Sport Wales discovery – team learning

29 October 2021

Following the conclusion of our discovery phase, we have taken some time to reflect on the process we’ve been through and what we’ve learned as a team.

Prior to this, Sport Wales had never worked in an agile way. It was new and exciting and a way of working which we quickly embraced.

From the very first preparation session, where we came together as a ‘squad’ to set out how we were going to work as a team and the goals for the discovery phase, it was clear that we would only be successful if we worked collaboratively and utilised the individual skill sets that each member of the team was bringing to the table.

Regular communication was also key. We kept in touch with each other through the messaging app Slack, where we could very quickly share ideas, ask for feedback or help, and give updates on our individual pieces of work. We also held weekly hour-long sprint planning sessions and daily 15 minute ‘stand-ups’, where we discussed the day’s work and where the whole team committed to tasks.

The online collaboration tool Trello also helped keep us on track, by allowing us to break the work down into manageable bitesize pieces that could then be picked up by one or more team members. There was also always a real sense of achievement in the team when we were able to move task from the ‘doing’ to the ‘done’ column!

Being able to work collaboratively in this new virtual world was also a challenge that the team was quickly able to overcome using online tools. Whereas in pre-COVID days a project team would all huddle around a physical whiteboard with post-it notes in hand, this was replaced by the virtual whiteboard Mural. This gave us the freedom to create anything from a process map of our current application system, to a place to disseminate and post our findings from the user research.

However, the biggest piece of learning that Sport Wales has taken from the discovery phase is to ‘work in the open’, which is one of the twelve Digital Service Standards for Wales created by the CDPS. The team ensured that we were working in the open by publishing regular week notes that denoted the progress and learning we had made the previous week, as well as holding show and tell sessions whereby key members of Sport Wales staff, (including the project sponsors), were invited to hear first-hand the work we were doing with an opportunity to give feedback and ask questions.

As well as the show and tell sessions, we also held what we called ‘agile drop-in sessions’. They were open to anyone in Sport Wales to come along and ask us questions about the project, or just agile ways of working in general. Both have been vital in ensuring that the wider Sport Wales staff team was engaged in the project.

Another significant change for Sport Wales was to staff to work exclusively on one area of work for a fixed amount of time, and the ability to focus purely on that was refreshing and impactful. The deep insight that this provided and the amount of work we were able to get through and achieve would not have been possible if we were balancing multiple work areas at the same time.

Having experienced first-hand the benefits of working in this way, we will be sure to implement what we have learnt to date with other pieces of work within Sport Wales and following the agile drop-in sessions, it is clear that the appetite new ways of working is organisation-wide.

Blog post by: Sport Wales discovery team

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