2. Work in Sprints

Part of our methodology series

The greatest benefit of working in Lean and Agile is that there are fewer surprises at the end of projects, because you see results faster and course correct along the way.

So instead of working in a waterfall style, that would have us doing weeks of planning followed by a relatively large tech installation, we made the decision to work in Sprints, allowing us to do smaller batches of work, far more quickly.

For our SuperWifi project in Nepal project, for example, a waterfall plan would see all of the sites being selected, all of the school teachers trained, all of the masts put up and then all of the antennae connected right at the very end.
By the time we got to that stage we’d have realised things about each element of that project that would have been really useful to know sooner. So instead, the plan is to simply connect one school first. With one school connected we can use the lessons learned through that experience to connect the next school … and so on, investing our wisdom and improving every time.

The emphasis here isn’t on speed, it’s on learning. It’s about being wise enough to know that serendipity and surprise always play a role in innovation and having a method to plan for those surprises and make the most of them.

DEFINING A SPRINT

For our programme we’re defining a Sprint as the smallest batch of work we can do that will result in a feedback loop. Each project determines their own Sprint cadence, though for the most part, it’s averaging at around 6 weeks (that includes time for shipping hardware).

Our Sprint Methodology

Our Sprint Method, pictured above, was inspired by an article in Stanford Social Innovation Review. You’ll see that it includes an additional cycle of constituent discovery in addition to the classic ‘build, measure learn’ cycle (for our own purposes, we changed constituent to stakeholder). We really saw value in this addition and chose to include it in our work.

STAKEHOLDER DISCOVERY

Unlike the private sector or classic startups where the whole team is part of the same journey from start to finish, most of our projects involve a consortia of partners and collaborators, so this cycle of honing our ideas as a group served us really well.

In Nepal, for our 3D printing project, we hosted a day-long workshop where buyers and sellers across the value chain worked together to understand one another’s needs and pain points.
For our SolarEnabler project in Zimbabwe there have been numerous virtual workshops with our consortium to think about the ideal installation and data to gather.

VALIDATED LEARNING AND ‘WHAT WORKS’

When introducing new methodology into an organisation, it’s an easy win to make sure that your language is coherent and in keeping with the nomenclature that’s already in use. There’s a whole post coming up all about language, but for now, the language that you see on our model is ensuring coherence with DFID’s nomenclature.

Read the rest of our methodology series.