A few months ago, when I wrote in this blog about “How Agile is being used to increase legal marketing innovation at Fasken Martineau,” I noted that Fasken’s Chief Marketing Officer, Brenda Plowman, had provided her entire Senior Management Team with copies of the book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time to spur innovation. The primary author, Jeff Sutherland, was one of the 17 software developers who attended the Agile Manifesto meeting that started this movement in 2001.
This book is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to adapt innovative Agile project management techniques to the legal profession. While Sutherland defines the term Scrum broadly (others see Scrum as a subset of Agile), he emphasizes that neither is an easily defined step-by-step process. "There is no methodology," he says (p. 16). Instead, Scrum and Agile are approaches "based on a simple idea: whenever you start a project, see if what you’re doing is heading in the right direction, and if it’s actually what people want. And question whether there are any ways… of doing it better and faster" (p. 9).
Here is a list of 15 of Sutherland’s top tips that apply directly to lawyers. All are direct quotes that can be found sprinkled throughout the book:
- Planning is useful. Blindly following plans is stupid. It’s just so tempting to draw up endless charts… but when detailed plans meet reality, they fall apart. Build into your working method the assumption of change, discovery, and new ideas.
- Fail fast so you can fix early. Working… in short cycles allows early user feedback and you can immediately eliminate what is obviously wasteful effort.
- Hesitation is death… Know where you are, assess your options, make a decision, and act!
- Don’t guess… Plan what you’re going to do. Do it. Check whether it did what you wanted. Act on that and change how you’re doing things. Repeat in regular cycles and… achieve continuous improvement.
- Small teams get work done faster than big teams. Data shows that if you have more than nine people on a team, their velocity slows down… More resources make the team go slower.
- All the work being done… has to be transparent to everyone. If the team gets too big, the ability of everyone to communicate with everyone else, all the time, gets muddled… Meetings that took minutes now take hours.
- Give teams the freedom to make decisions on how to take action… The ability to improvise will make all the difference.
- Break down your work into what can be accomplished in a… short period [such as the next week or two].
- At the end of each [period], have something that’s done [and can be shared with the client].
- Everyone [should] know everything. Communication saturation accelerates work.
- Working too hard only makes more work. Working long hours doesn’t get more done; it gets less done. Working too much results in fatigue, which leads to errors, which leads to having to fix the things you just finished.
- Only plan what you need to. Don’t try to project everything out years in advance. Just plan enough to keep your teams busy.
- Make a list. Check it twice. Create a list of everything that could possibly be done on a project. Then prioritize it. Put the items with the highest value and the lowest risk at the top of the [list].
- Create new things only as long as [they] deliver value. What in the beginning you thought you needed is never what is actually needed.
- Observe, orient, decide, act (OODA). See the whole strategic picture, but act tactically and quickly.
This brief summary just skims the surface. If you want to consider how Agile can be applied to legal matters, buy Sutherland’s book.
This post was adapted from LegalBizDev’s new LPM Tools and Templates.