……….so if you recall, I was in the initial project planning meeting for my organisation’s website and intranet replacements. I’d just met a ‘Scrum Master’and had the Agile methodology speed dating equivalent and been tasked with cascading it to the world and his dog.
And I’d just suggested that the world and his dog might not need to understand it………stony silence!
So that’s where my analogy toolbox came out to retrieve the situation otherwise the project team would probably think I might not be the man for the business engagement gig. Now this toolkit gets a lot of outings as I’m a story teller and sometimes things need converting into real money for people to understand.
I picked out the one about the swan gracefully swimming across a lake. What you see above the water is the elegant movement, what goes on under the water, where the power is generated to produce the top side action, is not seen but no less important. I explained to the project team that sometimes you don’t always need to see or understand things to participate. We needed to engage people with the project rather than blowing their brains. And let’s face it, ICT projects can often lead to ‘grey matter splatter’. Fact.
Introducing a new production methodology for probably the biggest project we have undertaken for a long while could have been construed as nuts. So big credit to our ICT management team for running with it.
Admittedly it was a steep learning curve at first. Fail fast, fail hard, fail safe rather than fail last is the motto. It encourages doing the riskiest thing first, as the safe things that you know will work anyway usually end up being worthless. It does also highlight where there are ‘line of command’ breakages in an organisation. And actually it helps to fix them.
The Agile process requires ‘impediments’ (anything that stands in the way of the team’s productivity) to be removed. This can literally be anything, from a broken keyboard to a business area not engaging with the project.
Those in the development team embraced the new approach and met every morning at 9.30am for the scrum stand up meeting where they explain what they achieved yesterday, what they will attempt today and who they need to work with and what impediments the scrum master needs to take away and delegate to ‘be removed’. Fortnightly sprint and management planning and retrospective meetings kept things real.
And those of us in what I call the ‘support team’, (comms, business change and engagement) have had to act as the transmission between the dev team and the business part of our organisation. Capturing requirements for build and testing various iterations and currently organising new content capture and identifying and training publishers. My specific role was to get the rest of the business to plug in at the times it needed to. In effect, the feeding and caring for the ugly duckling before it could become the swan.
It would be fair to say there was a smattering of organised panic, and there have been tears along the way. If we had started a swear box at the outset, it would have been filled many times and I would be a fair few quid down. But there is a lot to be proud of too and for me, oddly it may seem this was not all about the product. That is be there for all to see and judge. It is the foundation for further transactional services to be brought online. For me this it was about how we had done it. How we’d broken down organisational barriers and worked together.
The project has started to get attention from other teams and managers in the organisation, looking at how Agile principles can be used in areas perhaps not technical or software related. And most importantly, I hope we are gaining the trust of people who perhaps in the past have not trusted in house project teams to deliver something worthwhile.
And I’ll admit I have been a bit tongue in cheek re terminology and I’ve pulled people’s legs and had mine pulled too and been called an awkward bugger; the one who is stopping people from doing their day jobs etc etc. Well actually this is now people’s day job, digital by default and all, so no apologies for pushing that message.
“….. ‘Scrum master’ yeah right, course you are pal, and I’m the ‘Story teller’ and this is not Ghostbusters4……. this is actually what I do” – suggest where people might not ‘get it’ and translate in whatever way I can so that they do.
In my version of Agile PR, I’d be quite proud to be known as the ‘Story Teller’