“A new way of working” — the magic words every millennial working in local government wants to hear

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Local government gets a bad rep sometimes due to bureaucratic processes, complex staffing structures and long project delivery times. But help is at hand with the Agile Manifesto!

The agile way of working together values practicality and flexibility over complicated and rigid processes to ultimately improve efficiency, increase productivity and put users at the centre of design.

To learn more about Agile, five members of the project team from Leeds went to Cleethorpes to undertake the training with our North East Lincolnshire Council friends and learn how we can apply Agile to our waste project.

Okay, so what actually is the Agile way of working?

Agile segments projects into four phases:

- The discovery phase

- Alpha

- Beta

- Live

In the discovery phase of a project, you research and delve deep into what the user needs. After this phase you have a good idea of what your user wants and so you can start hypothesising about how to meet those demands in the alpha stage.

In alpha, you can create and test lots of different ideas before deciding which one best meets your user needs. Once everyone agrees the alpha stage is over and your team has a pretty good idea of which prototype will work best for users, then beta begins.

Beta is where the real development happens and the software (or whatever you’re working on) is created. This new software will be tested with users again to see whether it meets all their needs, and to see if it needs changing or adapting before the product can go live.

In the live phase, the software is working and open to users, but it is still continuously evaluated with users to test if their needs are still being met.

How does it work in practise?

You break the work down in to specific tasks and then assign those tasks into fortnightly sprints. For each sprint you have a sprint planning session where you decide what your project team will work on in that two week time period. You then achieve the tasks in the sprint, and reflect on your work in the retro at the end. The whole process is repeated until all tasks are completed.

At the retros, you have an opportunity to iron out any issues, make changes and agree on next steps. This continuous evaluation over short periods helps to keep the project responsive to changing needs and develops in real time rather than months after the fact.

You also have regular show and tells with all stakeholders to keep everyone up to date with developments and to involve stakeholders in decision-making.

It’s easy to see the benefits of this type of working, but instilling it throughout local government is going to be a huge challenge. For now, our project team is working in the agile way and we’ll see how it goes!