What does agile environment really mean?

8 years ago from , ui designer & developer at Crain Communications Inc

I hear this term thrown around quite a bit and while I seem to understand it, (and have certainly worked in this environment my entire professional career), I'd like to maybe hear some thoughts on it and its alternative methodologies.


  • Andrew ConnAndrew Conn, 8 years ago (edited 8 years ago )

    Most of what I hear about these days are around two agile methodologies, at least where I'm at in the SF Bay Area - Scrum and Kanban (although, I guess there's some debate on if Kanban is Agile). I'm not the expert on these by any means, but here are some ramblings...

    Agile manifesto is the higher level guidance. 1) Working software over documentation. 2) People and interactions over process and tools. 3) Customer collaboration over contract negotiations. 4) Responding to change over following a plan. Agile works for up to approx 50 teams, then the guidance is to move to something like the Scaled Agile Framework.

    Scrum is usually better for complex work. It's time boxed so it forces you to complete slices, if you will, to enable faster learning and iteration. This is why a lot of startups do Scrum.

    Kanban came out of Toyota manufacturing and it's about continuous flow, visibility, and improvement. It's not supposed to be time boxed. Flow is managed with WIP limits. It's usually better for known, repeatable work where you can concentrate on 'getting stuff over the line'.

    Overall, the work should be driving the process. Not the team's decision on how they want to work. Just like in Engineering where you choose the right tools/language to solve the problem.

    One final note, as it's Designer News. This is purely my opinion and you can of course disagree, but I don't think either of these frameworks are ideal for creating the best UX/product possible at companies. The collaboration between designers and engineers in product/software organizations is key and I really do not think either Scrum or Kanban enable this very well.

    8 points
    • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, 8 years ago

      Great answer!

      1 point
    • Andrew ZimmermanAndrew Zimmerman, 8 years ago (edited 8 years ago )

      I believe the goal of lean UX (and the principle behind moving design work out of waterfall) is to have the team in close proximity, both physically and in skillsets/roles. In that model, I believe a designer can work within an agile shop, but I agree with Mr. Criswell in that the designer's primary role will be during product ideation and prototyping.

      Having recently been certified in scrum, I have to agree that kanban is a better fit for my current employer. ^ _ ^

      Company culture will likely be the determining factor in whether an agile methodology is successful.

      0 points
    • Mitch Malone, 8 years ago

      The collaboration between designers and engineers in product/software organizations is key and I really do not think either Scrum or Kanban enable this very well.

      When collaboration is important to the organization's culture, then it's easy for designers and engineers (and every team) to collaborate.

      0 points
  • Oz ChenOz Chen, 8 years ago

    Half baked response but this has been swirling around in my head for a while:

    Lean and agile are philosophies written such that it’s hard to refute or argue with. “Of course that’s the better way to do things!”

    But context is just as, if not more important.

    Agile & Lean should be approached a-la-carte. Imagine a repository of lean & agile practices bucketed by… - collaboration - design process - ideation etc…

    And then picking and choosing on what works per your environment. Maybe parts of aigle don’t work so well at the UX maturity that your enterprise has, but here are some quick wins that you can still implement.

    That’s way more useful than trying to pit a square peg into a round hole, even if that square peg is really nice and shiny.

    1 point
  • Ilya SitnikovIlya Sitnikov, 8 years ago

    The way that I was explained it....

    Agile is like a road with markers on it and its all about reiteration based on feedback for every single marker.

    Waterfall (the other methodology) is more about the bigger picture.

    0 points
  • Scot Criswell, 8 years ago

    I agree with Oz Chen. While maintaining an agile approach is always the goal we tend to employ specific approaches for different circumstances and projects. The largest portion of our agile workflows take place in the product development/ design portion. Iterative, tested etc... The actual development tends to be a little more hand off and develop and less scrum like or agile.

    0 points