Have you wondered if Scrum can be used on creative teams made up of illustrators, videographers or motion designers?
Three years ago I had the same question. And I found the answer.
In 2020, as the pandemic was beginning, I was asked to guide the creative department of a global nonprofit through the adoption of Scum across three newly-distributed teams.
The approach I recommend here is born from that experience. If you want to hear the story of that whole journey, signup for when my creative scrum guide launches in 2023.
We took an iterative approach to design a new system because everything was changing so fast in the spring of 2020. Eventually, our implementation of Scrum stabilized as we clarified these four elements.
Let’s walk through each one.
When establishing those teams, I made initial adjustments in three areas of our workflow:
These same areas will be critical as you run Creative Scrum
The team was previously receiving a new project request every working day of the year. They would come in with all the details written out by the requesting stakeholder. The pace was unsustainable, and the process created a lot of confusion. It needed to change.
It was clear we would get too much pushback if we shut down the request form completely. So we made two simultaneous moves.
First, the work request form was converted to a conversation request form. In the original request, a stakeholder could check boxes for all the kinds of design work they might want, such as video, print, web, branding, etc. People would often request things they didn’t need, not provide the necessary information, and have unrealistic expectations about how long it would take.
Now they enter their contact info, the problem they are trying to address and what they would like to discuss in our conversation.
This change was driven by the agile value of individuals and interactions over processes and tools and customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
The original form burdened identifying a design solution on the person making the request. With the new form, we could enter the process with a different posture of trying to help create a solution rather than crank out some deliverables that may not actually solve the problem.
Second, we identified the critical stakeholders for different areas of the organization and began initiating with them. As the pandemic raged on, we wanted them to understand how we were changing and how we could better serve them.
We asked about their priorities and reviewed work requests from the previous year to forecast their needs for this year. We could identify what content or decisions we need from them for that work and schedule it ahead of time.
Suddenly we could see not only what the department was currently focused on but what was coming in the future. I compared it to the role of an air traffic controller in the tower, knowing that planes had left Tokyo, New York and Chicago all headed this way. Before, we were like someone standing on the runway with batons trying to direct the planes, only knowing what was visible in the sky above.
As we identified projects through conversation requests or stakeholder meetings, we defined them with user stories. These user stories allowed us to sort them into the backlogs of our newly formed creative teams.
Now each team has visibility of both current and future work.
Implementing Scrum itself significantly impacted the rhythm of how we assigned work by organizing everything into three-week sprints.
We also implemented a four-month cadence with our stakeholders to identify priorities and projects. We called these trimesters because they divided the year into three parts. This rhythm aligned with the cadence of spring, summer, and fall, that’s normal in an education-related non-profit.
We would meet with the stakeholder at the beginning of the trimester and work on forecasting and defining the next two trimesters. So our horizon was always about eight months into the future.
Stakeholders could still reach out to us as needed, and we still received some conversation requests, but the bulk of our work came through these meetings. Working proactively allowed our team to roadmap the projects and identify and resolve dependencies, bottlenecks and other issues before they were a crisis.
Did you know Scrum applies to more than just developing code?
When you understand the essentials of Scrum and the nuance of how to apply it, you can use it to level up aspects of everyday life.