What You Need to Know About Agile Design

First off—what is agile design?

Projects never go as planned. OK, maybe not never, but very rarely does a project keep its course from start to finish. From technical difficulties to scheduling troubles to new data and information—the variables are endless. As the saying goes, life imitates art, and vice versa. Sometimes our art needs a little more wiggle room to adapt to our lives.

Agile design is a project strategy with entropy in mind. Instead of a traditional waterfall cycle, agile design functions as a loop or an ellipsis. Projects take on a cycle of sprints, or short phases of design and development to be shared with stakeholders. Flexibility is favored while perfection is set to the side.

According to survey findings, agile design works. In a study conducted by Shine Technologies, 93% of respondents found that productivity was better or significantly better, while 88% found quality was better or significantly better. At its core, agile design recognizes the natural course of projects and the stakeholders involved. Its cycles allow for flexibility in development and the communication necessary to recognize setbacks along the way.

What does agile design look like?

A key component of agile design is daily “scrums,” or standups. These brief, informal meetings encourage employees to slip away from their desks and discuss projects in person. Standups make it easier to share updates and information rather than working through a thread of emails or waiting for a weekly meeting.

When talking with one another face-to-face, employees gain more than just information, but greater insight and understanding. Communication is opened, feedback loops are shortened, and the project goal is more easily in sight.

Agile design encourages the same level of communication and engagement with stakeholders as it does with those internal to the project. Rather than waiting until the end product is finished, agile design advocates sharing deliverables with stakeholders each step of the way. Through updating stakeholders at multiple points in a project cycle, they become part of the design process, resulting in more dynamic deliverables.

How To Make Agile Design Work for Your Team

As much as agile design is contingent on action, it is also dependent on a certain state of mind. For agile design to work, your project team must adjust their sentiments towards flexible deadlines and project alterations.

With all its flexibility, agile design can be daunting to those used to more rigid approaches. If your team is unfamiliar with its methods, maybe start small with open dialogue about alternative project strategies, or incorporate weekly standups into your office culture.

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Maybe you have already enacted agile design into your workspace without even realizing it. If the fluidity is there but the results aren’t ideal, try cuing stakeholders into your workflow methods. Stakeholders could mistake agile design, especially in the early deliverable stages, as sloppy or unfinished work. Openly communicate your approach and the ways in which it seeks to create a more comprehensive end product.

If those within your project team are not receptive to the cycle of sprints and feedback loops fostered by agile design, begin asking why. Some projects need more direction and support than agile design provides. Agile design esteems flexibility and doing what works for your stakeholders and collaboration team. For your team’s particular needs, perhaps meeting halfway is the answer. For instance, keeping the standups but nixing the flexible deadlines—or vice versa. That’s the beauty of agile design.

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