This is a transcript of episode 26 of the OMGrowth podcast, published on May 12, 2021
You hear a lot about being agile and running an agile business and agile project management… but what-the-hey does that actually mean? More specifically, what does that buzzword mean for YOU, the solopreneur who is running this show, maybe with the help of a few contractors.
So today, we’re going to talk about how you can use traditional “agile project management” principles to ease the burden of your next big project, launch or collaboration.
WHAT IS AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT?
Agile project management is the practice of planning in increments, improving as-you-go, and being adaptable to change over taking a one-and-done planning approach.
This means frequent check-ins and status updates, and being flexible about how you’re approaching your workload, which is typically laid out in short, defined steps.
I always tell people that if you use the KanBan view in Airtable or you’re a fan of Trello boards, you “get” how agile project management works.
Each project has its phases and the goal is to do whatever work is necessary to complete that phase and move it onto the next. This way, you can easily identify the status of your projects – right down to the micro-tasks – and easily identify areas that are slowing down your progress, where things are going smoothly and how to best prepare for what’s to come.
A lot of you are accidental agile planners – happy little accidental agile planners! – because creative bosses often have a preference for being able to SEE their projects as a whole like this.
However, agile project management got its start in the software development world. I think this is why online creative entrepreneurs gravitate to this method of adaptive planning over more predictive, big-picture methods of planning.
The online world changes fast enough as it is… but throw in a creative boss like you who has all the brilliant ideas and quick-start strategies, and it’s hard to imagine there’s any planning method more efficient than agile project management.
So what does it take to truly be agile as a solopreneur? What are the key components to this planning methodology?
KEY COMPONENTS TO BEING AGILE
- END RESULT/GOAL
Keeping in mind that this project management methodology was created with software development in mind, you’ll often hear the term “user story” be used with agile project management. That’s just a fancy way of saying, “what are the features and/or end product we will be telling the software user they have available to them as a result of the project.”
In short: what is the end result or goal we’re working towards delivering here?
Because I plan everything in Airtable, the end result or goal is almost always – quite simply! – the title of my base or a tab within my base. We’re talking “podcast scheduling”, “task management”, “launch prep” and yes, “fantasy drag race”.
For Season 13 of Rupaul’s Drag Race, I hosted a Fantasy Drag Race league, which I managed through Airtable – yes, the same as fantasy football or baseball where you get points based on players performance except we’re talking about the drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
If you have a Sunday night or Monday morning ritual of stepping away from the inbox and demands to focus on planning the week ahead? You, boss, are already doing sprints.
Sprints are the practice of planning out 1 to 3 weeks of tasks and deliverables.
This allows you to quickly and easily identify things that are slowing you down or you’re not making progress on to address or tweak whatever those issues are. You’re also able to get your finger on the pulse of what is going well, what specific things you may need help with, and how far behind or ahead of schedule you are to meeting your goal.
- DAILY CHECK-INS
When you’re working with a software team, there’s a concept called “scrums” which are these very rule-heavy meetings.
The first rule of Scrum Club: Keep it short AF because this is just a status check-in to make sure everyone is on track, and if they aren’t, let’s figure out what you need to get back on track and back to work.
The second rule of Scrum Club: Don’t sit down and don’t get comfortable because – if we revisit the first rule of Scrum Club – we know these are meant to be short AF – like 10 minutes, tops – so these meetings are typically standing room only… because don’t you have work to get back to doing?
As a solopreneur, it’s the same sort of concept and keep in mind that you’re not scheduling your whole week of tasks – that’s a sprint you do once a week, at most – but being agile requires that you check in with what you need to get done and ensure you have everything you need to see that through, and adjust as necessary.
- AGILE BOARD (KANBAN)
Giving your goals, tasks and deliverables a place to live so it doesn’t all have to live in your brain is key, and a KanBan board is ideal for this type of planning.
The reason is because you can move tasks from one column – or phase – to another and really visualize the flow of the work being done.
Another component for this type – and in my opinion, any type of planning – is to create what is called a “backlog” but we would be more likely to call a “brain dump”. Again, this is about creating a space for those tasks and thoughts that would otherwise clutter our brain. Things that may be important… but not the priority or focus right now.
Because remember: agile project management is very much about dealing with what is immediately in front of you and not getting sucked in with #allthethings that eventually need to be done or looked at. It’s about hyper-focus, quick workload turnover and constant incremental progress.
And you can’t do that when you’re bobbing back and forth with everything that pops into your brain. Which P.S. you’re a creative boss and you can’t help but have a million brilliant ideas… but when it comes to being agile, the only way you need to act on them is to place them in the backlog where you can assess how and if they fit in during your next sprint.
BETTER THAN AGILE
When it comes to project management for creative solopreneurs or creatives who are working with a small team of contractors, I believe agile project management is the one that feels most comfortable most of the time.
As I mentioned earlier, combine the quick-start nature of creatives with the ever-changing online world and this incremental approach is the most efficient fit to seeing those brilliant new ideas and strategies through.
But what happens when it’s not a new idea or strategy? What about when you’re re-launching something, and you’re looking for bigger and better results?
Doing something you’ve done before with the intent of getting better results than you had last time is peak Boss Mode.
So grab your KanBan board because we’re going to use a lot of the same principles and components of agile project management… except this time, instead of the end result or goal to be seeing the project through, your focus will be on “trimming the fat” to deliver a better, easier, more timely experience than you did last time.
This is what is called “lean project management” and when you hear people talking about systemizing processes, this is the wash-rinse-repeat cycle of planning those out.
And this is my only ACTION ITEM for you this week:
If you want to see more on how I use Airtable as my go-to resource for being agile and getting lean, explore my AIRTABLE LIBRARY to see what you can do with Airtable.