I dread sitting down to write this sort of weeknote.
We didn’t meet our sprint goal. We got 90 per cent of the way there but we missed “done”. It’s profoundly frustrating for the team. 10 days’ hard work and apparently nothing to show for it.
Facing the unknown
The sprint goal felt right, the number stories felt achievable, our output was clearly defined. So, what happened?
The unknown hit us like a stonking great wind. A invisible force that you can hear and feel, but you can’t see it or catch it.
What do we know now that we didn’t know two weeks’ ago:
What we can – and can’t do – with content on the Hackney website*
New team members needing a more clarity on our user groups
The working cadence of other teams we are collaborating with
The untapped enthusiasm of our colleagues at Dalston library**
What’s yoga got to do with anything?
I’m borrowing this analogy from Matthew Cain. Agile – like yoga – a daily practice. After a while the rhythm of its ways, its principles and values starts to shape a team’s mindset. Yoga sculpts the body inside and out. In the same way agile moulds how a team works together and how it behaves.
Our habit of sprint review and retro with a #nojudgement culture turned our failure into actionable nuggets – golden pieces of learning forged in the heat of honest conversation.
I knew that I had a team that trusted each other to say hard things. I now know that we can weather storms together.
Failure feels good
I’m proud that the team took hold of the agile principle to deliver a small piece of value to our end users in two weeks. There’s nowhere to hide when you make a commitment like this. This takes courage.
We’re not going to retreat into safe incremental steps. We are going to keep working iteratively, even if it means we fail more often.
Three things you need to know about Spacebank this week:
The (sprint) end is nigh
We are at that crunchy moment in the sprint where there are lots of things in flight but our done column looks a bit sparse. This makes me nervous* as a delivery manager but I have to practice what I preach and trust the team. There’s nothing like a deadline to get the adrenaline pumping and the team are beavering away.
Recognising what we don’t yet know
Knowing enough to take the next step is an agile-ism. In practice it’s hard to hold onto this. It’s easy to slip back into patterns of thinking that hold us back from delivering value early and often. It takes courage to try something, even something small, because we are conditioned to fear failure.
We know a lot about our users in Spacebank, this is good. We know enough to re-design our library pages and test this content. We are less sure about two things:
How to effectively target untapped bookers – organisations and individuals who aren’t aware that the council has meeting space they can hire at low cost
The best place to put information about meeting rooms in the library – on Hackney’s website or on our booking software.
We are going to take a closer look at both these issues in our next sprint.
Update on people and skills
Following on from my previous weeknote, we’ve made progress on securing another role. We have a UX designer starting on the project next week. I’m excited to bring together the expertise of our content designer Eleanor and new UX designer Junior. First task: review our prototype designs based on the user research we did in the summer. It remains a challenge to find a front end developer for the team. It feels like a rock and a hard place right now, but as the saying goes, adversity breeds innovation so I’m hanging on in there!
Three things you need to know about Spacebank this week:
Starting our build
Over the summer and autumn, we paused our work with libraries. We did three things:
Completed a discovery about community halls, supporting a wider review of looking into utilisation and asset management
Secured some funding
Procured a “custom off the shelf” (COTS) scheduling tool – a white label API
We are ready to start working with the library service again to implement the API and configure a user interface based on the prototype wireframes. These will need some re-designing to reflect our new digital brand and component library.
A slice of cake
Everyone loves cake. It’s also a useful analogy for working vertically – adding a little bit of value to our users each every two weeks. This sprint, we working with the comms team to re-design the information on our website about meeting rooms available for hire in our libraries. We going to put this “in the wild” and monitor how users engage with the content. It’s a small step, achievable in two weeks.
People and skills
As always, the biggest risk in this project is the capacity of the team. We are a couple of roles down at the moment. This is weighing heavily on my mind and much of my time is focused on recruitment.
We considerably closer to pulling off a co-design workshop with library colleagues. A huge thank you to Sue and her team for juggling rotas to help us get this over the line.
Our MVP is emerging
My favourite moments this week have been the conversations about our MVP. Some great debate about what’s minimal vs what’s viable, and what’s achievable in a time-boxed build phase. It’s exciting to watch our list of user stories mature and grow as a result of all the hard work over the last 10 weeks.
Working out where our service starts and finishes
Sebastian has been looking into where our service starts and finishes. Yet again, GDS as come up trumps with some really solid guidance on the use of subdomains and URL naming conventions.
We are mystery shopping
Liam has been looking again at our “competitors” – aka other Councils and their booking processes for libraries and community halls. Our MVP will be based on our user needs and tested workflows, and early signs are we can add value to other councils by sharing what we are developing and making our code available.
We are (almost) ready for our service assessment
Our service assessment is in a couple of weeks. We’ve been building in preparation to our sprints, which is paying off. It’s a great opportunity to look back over the last couple of months and reflect on how far we’ve come and what we’ve learnt.
We are in the final two weeks of the prototype phase. It’s like Christmas Eve – everyone is excited, nervous and a little bit over tired!
Our sprint goal is:
“Define our MVP, co-design a workflow with library colleagues, get ready for our service assessment and tie up our loose ends.”
We welcomed Emma Lewis into the team this sprint. She is a front end developer who joined Hackney this week. We’re already benefiting from a fresh pair of eyes on our work.
Things I am excited about:
Emma and Sebastian are coding a calendar which will show the availability of library rooms. There’s some great open source options and also the potential to build our own.
A workshop with library colleagues to co-design their work flow. We’ve been itching to collaborate more closely and can’t wait to make something together! I get to join in this time and I’m looking forward to delivering this workshop with Joy and Sam.
The final decision on what our MVP is going to look like. We’ve come along way from our “three experiments” at the end of discovery. Richard, our Product Owner is on the case, and will be presenting his proposal to the team at the end of the sprint.
Things I am nervous about:
The decision to do a workshop with library colleagues is the right choice, but it’s the harder option. We could have pulled together a prototype based on evidence alone and done some testing to validate it. This didn’t feel right. To get this done, we have hefty dependency on whether duty managers can swap shifts and redraft rotas. It’s a big ask in a small amount of time.
We’ve only got 9 days this sprint, instead of 10. Every day matters at the moment. I love bank holidays, but it’s a delivery manager’s nightmare when there are 4 in 7 weeks. I have more grey hairs as a result.