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LGSS Digital Blog

Service design for local government

Sam Lake
Business Analyst

Joining an agile team… is it really the dark side?

When I announced I was moving to the digital team, the consensus from my Prince2 colleagues was that I was going to the ‘dark side’. I chuckled and continued compiling my umpteenth project report, but I thought that what they’d said.

I’m brand new to working in an agile way. After years of working on Prince2 projects, I had my reservations. Initially I thought it would be a scary new world full of tech speak, beards and no structure but I soon discovered it’s far from it (well I got 2/3 wrong).

There is common sense and familiarity with the agile methodology, which took me a little while to place. I realise now that the philosophy is just like the ideas that I constantly try to instil in my kids:

“It’s ok to make a mistake as long as you learn from it.”

“I know it’s not what you normally have but just try it, you might like it!”

And my favourite –  “It does the same as the red one it just looks different!”

Ok, maybe I’m reaching with that one but the point is still valid.

 “If you only do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve already got.”

Sam Lake

Why do we find agile ideas strange and uncomfortable as adults?

Too often we stick to what we know because we think it’s safer. But we could be trying something different which may end up being much better.

So much opportunity for improvement could be wasted because of the fear of trying something new.  A cheeky 7 year old once asked me, “how do you know it won’t work if you don’t try it?” And I wonder why we feel happier, not challenging the safe ideas. (As it turns out I actually can’t do a front-flip on a trampoline but at least I learnt a lesson from trying.)

Challenging perceptions

One of the more common comments I heard in response to my announcement that I was joining an agile team was “Good luck, you know there’s no planning in Agile!”

Well it turns out that’s not true.

The constant communication and transparency between team members makes sure that everyone involved knows what is happening on a daily basis. New plans are created all the time, and they don’t need formally drawing up and approving before fixes can be implemented and progress continues.

When work starts, it is reviewed with a fully informed and empowered product owner. The product owner is part of the customer’s team, and they work with the digital team to prioritise the work into chunks, which are then broken down into achievable tasks.

 

 

“Tasks are short and open to change, while the ‘no blame, just learn’ culture means that issues are openly shared and dealt with.”

Sam Lake

The only thing that is absolute in any project is that things can change

Technology moves on at speed, organisational priorities can get turned on their head and team members may fall off a trampoline.

I can’t name a project that has 100% followed its original plan to conclusion, even if it was deemed a success. You can communicate the plan and line up the elements to achieve your milestones, but someone will invariably lose a shoe. It’s how you are able to respond to the inevitable changes, which determine if you can embrace the agile route or not.