Directing Agile Change, 22 February 2017, Leeds

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Posted by Catherine Bendell on 2nd Mar 2017

The Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire branch welcomed Roger Garrini to talk about the Governance SIG publication on the Governance of Agile Project Work, followed by Anna Caine and Darren Curry from the Portfolio Office at NHS Business Services Authority, to talk through their experience in implementing Agile within the NHS. This event was held on 22 February at the Horizon Leeds Conference Centre. This was an outstanding venue for the event which saw an impressive turnout with every seat taken. Jo Stanford kindly organised a wonderful event.

The first speaker for the evening on Directing agile change was Roger Garrini of the Governance SIG. The Governance SIG is concerned with the governance of Project Management in U.K. and Europe, focused at board level to ensure project managers are treated consistently, to influence standards in project management and therefore effect change. So why does governance matter? Every project should have a sponsor - it's key to success, another key success factor is the governance as it records project outcomes in an environment where there is a lot of change.

Roger proposed that it is a competitive advantage in the discipline of good governance, although keeping stakeholders informed and happy and also it's required by regulators! Having the project governance in order demonstrates that you know what you are doing and how to do it well. Although things often go wrong there are no failed projects just failed governance.

In terms of project governance, Roger introduced the following principles: the board need to know their responsibilities; the sponsor offers support to the project manager; know why you are doing the project; ensure project plans are in place; ensure that practical and effective delegations are in place; produce legitimate business cases; clearly understand the project reporting; and ensure projects are always closed - not just left suspended.

Roger then introduced the principle around agile governance: it needs a mindset change for agile to be effective; project managers have to be aware to ensure that they are being governed correctly; stakeholders need to understand the change; and existing governance such as gateway reviews need to be flexible and reflect the agile approach. Essentially it differs from a waterfall approach in that it is interactive delivery, collaborative behaviour, different decision levels and new progress measures are required which are underpinned by a change of mindset.

However, the myths around agile need to be dispelled! The truth is that, agile requires more discipline or at least as much; it's not a fad as it's been around over 20 years; agile is a technique and it is not for everything; it's not just for software implementations; agile works for all size projects; and still requires a disciplined approach.

The second part of the event was presented by Anna Caine and Darren Curry from the Portfolio Office at NHS Business Services Authority to talk through their experience in implementing agile within the NHS.

Darren presented why change was needed at the NHS BSA. This internal driver included the paper systems being no longer sustainable, the services provided are under increased pressure, a transformation was underway – to seek improvement of primary care to prevent secondary care involvement, there was a high element of delivery of projects with lots of unknowns and the need to be able to react more quickly to implement policy changes. The external drivers included the government digital services and increased user expectation for online self-service systems that can be accessed immediately which then use the information collected intelligently.

Anna then covered how the agile implementation was tackled. There was a need for huge scale change from team structures being challenged, separation of staff by roles and the introduction of collaborative spaces to reduce email communications and sole working.

The change was managed by providing visual aids to show who is doing what (putting photos against the tasks promoting ownership), creating new roles which included User Researchers (gathering user information) and SCRUM Master (agile role). As the roles formed it was necessary to ensure staff didn’t feel that they were still within the silos. One intervention was that all team members do 1 hour of user research every 3 weeks to connect them to the ‘why?’

The biggest challenge was to change opinions both within the organisation and externally. Part of this was addressed by embracing ‘show and tell’ (15 minute sessions) to all the organisation to demonstrate what the team has been doing. Also increasing visibility, the teams can see the user system usage and demonstrate that it works, further promoting engagement and invigoration. This was also done by displaying photos of the end user testing – to build a sense of momentum and trust.

In summary it takes a huge shift and the organisation needs to be committed, it can’t be done half-heartedly. Essential to this working was the co-location and collaboration which enabled speed in decision-making. To keep the sponsors happy release early and show some value!

Emma Wright

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