'Agile' could be the hottest agency buzzword around. So, this week we're exploring its impact on the creative process and overall output of projects.

From Mad Men to agile thinkers

How new styles of working can change the way creatives work for the better.

George Organ

Creative

Learning Organisation

5 minute read

Call me clichéd, but I’m a t-shirt kind of creative – and not even an ironed t-shirt kind of creative (sorry Mum). So, for the past decade, whenever I was put in front of a client, I had to dust off the collared shirt and put away the hat.

Then one day, that all changed. I joined an agile team that was designed to work closely with a major banking client, and unsurprisingly, my first thought was ‘Do I need to buy a suit?’.

Fortunately, it was nowhere near as daunting (if wearing something other than a t-shirt could be considered ‘daunting’). In fact, it’s taught me some valuable lessons about getting closer to customer problems, working collaboratively and working efficiently.
In short
  • 58% of creatives saw their workload increase in 20201, making efficient ways of working more important than ever.
  • Working in an agile setup can broaden a creative’s skillset in ways that the traditional agency model can often neglect.
  • While agile has its benefits, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Getting closer to the problem
The core of what we do as marketers (and I’m including agencies in this bucket) is solve problems – everyday customer challenges that we aim to address through a product or service.

And the best way to solve those problems is to understand them first.

By bringing creatives, business management and clients together in tighter-knit teams, agile allows all parties to get closer to the crux of a problem, ask questions, bounce ideas and receive quicker feedback on how things can be optimised.

Think of it like a CEO spending a day in the warehouse, getting hands on with problems and seeing how those day-to-day challenges come about, from an (almost) insider’s perspective. Not only does this mean you can move more nimbly, but it also often leads to stronger solutions.
See ya, silos
Many creatives work in silos, mainly as that’s how things have always been done.2 Think Don Draper, locking himself away with an endless supply of ciggies and whisky, only to emerge for the big reveal.

Unfortunately (or fortunately for our health), that way of working just doesn’t cut it these days – particularly with agile. Instead, open communication, fluid work styles and, most importantly, collaboration have become cornerstone of the methodology. So, from time to time, all parts of an agency, and even the client will need to work as one.
Speed is of the essence
A recent study found that 58% of creatives saw their workload increase in 2020 compared to 20191, increasing the need for creatives to consider more efficient ways of working.

As a creative, few things are more valuable than time. So, when you’re not afforded that luxury, breaking projects into smaller chunks (or ‘sprints’ if you love jargon) and having faster feedback loops – both characteristics of agile – gives you the structure to deliver quality at speed.
Is agile for everyone?
Not necessarily. Agile can have its benefits for creative teams, but it’s important to understand that it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

So, before you start bandying about agile buzzwords like ‘Scrum’ and ‘Kanban’ like some sort of jargonaut, there’s a few things you need to consider. Firstly, take a look at the nature of your projects, then the level of collaboration required and, finally, the receptiveness of your people, particularly your creative teams (we’re a cranky enough bunch as it is).

But no matter what agency structure you choose, just remember to keep letting creatives wear t-shirts.

on teamwork making the dream work
Brands are also finding ways to team up – putting aside any competition to tackle the biggest global issues. From Microsoft’s Transform to Net Zero initiative featuring headliner brands like Starbucks and Nike, to Germany’s BioNTech partnership with America’s Pfizer to create the eponymous vaccine – it’s clear that brands are shifting their thinking.

The language of lean
Agile has revolutionised more than how we work. It’s changed the way we speak – morphing complex processes into tightly-packaged terms that will have you questioning everything you once knew about the English language. Limber up your lingo with these:

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