It’s a lock-in! Kicking off 2020 with 2 days of rapid decision-making

How the council’s digital team ran intensive sessions to supercharge their agile practice for the year ahead.

Here at the Croydon Digital Service (CDS) we’re all about continuous improvement. This applies not only to the digital services we provide for the borough, but also to innovating as a team so we can keep delivering the best outcomes for residents and council staff.

As mentioned in Neil’s last post, we’ve been changing and delivering at an exceptionally fast pace throughout 2019. Among other things, last year we radically reshaped the team to reduce traditional ICT roles and transform the service into a GDS-style digital department. Just before Christmas we welcomed new agile delivery managers (including me!) and product managers to the team, meaning we’re now set up with the vital roles we need to make sure 2020 will also be a year of #notmessingaround.

To keep the momentum going and rapidly bring these new and existing team members together, the delivery managers proposed a 2-day ‘lock-in’ for all the team’s key agile practitioners. This team gathering took place on 8 and 9 January in Heathfield House.

New product manager Victoria leads a talk

Why ‘lock-in’?

With the arrival of long-awaited new delivery managers and product managers, lots of spot conversations sprang up pre-Christmas about the finer details of our agile delivery processes and governance.

It soon became urgent to get everyone together, pool the decisions already taken, take new decisions together, and bond rapidly as a tight knit unit of agile practitioners. The lock-in was a chance to set our teams up for success and nip communication problems in the bud.

We kept the agenda loose with a number of exercises to ensure we remained focussed on the outputs we wanted. We split the two days to cover:

  • what do we deliver?
  • how we go about delivering it?

Our big ticket items were:

  • making good on our strategy by revisiting our vision and sharing ideas on our mission statement
  • deciding on the next iteration of our roadmap
  • exploring how we are going to make the most of our forthcoming low code platform across our various programmes of work
  • a roles and responsibilities session to understand how our business partners, delivery managers, product managers and project managers can best align
  • working on ways to prioritise/reprioritise work in our areas
  • streamlining our internal governance with more lean approaches, as well as discovering more innovative ways for us to deliver

Rosanna leading part of the lock in

Keeping ourselves in check

Needless to say, it was intense. We anticipated this and took cabin fever-preventative steps to make sure the two days were as productive as possible. To maintain resilience, all lock-in members kindly brought in ample snacks, there were plenty of breaks for individuals to admire and take in the beautiful grounds, and of course there were also sufficient post-its and flip charts to get the job done.

My fellow delivery managers and I also put our skills to the test to make sure we facilitated open and honest discussions. One of the most useful things we did was asking the group to identify they thought were the most important items on the agenda, and reviewing these at the end of each day to see if we had met expectations or needed to do more. I also made a note of clear actions once the group had agreed specifics of a discussion, with the intention of making them tangible outputs.

The lock in team laughing outside during a break

Next steps

It goes without saying that the actual benefits of a lock-in are when you have actionable outputs.

And yes, in our case this does include a Kanban board of sorts – after all we are agile! We’ve recorded ours on a Trello board and are blitzing through them as I speak (or blog).

We’ve also set up a Microsoft Teams channel to make sure we keep communicating.

In addition, we’ll be working on replacing our roadmap on our website with a publicly available Trello board. This will show how our delivery outcomes meet our strategy, providing high level external messaging focused on the strategic outcomes for residents. Internally, we’ve decided the best way to engage with stakeholders is to use programme delivery roadmaps. When these are in good enough shape we’ll share them publicly too.

And finally, we’ll be including most of our outputs in our CDS playbook, which is our go-to manual on how we deliver our digital products and services. This will also eventually be made public – so watch this space.

2 thoughts on “It’s a lock-in! Kicking off 2020 with 2 days of rapid decision-making”

Shaneek Glispie 15th January 2020 at 5:26 pm

Love it!!!!

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