Although private software developers have long been fans, Agile in the public sector is only just starting to gain momentum – and it’s proving well worth the effort. Here are five tips for running fun, productive workshops.
National government may not seem like the most obvious fit for Agile methodology, but where it has been adopted – perhaps most notably in public sector software development – the results have been startlingly impressive. Moving from old structures and methodologies to a new system of Agile governance can be challenging, but properly overseen it can also be hugely enjoyable, engaging and valuable.
1. Start with an ice breaker – such as a group game, puzzle or Origami exercise. The idea is to break down natural communication barriers and get people to interact more freely and spontaneously. Even when the team know each other relatively well this can be worthwhile as you will find they learn new things about each other and start to relate in a different way.
2. Get the team to set the context. An elevator pitch is a useful tool to kick off an Inception Workshop and make sure the whole group is on the same page. It highlights any differences in expectation in a light-hearted way, and the resolution is non-confrontational. Agile for government is all about collaboration, flexibility and evolution, instead of top-down command-and-control – so this is an excellent way to set the tone.
3. Break out the colouring pens… Drawing is a great leveller, since the most senior people in the room are unlikely to be as confident with a sketchpad as they are in their day jobs. In fact, they will probably be the ones who are least comfortable with expressing themselves through the medium of art – thereby giving the quieter ones in the group more of a chance to shine. Not only that, but drawing engages the right side of the brain, including the creative centres that can unlock the best ideas.
4. …and the accessories. Stickers, post-its and other colourful bits of stationary are a good way to add a fresh dimension to your notes. It’s not just about creating pretty pictures, either: the extra visual cues allow your brain to take a rest from the work of categorising and interpreting the information on the page, allowing it to devote more time to thinking deeply about the problem you’re discussing.
5. Capture the positive at the end of the session, including any pleasant surprises, insights and ‘To Dos’. Focusing on the parts that were particularly successful leaves people with a good feeling about how the meeting went, whilst at the same time providing proper closure for the workshop and giving them a set of reference points to remember for the future.