Monday, 19 March 2012

Agency hack


Damian pointed me at an excellent article on the hacking culture at Facebook.

It's well worth a read, and I've been mulling over what it means in the context of an agency likes ours. Obviously we have developers, and we look for them to spend time exploring new products and tools and ways of working. But for the rest of us, I think there's an important message here as well.

We should be hacking our tools and processes as much as Facebook hacks its code.

This applies as much to our pre-existing tools and processes as the new ones coming in. Everyone in every discipline - from the most junior to the most senior - needs to think about the way we do business (whether this is at an industry, project, account or individual level) and think about how it can be improved. What do we take for granted that can be done better?

Then think about how we go about implementing the improvements. It might not call for wholesale change, maybe it's just a case of coming up with a modest pilot to see if it works. We need to develop a culture where we fail quickly, celebrate the attempt and move on. We don't want to get bogged down in detail – get it 90% right quickly and fix the rest on the way.

And while we should listen to the voice of experience, we have to realise this isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all. Just because something didn't work in the past, doesn't mean it can't work now. The reverse is also true.

Be wary of the fact that management tends to slow things down. Management's role in all this is to be available for advice and political support, rather than implementing the changes themselves - otherwise it doesn't scale. It's helpful for managers to know what's going on so they can anticipate issues - but as much as possible, the person at the coal face should implement the change. And let's all learn from our failures as well as our successes. You get kudos for trying and failing.

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