Dipping my toes into agile waters

So what have Lego dragons got to do with agile? Read more to find out.

From the very first day of joining Croydon Digital Service (CDS), it became abundantly clear that professional training for CDS family members was a key priority. This was such a refreshing change for me, and immensely welcomed!

One of the courses we were encouraged to attend was the GDS Digital and agile awareness course. I have to admit that initially when I put my name down for this course I was nervous but curious, anxious but intrigued, unsure of what to expect but enthusiastic.

However, as soon as the course started, I discovered there was no need to worry. Gemma Jones from the GDS academy made us feel so at home and at ease. She had a superb teaching manner, was vastly knowledgeable and effortlessly approachable. Even though I strive to have an attitude of gratitude to life, and try to take a glass half full perspective on things, I’m not always easily impressed. But I found this course to be amazing and massively helpful. Astutely clear explanations were provided, within a really relaxed atmosphere. It was also a lot of fun, especially building Lego dragons (using agile methods of course).

What have Lego dragons got to do with agile?

It was great to be catapulted back to my childhood and have buckets of Lego to get my hands on. But this played a crucial part in ensuring our user focus senses were fully awakened. Working in mock multidisciplinary teams, to build Lego animals, required us to carry out mock sprints, retrospectives, and show and tells. This process helped us to see that the beauty of using agile methodology, means you always get to put user needs first and at the heart of everything you do. This provides a solid foundation for user-centred design via regular cycles of discovery, research, testing, and making improvements.

A Facebook research quote used on the course, that stuck in my mind was, “Designing without research is like getting into a taxi and just saying, ‘drive’.”

Getting back to basics

Because we work in the digital industry, we are often fascinated with the ins and outs of the latest new technologies that interest us. But when thinking about digital in government and our users, I’ve now learnt it’s paramount to strip everything right back to fully understand what digital means to them. Therefore considering the meaning of digital in a much more simplified way. This also ensures that the services we need to design and deliver are consistently focused on user needs.

Agile service delivery equals metamorphosis 

Without a doubt, using agile methodology will be a very different way of working for Croydon. I’m not under any illusions that this won’t present challenges, nor will it happen overnight. It’s going to require a really steep learning curve for all involved. But the good thing is agile is based on principles and not rigid rules. This leaves room for balanced flexibility.

When I consider the role agile will play, specifically in the digital design team I work in, it will also need to involve helping the wider organisation to understand how this method contributes to the efficiency and improvement to digital content, forms and transactions, which everyone can be an integral part of. Taking time to build a culture of trust and respect when implementing agile service delivery, will be essential. In the long run, sowing this positive change will reap favourable results overall. Many good things have already come to fruition since the birth of CDS.

Looking to the future, I’ll be honest, some things are both daunting and exciting. I recognise though that a metamorphosis for the delivery of digital services in Croydon is necessary. Viewing it as a metamorphosis is perhaps a more palatable way to look at it, since making changes within an organisation can come up against resistance sometimes. 

This made me think to myself about where would we be if mobile phones didn’t go through a continuous process of iteration. We’d all still be carrying around mobile phones the size of bricks. This highlights to me that the same applies to the digital services we design and deliver. 

Getting my feet wet was worthwhile! 

Ultimately, I’m really pleased and grateful I was given the opportunity to attend the Digital and agile awareness course. I got so much more out of it than I ever expected. Attending this course also provided a nice opportunity to meet others from the digital government world. We thoroughly enjoyed learning from each other, and sharing our experiences.

If you’re new to agile this is a brilliant course to dip your toes into agile waters. I think it’s fair to say, that anyone who attends this course certainly won’t be disappointed.


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