribute a newsletter
- Understand “Done Done!” – Before CSM training, the newsletter was “done” when I pressed ‘send’ on my computer. When I better understood the meaning of “Done Done” in a Sprint I changed my thinking and behaviour. When I sent the first draft to be proof-read, this was “Done” and when it was returned to me edited and when I did final revision then it was ready for scheduling. When I pressed “Schedule” then the newsletter was “Done Done.” I would plan to schedule the newsletter three days before it was expected to be released. That gave me three days of ‘buffer’ to accommodate last-minute changes, if necessary. I was learning to become more Agile.
- Learn to Accommodate Last-Minute Changes – If last minutes changes cannot be easily accommodated, then the product delivery is likely not Agile. When I started creating and distributing a weekly product, with the expectation that things could change at any time then I learned to establish a “bare-minimum” which could be produced even if changes occurred. This gave me the ability to be flexible and adaptive and much more Agile.
- Be Agile; Don’t Do Agile – When I went to CSM training, I thought I would learn how to do Agile things on my team. When I completed the training and started applying Sprints to the weekly distribution of a newsletter, then I realized I must “Be” Agile in my approach, in my communications, and in my creation of the product. I learned that Agile is really a state of mind and not a “thing” at all. Agile is about continuous action, reflection and planning with an open-mind and a readiness to always learn and grow and change.
- Action, Reflection, Planning – Before using one week Sprints, I didn’t give myself enough time to reflect and plan the next Sprint. I had a backlog with enough items to keep me busy for 6 months. My work-in-progress was a nightmare and unmanageable. I had four weeks worth of drafts saved and often got confused between what content was going out when. Establishing a regular weekly cadence helped me take control of this “mess” by just taking small action steps, reflecting on them weekly, and using the learning to plan the next steps. This revolutionized my work.
- Prepare For Growth – When a product is delivered successfully with Sprints, it keeps getting better and better. This leads to goals being met and growth happening on the team. In this case, it lead to increasing numbers of subscribers and the establishment of a collaborative team approach to creating and distributing the newsletter. Without Sprints, without an Agile mindset, I’m absolutely certain the goals would not have been achieved and growth wouldn’t have occurred. But with Sprints, things just keep getting better and better every week. I love it!
If you’d like to subscribe to the weekly newsletter I mentioned here, you can do so at this link.