Posted on by Steven Savage

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Now on to the 9th Agile Principle, one of my favorites (it’s hard to pick a favorite), because it makes a great point often forgotten. It also applies to so many situations. Let’s take a look

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

Ah just soak that one in. By paying attention to technical excellence and good design, you become even more adaptable, more productive – more Agile. Simple, and elegant, so as you may guess I’m going to analyze the hell out of it. It’s not that it hides any excret complexity – it’s obvious – it’s that there’s a lot of power in this that anyone can use – and Creatives have unique opportunities to take advantage of.

Let’s take this – backwards.

The Goal: Enhancing Agility

Note this Principle spells out that technical excellence and good design are things that one wants to pay attention to – always. That of course seems obvious, because who wouldn’t want to pay attention to doing things right and designing things right? But it states specifically that this enhances agility – that it lets you act, manage, and work agilely.

The benefits of these things aren’t just “hey well done” – they’re that you use Agile methods and apply agile principles better. There’s a benefit beyond the obvious of “doing stuff well.”

So it helps to spell it out. If you want to improve agility, do things right and design them well.

For Creatives, which often deal with unpredictability, ways to enhance agility are always welcome. Creatives are almost always entering unknown territory, have challenges communicating work, and more.  Anything to make work more adaptable, more predictable – more agile – should be welcome. More agility allows you to deliver more value.

So let’s look at just good design and technical excellence help you out – and help you be an agile creative.

Good Design

When you design something well, it’s more than just a “valuable” piece of work. It delivers other benefits that deliver agility. Let’s look at them and how they apply to creative work.

  • Good designs prevents errors since you can get it right the first time. This means you save time since you’ve got less revision – and aspiring to good design focuses you on listening to the client and understanding work so you deliver value. That helps in unpredictable developments, which you probably face a lot.
  • Good designs are repeatable in part or in whole – which saves time in the future. That lets you work faster since you’ve got other things to call on like design templates, reusable code, or helpful checklist. This can help you in creative works because you’ve got some work done already – at least the less predictable or more standard parts.
  • Good design makes your work shareable – because you can communicate it. This makes it easier to review with clients, as well as easier to teach to people. Creative work has its challenges in communication, so good design makes it easier – and good communication means more agility.
  • Good design is just good practice. Making something well-designed in turn helps you just learn to do things better – and that by definition will make work more agile.  Creative work often involves multiple skillsets, so good design helps deal with that.

Technical Excellence

Good design isn’t necessarily the same as technical excellence.  Good Design may be about laying things out and putting things together well, about organizing and making patterns apparent.  Technical excellence is about attention to detail, about doing things right, and about not overdoing things. Again, it has obvious benefits anyway, but  let’s see how it affects Agile Creativity.

  • Technical excellence just means things are done right and done well.  This ensures not having to redo things so you can move on – good for any form of organization, but in agile . .
  • Technical excellence also means that you’ve learned lessons you can repeat and teach.  Since many Agile methodologies focus on review and improvement, when you do it right once, you can do it again.  This is important in creative work since, with so many options in creative works, having repeatable work is helpful.
  • Technical excellence builds confidence in the people you work with and deliver work to.  When people see you do well, they trust you.  Creative works, which have many options and many variants, require trust.

You want to aspire to technical excellence period – but when you work with Agile methods, the benefits are even more pornounced.

When it involves creative work, it’s essential.

The Ninth Principle

The Ninth Agile Principle really is a great reminder that designing things well and doing them right has more benefits than the obvious – it lets you be better at being Agile.  When you’re a creative it has some specific benefits:

  • Good design helps reduce unpredictability, creates repeatable elements, allows work to be easier shared, and is just good practice.
  • Technical excellence reduces doing things over, teaches you repeatable lessons and inspires confidence.

– Steve

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