Last sprint, first step

This week I’m finishing up an Agile sprint. Not just any sprint, though, my last sprint as a technical writer embedded on a sprint team at ASI. I’ve learned so much there in the last couple of years that I’ve decided to make a go at consulting. I want to help people with content strategy, social media, and any tools they need along the way such as collaborative authoring, wikis, web content management systems, or DITA.

This week is my last Agile sprint for a while, but I think I’ll adopt some Agile principles and apply them to my new work lifestyle as an advisor for LugIron and a contractor for Informatica here in Austin.

  1. Only deliver things that an actual customer would find useful.
  2. Deliver something that I consider to be done, shippable, and customer- ready.
  3. You can do any task, no matter how daunting, if you slice it thin enough.
  4. You should list and prioritize all tasks, large and small, that get you incrementally closer to your goals.
  5. Create prototypes all the time, no matter how rough or simplistic. Keep polishing as you go.
  6. Reflect periodically, and change what’s not working well.
  7. Understand the business goals. Clarify when needed by asking questions and seeking the details.
  8. Welcome changing expectations and requirements. Embrace change.
  9. Maintain a sustainable pace. I should be able to maintain a constant pace forever.
  10. And if all else fails, don’t overthink it, and go get a beer.

12 Comments

  • Lisa Dyer
    January 18, 2010 - 10:01 am | Permalink

    Congrats, Anne! Delighted about your career direction, and looking forward to continued collaboration accompanied by beer:)

    May lots of business come your way!

    Cheers,

    – lisa

  • January 18, 2010 - 10:13 am | Permalink

    These are great rules for all of us to follow in whatever capacity. I think I’m going to apply these rules to our house selling tasks! Good Luck and remember the thing about ASI is this: It’s like they say in all those mobster movies, just when you think you’re getting out, they pull you right back in! :)

  • January 18, 2010 - 10:31 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Anne. I’ve circulated your “10 principles” list to all of the writers in my group who are working in Agile. I think that #2, #7, and #8 represent the biggest change in mindset from traditional technical writing — and they’re all vital for success.

    #10, of course, is the most vital of all. :-)

  • January 18, 2010 - 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Wow, congratulations on your new start, Anne! Your top ten are great. I like number 8 especially, the one about welcoming change. To me, that embodies the main difference between agile and waterfall methodologies. It’s also a philosophy that all parts of the team can embrace – developers, tech writers, managers and all. Good luck and keep us posted!
    Cheers, Sarah

  • Jessica
    January 18, 2010 - 5:32 pm | Permalink

    How do you reconcile #2 and #5? That is, only deliver customer-ready material an always having prototypes. You need feedback to turn prototypes into customer-ready docs, but, when you show a prototype, or, should I say, when I show prototypes to people, they freak out thinking that it’s customer-facing.

    How do you handle that conundrum?

  • January 18, 2010 - 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Boy, that’s a tough one. We’ll demo the latest user interface elements after our daily standup, and then revise for the next day, but by the end of the sprint we consider the labels “shippable.” Now, with end-user docs, prototypes could be as simple as paper and post-its before you commit it to a computer screen. Guess you have to build up the trust that you say it’s a prototype, it is a prototype. Can you adapt “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?” :)

    I know plenty of doc deliverables that take longer than a 2 week sprint would allow would need some hi-res prototyping, though, and sometimes you need a doc backlog as well. Pull that doc sprint out of your back pocket! See http://heratech.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/agile-doc-reviews-the-documentation-sprint/ for a nice example.

  • January 18, 2010 - 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks all – I love how this post got a nice life on Twitter today too. :) I appreciate the encouragement all around!

  • Courtney Robertson
    January 19, 2010 - 5:28 pm | Permalink

    What a great list of things to take away from Agile. We’ll miss you. Best of luck with your career!

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  • January 26, 2010 - 10:28 am | Permalink

    Anne, best of luck and thank you for the wit, patience and guidance you’ve provided.

  • Susan
    January 27, 2010 - 8:56 am | Permalink

    Great list, Anne! I’m going to print it and post it so I can look at it regularly for inspiration (and perspective). Best of luck to you in your new (ad)venture.

  • October 23, 2010 - 4:19 am | Permalink

    Long time viewer / first time poster. Really enjoying reading the blog, keep up the good work. Will definitely start posting more in the future.

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