During one of our last episodes, we talked about the importance of designing with users in mind. This is a foundational part of the GC Digital Standards. What could be better than putting users at the centre of our efforts to improve our jobs and service offerings?
How about doing all that while being agile? Sounds great, right? But hmm… what does “agile” mean? Watch this 2 minutes video to know more.
so it was 2001 and a group of software
visionaries gathered at a ski resort to
share their experiences and figure out
why so many software projects were
failing this wasn't just about
documenting best practices they knew the
industry required a fundamental shift in
values and so the agile manifesto was
born the Declaration of for bold value
statements that became the basis of a
new approach to software development and
would change the industry forever but
what were those four values and why
should you care take a look but first it
is important to point out that the agile
manifesto ends by noting that all of the
things mentioned are important just that
some things must be prioritized over
others okay here we go number one
individuals and interactions over
processes and tools
this doesn't mean throw processes and
tools out the window simply means that a
good face-to-face chat should trump
rigid workflows and impersonal forms of
communication number two working
software over comprehensive
documentation makes sense right but
traditional software development often
produced extensive documentation before
a program was released for initial
testing some documentation is good but
wouldn't it be better to have the
program than a book describing it number
three customer collaboration over
contract negotiation sure you'll want to
start out with some initial guidelines
but instead of locking customers in a
cage by defining the exact details of
the project before it starts teams and
customers should collaborate to find the
best solutions and finally number four
responding to change over following a
plan nothing ever goes entirely
according to plan
so instead of sticking with something
that isn't working it's much more
effective to make adjustments as your
situation changes following the values
isn't always easy but when you build
them into your team's processes
customers notice hey
is huge which of the agile values do you
think is the most important
Ok, did you get that?
- Ask for feedback early and frequently
- Adjust course along the way
- Know when something is good enough
- Launch the real work product, get feedback again, iterate and update. It’s a never-ending story.
Meet Todd Scanlan
Todd Scanlan, the Digital Academy’s Agile Coach, explains in more detail and tells us why the agile approach is relevant for all of us.
Todd Scanlan @toddscanlan
Agile Coach @ CSPS Digital Academy
Canadians are expecting products and services to be intuitive, easy to use and at pace with their ever-changing needs. We too, as public servants, have to change the way we work to become more adaptable and focused on clients and customers, no matter the field we’re working in.
To do this we need our leaders and management to be less “command and control” or micro-managers. They need to see themselves as enablers who create the conditions for individuals and teams to learn and improve.
They do this by:
- creating an environment of psychological safety, trust, candour and openness
- embracing uncertainty through experimentation
- setting priorities and high standards for “what work will be done”
- being open to working-level decisions on “how to collaborate”
Can we ask you some questions Todd?
Q1: How can we use agile approaches individually and as a team?
Individually, you can start by creating a personal “kanban” to help you manage your work. “Kanban” is a Japanese term that means “visual signal.”
A kanban is designed to help an individual or a team prioritize work, create efficiencies and remove constraints so that work gets completed faster and with higher quality.
Watch the following video on how to use it (a 1 minute video that could change your life).
hi this is Dave fryer with another p.m.
problem solver I've been in 90 seconds
to help you get better at getting your
work done if you're a pn you probably
spend so much time focused on other
people's work it doesn't leave a lot of
room for you to be efficient with your
own so I have four tips from personal
combat that will help you become better
at managing your own work first
visualizing your work is a big part of
understanding it set up a task board for
yourself with three columns ready doing
and done create a post it for each item
of work you have and prioritize them in
the ready column second start using that
board each time you start a task put it
into doing and when you're finished move
it over to done it sounds like a simple
thing but physically moving those cards
is a big motivator third stop starting
and start finishing limit your work in
process to two to three items in the
doing column at a time and don't let
yourself bring anything else into doing
until you first move something over into
done and forth take time each day to
reflect on how you're maintaining your
priorities and your work in process
limits if you're sticking with them
great if you're not you just have to
figure out why so you can figure out how
to become more efficient in your work
the next day if you'd like to learn more
about personal combine or thousands of
other ways you can improve your project
management practice check out the
webinars of project management com by
following the URL below thanks
Use the kanban as a team by putting all of the team’s various projects and tasks on the wall to better understand what everyone is working on and “unhide” work. Doing this will help you discover time thieves in your processes:
- too much work in progress
- unplanned work
- conflicting priorities
- unknown dependencies and bottlenecks
You can then start injecting more feedback loops where possible. Most projects include a lessons learned report, which is typically written at the end of the project. To be more “agile,” you could reflect on the project while it is in progress to examine how things are going and come up with ways to improve the team and how you are working together.
Q2: I can see how the agile approach works for big software development projects, but is this really a viable approach for everyone?
Yes, all areas can benefit from getting feedback early on in the process. That way, you know you are on the right track. Our colleagues from the Canadian Digital Service are paving the way, as you will hear in this 3-minute bilingual video:
What is effective design to me? So,
collaboration, first and foremost, trust,
is another and openness, would be the third.
Design is the conception of everything,
of all the services we offer to Canadians
The whole UX aspect is super important.
So, going to see the customers,
testing our products,
then making changes and then
retesting before releasing the products online
or any kind of product, really.
So, in our context at the Canadian Digital Service,
our users extend everything from the back end staff who
manage the services to the frontline
staff who are working in local offices,
are working in call centres, and get to
experience firsthand some of the pain
points and challenges that users actually bring to them
And then users as in the Canadian public.
If you design something, the user must be able to use it.
If they can't use it, there's no point in designing it.
They're the ones who usually approach us
because they have a problem and they want to resolve it.
When you work with users,
it's not just about asking them what they want.
User testing, user research, is really about
sitting down, noticing what they do,
how they interact with the service,
they interact with something. And
that's really about taking the full account
of how they use something.
So, digging deep down and asking them
questions and keep digging,
“why, why are you doing this?”
really allows us then to understand
what their needs are.
And so there's, you know, the adage of like,
you may want something but that's not
exactly what you need and that's what we're about:
we're about designing what users need.
So, of course, they have to be consulted
and once our products are made,
we have to go back and ask them
what they think about them and then do better.
They have to be to their liking so they can learn better
And from there when we start
building, when we start creating services,
we want to use research to compare
what we've built to what people need
and see how it measures up.
We do that over and over and over again
so research is not just happening
at the beginning of a product
but at every phase of a product's development.
So really, when we talk about how design
and research are infused,
it's not just starting with research at the beginning,
it's not just doing some at the end,
to see how you've done,
it's doing it at every stage of the process.
You also have to be thoughtful
about the people that you're approaching
and how they sort of all work together to create
a system that works well
and that the way that you're engaging them
is voluntary and not coercive to them.
So we think about privacy.
We also think about how the data
that we're collecting about those people
gets stored and is used over time
and being thoughtful about that.
So there's a variety of ethical considerations
that go into any good research
but at the end of the day,
we think research is also part of building
an ethical system in general.
Q3: How do we create a non-tech walking skeleton?
The goal is to create a perfect “slice” or “chunk” of work that can evolve over time through continual feedback. In software, this is called a “walking skeleton.”
You need to focus on your first iteration and its potential for learning and discovery. For example, if you were writing a 100-page document, to make sure you are on the right track you would write your document incrementally and in a way that’s fast and adaptable (lightweight and disposable). You would follow steps like these:
- The first iteration could be an outline of the titles of all the chapters in the document
- A second iteration could be all the chapters plus all the headings and subheadings, and so on.
These steps help ensure that the document is exactly what the end user wants in a way that doesn’t require a lot of upfront effort. You save a lot of time in the process.
Q4: What should we absolutely avoid or change in our traditional way of working?
We need to stop rewarding outcomes because outcomes are largely outside the control of the working level. We need to start rewarding behaviors such as learning, experimenting, collaborating, being a great team member, building on other people’s ideas—instead of putting them down (“yes and” vs “yes, but”). Having great behaviors will create high-performing teams.
The good news is that some teams in the Government of Canada are getting there. Here are two examples:
Employment and Social Development Canada
We, the Youth Pod at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), are transforming the way we deliver services to young people in Canada. Our team provides resources young Canadians need to develop successful and satisfying careers. We're working to create a new youth-focused side of government services by recreating the Youth.gc.ca web page while being Agile and user-centric. We have a cross-functional team following a Scrum Agile process. We use a human-centred design framework with a design thinking approach, and we work across the entire spectrum of design: from service design to interaction design, to experience design, to interface design. We're also able to work incrementally toward our big vision and deliver small pieces as they're ready. And we've been able to deliver an incredible amount of value to young Canadians in a short time. Come visit our in-progress web page: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/youth.html.
This year, Transport Canada launched its Digital Roadmap – a plan to “go digital” by providing TC staff with the right tools, knowledge and skills to meet the challenges of a rapidly-changing transport industry. Each month, we showcase a different aspect of digital government, and in April, we are focusing on Agile. While some teams within TC already use Agile in their day-to-day work, it’s a new concept to many. Through activities, events and learning opportunities, we are showing TC staff how an Agile approach can have an impact across government, including procurement, HR, legislation, and policy development.
Q5: What tools would help us to collaborate better?
The best tools are those that rely on and replicate face-to-face conversation and visualization. All you need are sticky notes, painter’s tape and Sharpies.
Keep it simple and bring everything to a human level. If your team works remotely, use technology:
- video conference, Skype for Business, Webex, Zoom
- online chat (Slack, GCmessage)
- virtual kanban boards (JIRA, Trello, VersionOne, TFS, Wrike) or have a webcam pointed at the team kanban 24/7
Finally, you don’t become agile, you become more agile!
Learn more about the agile approach
- Agile: How We're Working Differently
- Being agile in the Ontario Public Service
- Agile in a Nutshell poster
- A Simple Introduction to Lean UX
- Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Design
- Make Your UX Design Process Agile Using Google’s Methodology
- TC's Digital Roadmap - April 2019/AGILE Approach (Internal to GC)
- TC Transformation (Internal to GC)
- TC Digital (Internal to GC)