Hippo In Ballet Shoes, Or Greyhound On The Track? Applying Agile Methodologies To Traditional Publishing

Kristen McLean (Bookigee)
Manage Soho Complex
Please note: to attend, your registration must include Workshops.
Average rating: ****.
(4.50, 2 ratings)

For those who work on the digital and software development side of publishing, agile methodologies such as SCRUM and Lean Development may be familiar, but what would happen if we took these processes out of the technical department and applied them to mainstream publishing’s more vertical workflows? This session will introduce key principals of agile methodology, and then examine the potential benefits of using these methodologies to transform everything from editorial and marketing, to team-building, reporting, product creation cycles, and new product innovation. These kinds of workflows have the potential to flatten hierarchies, speed up production, increase collaboration, reduce inefficiency, and retool our industry for the 21st century. The question is, are we ready for that? No seriously, are we ready?

Key Questions:

  • What exactly are Agile Methodologies (aka decoding the lingo)?
  • Scrum
  • History of Scrum
  • Scrum Roles
  • Product Backlog
  • Project Sprints
  • SCRUM reporting
  • Lean-start-up methodologies
  • Build-Measure-Learn
  • A-B testing
  • Developer & Stakeholder side-by-side collaboration
  • Iteration & minimum viable product
  • How might we translate these ideas to the traditional vertical publishing model?
  • At the company level, applying agile principals to flatten hierarchy
  • At the publishing level, seeking more consumer insight through Build-Measure-Learn strategies
  • At the editorial level, developing more serial content with quicker production schedules
  • At the production level, doing more A/B testing with audience
  • At the team level, transformation into effective collaborative groups with shared-ownership, and more creative investment
  • What are the possible benefits?
  • Reducing the productivity cost of meetings
  • Clearer decision-making
  • Faster product creation and feedback loops
  • Moving away from a seasonal production schedule formerly dictated by paper catalogs
  • More accountability and ownership from all team members
  • More holistic understanding of the value of various efforts in creating the whole
  • Much better style of workflow for leveraging the NetGen workers
  • Diversification in product offerings
  • Increased profitability, better use of resources
  • What are some examples of interesting experiments in these areas currently?
  • What are the probable challenges?
  • Top heavy organizational structures severely resistant to change
  • Loss of traditional control structures (egos a hindrance)
  • The tension between author as singular visionary, and audience as source of crowd wisdom
  • Ditto for editors & publishers
  • How much can we reduce the time we take to get a book to market?
  • How much can we shift pricing strategies through an Agile model?
  • The imperative for top-down as opposed to bottom-up change—what would it take?
Photo of Kristen McLean

Kristen McLean


Kristen McLean is the founder and CEO of Bookigee, an innovative visualizing search engine for the book industry, Before founding Bookigee, Kristen was the Executive Director of the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC), a non-profit trade association founded in 1984 that networks the children’s book industry. Under Kristen’s leadership, ABC merged with its larger sister association, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) in 2011, where its work continues. Kristen holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, and has done graduate work in Graphic and Industrial Design at Massachusetts College of Art. Prior to joining ABC in 2005, Kristen spent twelve years in the book and toy industry in various roles including frontline retailing, merchandising, buying, commission sales, and managing marketing for one of Houghton Mifflin’s trade children’s imprints. As part of her role as an industry strategist, Kristen lectures nationally and internationally on issues facing the publishing world at venues such as Book Expo America (BEA), Digital Book World (DBW), The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), The American Library Association (ALA), and The Digital Publishing Conference of the City College of London, UK. Kristen is deeply interested in the confluence of emerging consumer behavior, technology, and publishing in the 21st Century. Find out more at www.kristenmclean.org.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Picture of Allison Gillespie
Allison Gillespie
02/01/2012 10:00am EST

Hi Tim – as long as your conference pass includes workshops (which it does) you are welcome to attend this workshop.

Tim Bombosch
02/01/2012 9:43am EST

Hi—I’m a PMP who is also experienced in Agile. I’m looking forward to the workshop. Do I need to register for it?

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