Mar 12, 2018

Straight to the point on jargon

“Working agile.” Know what that actually means?

By Louisa Mcclure

We’re currently facing a society of too much and too many. Too many devices. Too much social media to constantly compare our lives with. And my personal favourite – too much jargon. As a woman living and working in a digital society, there are many words thrown around to blindside us from what’s really beneath.

At a recent meeting, it was a pick-and-mix assortment of words, ranging from “working agile” to how we could move to a “more human-centred design approach.”

First of all – I had gone to the gym and felt I was fairly malleable. Did this mean I was agile? Okay, sorted.

Second: human-centred design. I classify myself as a human (most of the time). The meeting then took a “deep dive into the data,” which is when I started dreaming about the luminescent waters of Croatia or some other such exotic location.

I’ve spent over 12 years in various advertising, marketing, and design roles and most recently have joined a New Zealand bank within the digital team. In my role, it’s about seeking out opportunities as much as taking them as they’re passed through, working with a bunch of smart people to solve the goals of the organisation, but to also scope out new ideas from around the globe to change the way of working – not just as an employee, but as a woman.

As people, we’re quick to throw around words and assume our colleagues, friends, family, kids or people we’ve never met in our lives know what we’re talking about. Or that’s what we tell ourselves. Maybe we use these words to make us look smarter or more senior. Truth? These words seem like an obtrusive way to throw some so-called smarts into the picture to blindside and confuse our audience. Case in point: the term “agile” is from the software industry.

“In practice, agile development methods emphasize rapid iterations of planning, coding, and releasing software in close consultation with the end user or client.” Rusty Foster, The New Yorker

Whilst I invest into the idea of running projects where there’s a test-and learn-approach, this word – “agile” – has become about as common as a sparrow in a Ponsonby garden.

In battering the word “agile” around, I feel that it is also due some credit. The notion of completing small, bite-sized tasks with set dates is a planned and considered way of working. Previous roles have seen projects run down to the wire (let’s face it, most projects run down to the wire these days), and by using an “agile” approach, it allows us to deliver small crumbs of the cake, rather than the full double chocolate deluxe. As a true benefit of “working agile,” it enables a test-and-learn, or a “fail fast” mentality.

When something doesn’t work or doesn’t feel right, it’s time to move on. This can be akin to having a relationship with a friend who you’re just not into having a cold latte with. Why spend 80 percent of your time on something which will deliver you a 20 percent result? I find that when planning a large project, the key measure of success is how I look at impact versus outcome. How much of my time and effort will this thing take and what type of outcome am I expecting? Can I afford to cut corners, or do I need 20 people in the room? Are my objectives clear, or am I trying to run a “working out loud” group?

Hang on. WTF is WOL? It’s Working Out Loud. Actually, I find this one useful. A mantra of running a small group, who come together on a regular basis to break down goals and stretch your mind and mentality to achieve a common goal from people around the business.

Common goals are ones which we share in our personal and professional lives. Some days I feel like an octopus. Multiple juggling of tentacles, from the annual day-care working bee, to sourcing the annual Christmas party attire, to the annual health check. So many annual activities.

With this in mind, how is one meant to “adult?” Easy. Separate the buzz words (a buzz word in itself) from the real words. Working agile? Work smarter and smaller. Working in a “HCD” environment? Get to understand what people really want. Don’t ask for opinions or feel that you can’t, shouldn’t or won’t be able to – trust your instinct and your gut (unless you’ve had multiple espresso martinis the night prior) and see where it goes.

And if all that flies out of the tenth-floor window, fall back on the idea of achievement. Whether you’re in a corporate career, run your own 6pm-11pm business and corporate career, or are a full-time, “do it all” kind of person, remember: you’re killing it.

Originally published on idealog.co.nz 

Louisa Mcclure

Louisa Mcclure
Obsessed with raw baking, amateur rider of horses and lover of all things shiny.

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