“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.”
“The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”
These two statements are both taken from the Agile Manifesto for Software Development, a revolutionary document that was penned in 2001.
At the time, it was painfully accurate.
How could a distributed team whose members were at the mercy of asynchronous time zones and unreliable communication channels share ideas, provide feedback, and deliver continuously?
Technology could not support dynamic, ongoing communication across multiple physical locations, so, for the Manifesto’s authors, face-to-face communication became a prerequisite for agility.
In 2017, however, we can now deliver on the promise put forward in the principle of motivated individuals without being hamstrung by geographic limitations. Face-to-face communication is no longer a requirement.
An exciting new piece of technology, the Google Jamboard, helps us finally build projects, be they in software development, marketing, human resources, or sales, around motivated, brilliant, qualified individuals.
(If you’re not familiar with Jamboard, I suggest you take a look at this quick video to see what I’m on about.)
Enabling Lean Processes Throughout the Organization
Lean thinking is percolating through organizations of all shapes and sizes, whether we’re ready for it or not. An MVP, or minimum viable product, is no longer the sole province of the software world.
- Agencies are pressured to get work in front of their clients long before it’s finished.
- Marketers are expected to test small components of a campaign in advance of a large launch.
- Leadership teams field demands to justify spend before their budgets are approved.
Using an MVP reduces risk and increases the chance that an idea will survive (be viable) in the marketplace. But it’s historically been difficult for non-software teams to provide a true MVP without over investing in its creation.
Jamboard helps us overcome this challenge by providing an interactive, multimedia platform where we can demonstrate an idea immediately and then iterate on it frequently. Early brainstorms can be captured accurately and shared instantly, allowing teams to hit the “minimum” threshold much sooner.
Jamboard also makes it far easier to collect simultaneous, documented feedback from distributed clients or stakeholders, meaning we discover the “viable” version of an initial idea faster as well.
Whether our MVP is a creative brief, a social media campaign, or entirely new organization-wide initiative, we get there faster with these kinds of tools in our corner.
Building Around Motivated Individuals, No Matter the Time Zone
Agile principles value contributions from any and all team members, no matter their personality or time zone. But the “motivated individuals” we want to build around aren’t always accessible through traditional means.
In the past Agile team leaders and coaches have had to search out creative ways to honor every voice, but Jamboard technology means you don’t have to be an outspoken person in the team’s main time zone to contribute.
If your best ideas hit you after the cacophony of a meeting is over, you can access the Jamboard, review what your colleagues contributed, and then build on it, learn from it, and iterate on it.
The benefits of this continual access go even beyond innovative team members in distributed locations. As more and more knowledge workers log hours at home, being able to contribute to a Jamboard project on a tablet from the comfort of your coach means brilliance is no longer limited by 9-5.
In fact, time zone differences can even become an asset. One team is testing an idea while the other is sleeping, reporting their findings and adding things to the previous day’s Jamboard session. Then the other team can build on it during their own work day.
A 24-hour creativity cycle becomes possible, enabling us to keep up with the 24-hour social media cycle that our audiences live by.
Agility for All
From day one of the movement, Agile pioneers codified the need to value individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
This preference has made whiteboards the go-to tool of Agile coaches and teams the world over, because it delivers a lightweight process and tools that have a very low barrier to entry.
Unfortunately, there are limits to a whiteboard’s ability to support certain working styles. It also fails to provide the right environment for motivated individuals outside the primary team workspace.
And so we turn to technology to bridge the gap, inevitably tipping the scales towards processes and tools.
But now, for the first time in the history of the Agile movement, we’re presented with a viable middle ground. Jamboard offers a way to devote our professional energies to really supporting individuals and interactions rather than struggling with tools and processes, all while still delivering the sophistication and technological power that modern teams and organizations require.
Editor's Note: I realize this is a more promotional style piece than we usually publish here on AgileSherpas. To be 100% clear: neither AgileSherpas nor the author of this piece are being paid to talk about this technology. We've seen it in action and really think it fills a gap in the tools available to Agile teams. If you have questions or comments please feel free to let us know.