Not so long ago, Neil Perkin invited me to speak at the event he was arranging to take place at Google UK HQ. Neil was keen to explore what Agile Planning means and the event, named FireStarters, brought together a 100 or so planners to share in the discussion. What followed was an excellent evening that included Mark Earls giving us What She is Having and many breakout sessions on various themes over beers. Neil has a great write-up on his blog.
This was a great chance to expand on the Lean Startup based approach we are using at Made By Many and introduced at Planningness in NY back last September. Since then we have learn't alot and the presentation I gave (embedded after the jump) introduces what I think can become some best practice for developing "Lean Agencies", agencies built from the ground-up to search for innovation.
I will talk in more detail about the Lean Agency in a future blog post but for now here are a few points I was trying to make in a 45 min talk (which, delivered at rapid pace, ended up around the 30 minute mark). The key points were:
- The industry has talked a lot about designing "communication products", "branded utilities and "advertising as a service" for years but there are still so few good agency examples (still referencing Nike+ anyone?). Is it time to come to terms with the fact that the existing agency process and setup just can't do this successfully?
- What can we learn for start-ups and the lean start-up movement that shows us a potential blueprint for producing this kind of work?
- There is no one-to-one mapping from lean startup to the agency world, but if we learn to be 'lean agencies' we can deliver this kind of innovation for clients.
- The characteristics of the lean agency will be: iterative; integrated; metrics and evidence driven; strive to minimize waste.
- I only talked really about the first point, iteration. There is so much talk about how people need to be iterative but no advice on how to do it successfully.
- The process most people use comes from the general post-war process of the production line, designed to specialize individuals and tasks and drive down the cost of producing commodity goods. This is the process most advertising creation follows.
- The traditional creative approach is like betting on a hole-in-one based on the experience of a team of experts.
- Traditional website/software development used this process until they discovered Agile. The primary takeaway we learn from Agile Software Development = "RESPOND TO CHANGE"
- We use an iterative process of Make -> Test -> Learn. I presented a very fast case study of how we are doing this for Skype.
- We learned you need to rinse and repeat to be agile. To iterate, not just increment, you must evolve the product.
- Iteration is only useful when done at speed. That's because the more speed, the greater the number of feedback points you will get.
- Feedback is important. This is what makes it iterative: that you change based on feedback, and at many points throughout the process. We learn always through feedback, metrics and evidencing.
- We must balance iteration and optimisation with intuitive leaps. Iteration can make the best of an idea and kill the ones that won't work but it won't tell you if a better idea exists.
- Finally, we are still learning how to improve this. As with everything iterative it remains an unfinished piece.
There will be more on this blog on the subject of the lean agency so come back often and we would love to hear any and all comments on this. Feedback is how we learn.