Individual Agile Marketers (Becoming an Agile Guinea Pig)

 

Yesterday I hosted a webinar with the Content Marketing Institute and Workfront on how to change your content marketing team for the better using agile principles. It's good that it was a screenshare only, because agile content marketing is pretty much my favorite thing to talk about, and by the end I was gesticulating wildly at my screen despite being totally alone.

I'm a nerd. I've come to terms with it.

BUT - that's not what this post is about.

This post is about all the people who asked AMAZING questions after the webinar was over. Several different people asked about how to manage content on an agile team of one, and whether agile principles even work for these folks flying solo. I believe that they can work, because I've seen it happen.

Showing is more powerful than telling, however, which is why I'm going to be running a series of agile experiments on myself over the next few weeks and documenting the results.

To start off, I'm planning to adhere pretty much to Scrum, even though I'd never suggest strict Scrum to a team under five people. My Sprint will last from Friday, October 7 to Friday, October 14, with no planned work happening on Saturday and Sunday.

My hypothesis is that Kanban will actually be the best approach for me, but you can't prove a hypothesis without gathering data, right? So, that's what I'm going to do.

For starters, I did a big brain dump of all the things I know I need to do for the rest of the month, as well as a whole of bunch of things I could be doing. I divided the "could do" tasks into two columns: one for content-related projects, and one for agile-related projects. I'm trying to grow my content marketing consulting business while also devoting time to the agile topics that I'm super passionate about, so I don't want to neglect either of these goals.

From this mess I created a backlog for the rest of October, eliminating a few things that weren't as important in the next few weeks. My plan is to use this backlog for all my methodology experiments.

To try and create some visual division, I've got paying work marked with red stickies, while the blue ones indicate things I'd like to be doing to build my business and personal brand, but won't put any food on the table. Little yellow stickies are for recurring tasks, specifically adding five contacts to my budding CRM each day and managing my personal social media accounts.

I'll record a daily standup each day at 9am Mountain Time and put it on social media in case anybody is interested in following along that closely. I'll have a review and retro next Friday, October 14, and then proceed to try Kanban the following week and Scrumban for the final week of October.

Let the Great Agile Guinea Pig Experiment begin!


Daily Standup, Thursday, October 13

Yesterday: Went into record a video with a client, which always cuts down on my productivity. But I managed to finish my article and get both of my proposals out the door by the end of the day. Social media (recurring task) got done, but not the 5 entries into my CRM. I put those in while watching TV after dinner, so they got done but a bit outside working hours. I didn't feel too bad about this, however, because I devoted the last hour or so of the work day to brainstorming book titles, which is usually reserved for after work hours. I had to slot it in earlier because my brain simply DOES. NOT. WORK. after 8pm.

Today: I have a piece for CCO magazine due this week that I am super jazzed to write, so that will take up most of the morning. I need to schedule the rest of my social media -- I got a little done during my early morning session today. I got edits back on another client piece that need to be incorporated, and then after lunch I should be able to tackle my last conference submission for the week and finish planning the book project.

Blocks: None, especially now that I'm not messing about with the standup video. I miss talking to you guys, but I need the half hour to forty-five minutes that I was losing very badly!

Sprint Retro, Tuesday, October 18

This is not the day I planned to have a retrospective, but I've proven to be powerless against the forces of the flu. It turns out the iterations of solo practitioners can be easily derailed by illness. Good lesson.

But, in the interest of the process, I wanted to take a moment to talk about some Start, Stop, and Continue items from Iteration #1.

Start:

  • Getting better at video so I can return to my video standups. I LOVED recording these, but I've got to improve my video skills so I don't lose a huge chunk of time everyday to editing and posting them. Until then, it's text only :(
  • Allowing room for unplanned work. Even without external stakeholders or team members to throw off my groove, things still happened last week that I didn't plan for (I'm looking at you, flu.). This wasn't so bad, as even with new work I hadn't overextended myself.
  • Looking at my iteration more holistically. Since I work for myself, I set my own hours/schedule. That means I can be more flexible about what goes into my iteration. I.e. it doesn't have to be all work stuff. I could expand my iteration to include some personal improvement items, and think about the day as my whole 12 hour block from when I get up at 5am to when my family gets back home at 5pm.

Stop:

  • Task switching so much. I'm still bad at losing time to moving from task to task during the day, especially when I'm getting mentally tired. I need to focus on completing something before I move on. A stricter definition of "Done" might help.

Continue:

  • My physical board. It won't be practical when my travel picks up again in the first quarter, but for now it's lovely having my sticky notes to move each day.
  • Tracking velocity. I ended up hitting 57 points, even with Flu-pocalypse, so I can plan my week a lot better knowing what I completed last week. As time goes on and I get more data, I'll be able to know how much I can do on travel weeks, when the kids are home on vacation, etc.

Due to Flu Fallout I've got to crank through a little bit of a writing bottleneck, so I'll pick back up with an officially documented Kanban iteration starting next week. Stay tuned!