Agile comms means opening up to the right people

Writer and consultant, Giles Turnbull helps organisations communicate more like humans do. Here, Giles reflects on why all teams should practise agile comms to lift the lid on work in progress.

Recently, I met a team who were new to the whole idea of "agile comms". 

In fact, they didn't see the need to be doing any sort of comms at all, agile or any other flavour. Doing  ‘comms’ simply wasn't on their team to-do list, let alone their team radar.

"We don't exist to promote ourselves," one of them pointed out. "We exist to get things done."

Working in collaboration with pals at Content Design London, we recently re-published The agile comms handbook. If you’ve read it, you'll know that I try to make the case in it that agile comms isn't necessarily about promoting anything. It's not about selling. It doesn't try to take the place of marketing.

Lifting the lid

Agile comms is about lifting the lid on work in progress. Making it possible for outsiders - often stakeholders, but not always - to peer inside and see for themselves what’s going on. Agile comms helps with inevitable organisational silos. It helps you make windows in the sides of them, for people to look through.

What agile comms does it to help teams make themselves - and their outcomes - more easily visible to the right people. 

Quite who those right people are varies from from team to team, from organisation to organisation. 

My working hypothesis is that there will usually be some ‘right people’ somewhere. Some people who would definitely benefit from having easier ways to see the work as it happens.

Communicating to meet people’s needs

What agile comms as a discipline does is try to understand the needs of those people, and design content - communication content - that meets those needs. Then it iterates over time to meet them even better. 

You don't already need to be a content designer to read that last paragraph and see the overlaps between content design and agile comms. The latter borrows heavily from, and is strongly influenced by, the former. 

A lot of agile comms is about applying "content design thinking" to various realms of communication: internal, external, within teams and between teams.

The only downside? There's rarely a formal list of user needs to respond to. You have to, um, improvise a bit, and borrow ideas from other disciplines too: journalism, creative writing, advertising, and so on.

Anyway, that team I met the other day - they did have some ‘right people’, who did need an easier way to see what was going on. My first suggested tactic was weeknotes. It often is.

If you'd like to know more about agile comms, the book is on sale right now in the CDL online store. I hope you find it useful. 

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