Agile Transformation icon Agile is not exactly uncommon these days – in government and business alike – but that doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels. 

We’ve noticed there’s an opportunity to apply some Agile ways of working very early when it comes to tackling problems in the public sector – mainly through some unashamed repurposing of techniques more commonly found in Silicon Valley, such as design sprints, lightning decision jams (LDJs) and cloud native working, to name a few. 

After all, why should government miss out on these innovative delivery approaches which can rapidly accelerate solving its most difficult problems? Surely we should always want government to maximise its performance? Doing this, though, means adopting a flexible approach to delivery, one that is open to new ideas which can potentially deliver better public services and greater value for money for taxpayers.

Welcome to our workshop

With that in mind, we have successfully experimented with and pioneered our own approach to one week design sprints, finding a method that not only supports the aims and objectives of government organisations, but also develops concepts for solving their hardest technical challenges. 

Design sprints give full consideration of people, process and technology, and we also combine ours with user-centred design, underpinned by technical inspiration from the domains of cloud, open source and a curated network of subject matter experts.

The best solutions emerge from collaboration and co-creation from a range of different stakeholders. And this is why the most successful sprints have occurred when we’ve brought together a multi-disciplinary supplier team working shoulder to shoulder with users, capability delivery leads, business sponsors, tech authorities, consultants and compliance representatives.

Alongside this, we’ve found utilising the LDJ techniques can unlock decision making inertia, helping clients identify and prioritise their challenges, decide on immediate actions and identify items suitable to take into a design sprint. 

And at the other end of the spectrum, rapid prototyping can be a key tool to de-risk the technical concepts developed in these engagements. Building technical demonstrators helps to further test the solution hypotheses developed during the design sprint and ensure we have better understanding about how these solutions can be delivered in practice.

A virtual world

Over the past year or so, video call technology and virtual whiteboards have enabled us to almost seamlessly transition from physical engagement to virtual engagement. A well-facilitated virtual session can be just as successful as in-person get-togethers, perhaps even more so, thanks to the collaboration and structure that virtual whiteboards deliver. 

So what have we learnt undertaking these approaches? We are finding this ability to accelerate problem solving very powerful and useful for government organisations. The focus on crowdsourcing of concept ideas and then co-creation of a final solution concept obtains buy-in from all parties and collective ownership of the end product overcoming the ‘not invented here’ mentality. 

Furthermore, our clients have been excited by the ability to make rapid progress with their challenges by utilising reusable components, quickly establishing the next steps towards full deployed solutions or just simply failing fast. 

Finally for us, by working in this way, the team gains exposure to a wide range of problems and can share our lessons-learned and insights across multiple organisations; a benefit for everyone involved.

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About the author
Ian Horlock is a management consultant at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence


Further Reading:

  • In control with Agile. Jenny Matthews explains how Agile working can give you the control you want, without having to compromise
  • A question of agility. Government IT is on the move. Chris Hesketh explores why agile by Design is finally taking root across public sector organisations
  • Making the Ministry of Defence more Agile. Agile working is by no means limited to the private sector. Continuing our series examining transformation, Mivy James sits down with the MoD’s Adrian Bailey to talk process, product and pace
  • Adapting for Agile: Lessons from the frontline. Changing how an organisation works is not for the faint-hearted, says Iain Abernethy. Here, he shares a few lessons from years on the Agile frontline
  • Delivering digital change in Defence. Continuing our examination of Agile working, Kevin McLeod spotlights the technological whirlwind reshaping the UK’s Defence sector. But with change comes challenges...

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