Interview with Vox Media’s Yuri Victor

Yuri Victor

Photo courtesy of Vox Media

On how applying agile can just turn out to be a band-aid

“The newsroom got worse because they added another layer of bureaucracy on top of an already bureaucratic organization without solving the real problems, which were silos, top-down management, and a fear of failure.”

On how to start working in an agile way

“I think you approach starting the same way you would an agile project. Start with the minimum. Get a few people who are interested and maybe one person who isn’t and do something small. Shipping breeds support; shipping breeds evangelists. The real trick is getting the freedom to succeed by allowing something to start small. People fear the word small. It’s like ‘Oh it’s small. We need to do more. We need to do everything at once.’ No. That’s how you get bloated processes and products. Small is huge.

When you start small, you can only get better.

On how they began using agile in the Washington Post… without permission

“A group of editors, reporters, designers and developers started a team called beta at the post (without permission) to build cool stuff with cool people. We met once a week without supervision. In fact, the first rule of beta was you don’t talk about beta. After the first week we had a draft of a live blog application that ended up powering our Olympics coverage and election coverage for the rest of the year. We accomplished a lot because the conditions were right: we were a small team with different backgrounds and little to no oversight, with one goal, to ship good products.

So, I mean, this started outside the traditional Post hierarchy, but once we were able to prove success, The Post started adopting this model for future projects and learning from its success.”

On how trust is an essential component at Vox.com

“The important work happening at Vox happens on small teams. We’re able to assemble and build products with little interaction with managers because of trust. And I think that starts with a different kind of communication.”

On how agile is just a tool, not a miracle cure

“People are going to fail. A lot. I’ve failed so many times I could write a medium post: the top 100 times I failed this month. This isn’t about failures. This is about learning and getting better and doing things that make us happy and if we’re not happy then none of this matters. So this is going to take time. This isn’t a solution. Agile isn’t a house you buy and it’s ready to move into, agile is just the hammer. You still have to build the house.

Follow @yurivictor

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