Agile: the writing's on the wall

Simmone Farrell, Delivery Manager:

This is my first blog, coming at the end of my first week working in the agile Service Design Team.

I come from a project management background, where everything is meticulously mapped out with milestones with delivery coming at the end. Going into an agile office felt a bit chaotic. Post-it notes adorned the walls, and there was a whole new language to learn. I felt a bit like an anthropologist observing a new culture.

The locals were welcoming, and soon enough, I began to see the common elements between our methodologies. Here’s what I learned.

Stand ups

Every morning, each team member shares what they’re working on that day.

This means that we’re all aware of progress, and importantly for us delivery managers, anything blocking progress can be spotted early.


All our work is divided in to two week ‘sprints’. At the start of each sprint, we take tasks from the list of work that needs doing, known as the backlog. Working like this we can set achievable goals that can be reviewed at the end of the sprint.


At the end of the sprint, we review what went well, what didn’t and what we could change. It gives the team time to listen and reflect.

Working in the open

Agile teams are multi-disciplinary. Developers sit with user researchers, next to content designers, who mill around with service designers. To make sure these tribes understand each other, they have to commit to working in the open. Problems are shared, limitations acknowledged, and disagreements aired.

It’s collaborative, sometimes confusing, but ultimately effective.

A brief walk around the room was enough for me to feel I was up to speed. The way the team works, their principles, their blockers, and their goals were literally written on the wall.

I still like having a plan, and I’m never going to stop making lists, but I’m definitely starting to feel at home in this melting pot of methodologies!

Sprinting home

Matt Cole, Delivery Manager:

For me, coming to work in the Service Design Team, feels like a homecoming. I was part of the original Digital Channels work that foreshadowed a lot of the work being done now.

It feels like the some of the starting points  of agile methodology we used in that project are now coming to fruition in this team of agile ninjas (yes, I’m keeping to ninjas).

I see myself as an enabler for the rest of the team, making sure they understand their tasks and have the right tools to complete them – simple! But as always, making things simple is a tricky business, and this is where a Delivery Manager comes in.

This feels like the heart of what an agile team does. Starting small, we iteratively, build from the ground up. We mitigate risk by failing early, and failing cheap. Working this way, it’s easy to lose track of how far you’ve come and how much you’ve achieved.

I’ve only been in the team a week, and I can see we’ve a long journey ahead of us, but I know we’ll be sprinting, one step at a time.


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