SxSW workshop: Agile Experience Design
As some of you know, Cathie Hagan, Megan Cook and I recently ran a workshop at SxSW entitled: "AXD: Agile Experience Design". This was a good mix of skills, as Cathie is from the BA practice and Megan is a bit of a hybrid between BA and XD.
What we did:
We were allocated a 60min slot to run a workshop on Agile Experience design. There was a diverse audience of designers, developers, managers and company owners. Some were familiar with Agile, many were not. We wanted to teach some fundamental principles of design in Agile teams and to allow people to experience it for themselves.We designed the "Play Doh Zoo" game (inspired by the Lean Lego game).
We split people into teams as they came into the ballroom and then those teams were split into construction workers and designer/planners. An extra group represented the customers. We prepared packs for each team full of play doh, pipe cleaners, pop sticks, tape and more tools. We gave them foam boards to build their zoo on. We used whistles to signal the end of iterations, and we led them through a retro highlighting the learnings we wanted them to take away. We will post more information about how to run this game soon.
Roy closed our session with a stirring and inspiring speech and you can see his notes here. It definitely inspired the crowd, and helped people see that we are much more than just another software consultancy.
How it was received:
As the whole ballroom descended into chaos, I was quite sure that we had pulled it off. A client tapped me on the shoulder and told me with a wide grin, that this is exactly how it feels when we come into their workplaces. People were running around, fully engaged in the game, and shouting enthusiastically at each other.
Lots of people came up to us at the end and said that they really enjoyed themselves, and that they learned a lot. It's clear that it would have been great to be able to do an hour Q&A session after the game, as we spent at least that long answering questions. A couple of people felt that we didn't give time to answer their questions and some were disappointed because they thought this was a panel, although it was clearly listed as a workshop. You can't please everyone, and we take this on as feedback that next time it would be good to also run a panel at SxSW.
How we would do things in an ideal world (briefly):
Agile is about continuously evolving your product, this is BOTH delivery and design. You need to build what you can with what you know. That is, start with some of the known areas, use your design patterns. For instance, registration forms are a well know space use the best practice here, get the team working and spend your research time and energy in the truly innovative areas of your product (hint this should happen in parallel).The key is getting the product out as soon as possible so you can validate that what you are actually building (rather than conceiving) is the right direction.
The benefits of this approach are many. Firstly you can validate your direction. Secondly your client (product owner) is happy because they achieve ROI earlier, and they can really see the product evolving, rather than less engaging documents they can play with the real thing. Finally your team will be happy as they will be able to start making them feel more confident that they can reach their deadlines and more engaged.
The other important point is to be collaborative while design. Not just with the business stakeholders either, make sure you can include your team. The developers will invariably have a deeper product knowledge than you and their fresh perspective may uncover fresh opportunities that would have never been thought of without their inclusion. Also collaborating is the easiest way to to get buy in, as the design becomes communal property rather than seen as something imposed.
For a good impression of what we did, take a look at Adam Kleinberg's excellent write-up.