Hackney Digital Support Services: Weeknote, W/C 16.09.2019

It’s been a week of moving, shaking and settling in Hackney Digital Support Services…

Moving Trello cards, shaking diary commitments and setting up epic gladiator-like arena discussions in the break out area to settle on the terminology we are using in some of our workstreams.

I want to open up on the “Settling Terms” thing here…

Being new…ish… (I suspect the newbie card can only be played for a couple more hands) and non-tech has its advantages. I find that it’s really rather useful for being able to take things on face value. To be a little less ambiguous, I mean that I find it easier to observe when the team are in circular conversations or straying out of their lanes.

This is because not knowing ‘who is who’ or ‘what they know’, I can observe the conversations and activities with a certain level of innocence.

I can spot when a Subject Matter Expert has moved beyond sharing their expertise and is encroaching on the role of the Product Owner and/or when the Product Owner or Stakeholders in their enthusiasm are pushing to skip important stages of the process. These things are all normal, human and the intentionally sound, but they can nibble away at the super lean brilliance of Agile. Having no emotional investment from past involvement, I can offer a slightly more detached perspective.

What I spotted in this particular programme of works, was that in several of our meetings, we were spending a couple of minutes here and there correcting each other on what things meant. Stuff like what a ‘form’ was, as opposed to a ‘service’ or the difference between a ‘tool’ and a solution.

Nothing big you might say and most of the time, when we dug in to it, people were talking about the same thing, but just using different words.

But those minutes begin to add up.

A couple of minutes here, a slight overrun on a meeting there and all of a sudden, two minutes becomes four… then four becomes eight, and well, it just expands and before you know it, velocity is plummeting.

We were having circular conversations thinking through lots of possible scenarios and how they might play out.

This is where our “HackIT Manifesto” helped me enormously and we were able to lean on two of the core principles… “Less Planning, More Doing” and “Fail In A Fortnight”.

It helped us to release ourselves from the conversations that we were having and allow ourselves to just get doing stuff. It emboldened us to accept that there was some extra discovery work to be done and for us to create an ‘elastic’ discovery phase.

What this means in practice, is that from the discovery work, discussions and workshops done so far, we have some hypotheses. But, for whatever reason, there are some wider questions around those hypotheses – so we have undertaken to stop talking about them and enter in to a Phase that has two possible definitions of done!

One is that the hypothesis that appeared from the earlier work turned out to be about right… and if that’s the case, the definition of done becomes to create one or some MVP’s to take in to Prototype or Alpha.

The other, is that if that hypothesis turns out to be a bit wide of the mark, then we need to create a new understanding around the user need and re-visit the scope of the project and failing in a fortnight gives us a framework with which to test these assumptions.

Either way – more doing less planning will give us a much greater level of clarity and confidence across the entire team.

So, in essence, what we have done this week:

  • Separated out the programme of works from the sub-projects within it.
  • Sorted all of the Trello Boards so they represent where we are right now.
  • Answered circular questions with action.
  • Set up a workshop to review our Managing People Data MVP’s.
  • Agreed on the terms in our Form Iteration Project.
  • Set up a pre-kickoff workshop to prepare for our ‘elastic’ discovery.
  • Transferred Product Ownership in our Form Iteration Project.
  • Switched to weeknotes for the sharing of the Digital Support Services programme of works (rather than show and tell).

Next week I expect there’ll be more ‘action’ so to speak in outcomes from workshops and we’ll start to get some real clarity and we’ll begin to powerfully gear up to the ‘doing’ stage… The metaphor of ‘pulling back the bow’ pops in to my mind for the next week or perhaps two.


The gladiator forum!

I’ve been to many a meeting that has been entirely lost to trying to achieve a meeting of minds on terms – days… weeks in fact. That wasn’t a possibility that could even be entertained, so I set up a gladiator pit.

It’s rather like in the films, when there are two people left in the pit to fight. Then all of a sudden some random monster is introduced and the two fighters instead of fighting each other, find that it’s far more in their interest to set aside whatever differences they’ve got going on and defeat the greater threat.

Two minds (the fighters), several terms (the monster)… 20 minutes or the gates are locked forever!

We put a large timer counting down in the middle of the table, the terms that needed to be settled on and we agreed that we could ‘release perfection’ when coming to an agreement on the ‘MVP’ of said term. A definition we can basically agree on, that will just get us going for now/defeat the monster.

(I mean, when you’re in a gladiator pit fighting a fire breathing, three headed thingamy-bob, who care’s what style of swordsmanship you’re using).

With the countdown timer going and no option to leave or get to the end having not done it (do or die), everyone in the space was absolutely committed to powerfully reaching an agreement or at least the ‘MVP’ around the term.

We pushed through it and as we ticked off the first term, a rhythm began to form and each success accelerated the next.

We finished with:

FORMS = Simple linear form that ends with info being stored or transmitted.

SERVICE = Anything more complex than our definition of a “Form”.

TOOL = Is a possible solution for creating the next iteration for our current online forms.

DEFINITION OF DONE = To confirm or challenge the hypothesis that a simple form solution will meet 70-80% of our digital support services processes and what that solution will be if the hypothesis is correct”

These ‘definitions’ or ‘terms’ may not be ‘officially correct’, but they are correct enough, for the various brains in our team to agree on, to keep the action focused on the doing part – and we can change them at any time (provided we all continue to enjoy a shared understanding).

We finished with 01:52 left on the clock.

It’s been a great week and I’m looking forward to sharing our progress (and whether the terms ‘stick’) next week!

Over and Out…

Ian James

p.s. Sorry for the lack of pictures, the skill of getting pictures to work on WordPress seems to have eluded me to date – it’s going on my ‘must learn’ list for next week!

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