https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2016/11/21/we-are-the-agile-champions-of-the-world/

We are the (agile) champions of the world

... ok, of PDS for now - but world domination can follow.

How this all came about

Around a year ago, following a portfolio directorate 'lessons learned' workshop, some of the senior team from that Directorate (Helen Stannard & Emma Briggs) and the then Head of Development (Dan Barrett) asked for volunteers to be part of working groups that would come up with ideas and or a plan of action for the lessons identified.

The four working groups were:

  • equipping us to deliver
  • clear and repeatable methods
  • streamlining the overheads
  • collaborating on the design of the digital portfolio and digital portfolio directorate

We chose to be part of the 'clear and repeatable methodologies' working group.

Our overall objective was 'How should we design our methods so that they are clear and repeatable?'.

We identified that our methods should:

  1. allow us to focus on delivery not reinventing the wheel for each delivery
  2. replace our current methods with new, agile methods (iterative, modular, staged definition and delivery)
  3. allow difference between approaches on various types and sizes of projects so that we can use appropriate
  4. methods for each kind of delivery (some common elements in combination with discreet specialist practices)

The original members of our group were:

Dominic Grixti
Julie Byrne
Tim Barnes
Stephanie Williams
Caroline Kippler
Umair Malik

We were given 4 weeks to come up with an idea, but preferably a prototype. There was not time to waste.

Getting started

At our first team catch up we had a long discussion around agile. We discussed how and if we could adapt agile tools and ceremonies to work with any project regardless of whether it is a bespoke development or we are purchasing an off the shelf product, and the challenges we might face.

We decided that to work in a self-organising team, using the 4 weeks as a sprint with regular stand up meetings to discuss progress and blockers and use the next Senior Managers meeting as a show and tell.

We chose to use Trello to capture our backlog and monitor tasks and progress.

Screen shot of a Trello board

Show the thing

During our first sprint we came up with the 'Agile Menu'. This whiteboard menu helps us to:

  1. Outline the benefits of working in an agile way
  2. Demystify the agile tools and explain why to use them
  3. Demystify the agile ceremonies and explain when and why to use them
  4. Types of roles that are involved when using agile

And it looks like this:

Whiteboard 'agile menu' featuring various pieces of information about agile ways of working

We also created a 'build your own agile menu' for teams to put up in their own areas to remind them of what they could use or try out.

Sharing the message

When it was time for the show and tell, we were challenged to start thinking how we can bring the board to life and start embedding these tools and ceremonies into teams.

Since then, we've been sharing the message about agile and its benefits to teams and individuals across PDS.

The working group team has changed since January, but we have reacted flexibly - one of the benefits to working in an agile way. Team members have come and gone and come back again depending on their workloads. We've  recruited agile champions from all over PDS to help us, too.

The team now includes Katie Anderton, Kamila Ceslar, Alan Bedford, Dal Hopal, Helen Thomas, Anthony Busselier, Samantha Oliphant, Emma Allen, Estelle Holmes, Rukia Khanom, Dia Nag and Tania Reynolds.

We've been busy

We've run events tailored to a specific tool/ceremony and we have run drop in sessions.

We've helped organise ceremonies in teams and not just in Development or Portfolio teams.

We've helped people from Live Services, Technology to HR and Security.

We've been speaking to some of our users in the House of Commons and Lords about the benefits of working in an agile way and will be working with the EPMO (Enterprise Programme Management Office) to create an agile community for everyone across Parliament to learn and get involved.

We have created a page on the Digital Service SharePoint site called 'new ways of working' to help share the message. We've also set up an agile champions Yammer group.

Take a look at our timeline of achievements made with a cool tool called Tiki Toki. 

We continue to work in sprints, with a retrospective and a show and tell at the end of each sprint. Our backlog currently consists of these next steps:

  • update our SharePoint Site
  • run another 'Agile, Prince 2, and other Muppets session'
  • help set up the agile community with the EPMO
  • ask teams to rate themselves against the agile manifesto to create a baseline and then measure again after an agreed timescale
  • present at an all staff briefing

If you work in Parliament and want to get involved, or are keen to learn more about agile, then please get in touch with one of the team mentioned in this blog post. If you don't, but you want to talk agile with us, we'd love to chat.

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