Welcome to the scrum

The driving ambition for SCVO Labs is to bring platform thinking to bear on people’s engagement with civil society and good causes in Scotland. But on the way there we’re also testing out new ways of working for an organisation like SCVO. In particular, we’re embracing an agile approach to getting stuff done.

As far as I can make out, for a lot of people agile means one of two things:

  1. A word you chuck in as an excuse for not managing a project properly
  2. Whiteboards!

Happily, doing our work in the middle of a big open plan office is a great opportunity to get stuck into a bit of show, don’t tell. So whilst we do indeed have the whiteboards up (and jolly pretty they are too, I reckon we can give the MGS team a run for their money), they are very much a tool for managing our project well and making our approach visible to those around us.

We’re using the scrum methodology, about which much has been written already (try here, here and here) so I won’t go over all the detail. Suffice to say we’re adapting it for our needs, and that the main building blocks in our world are:

  • A product backlog with objectives articulated as user stories
  • A two-week sprint cycle bookended by planning at the start and review + retrospective at the end
  • Daily stand-ups to check progress and track burndown

For me, the big benefit of running agile is the focus this brings to the team on things like shared ownership, prioritisation and delivering results. Because the work is boxed by time we’re heading inexorably toward the regular delivery of actionable insights and deployed code, and not letting the best be the enemy of the good. And in the process, tracking our work through each sprint gives us lots of transparency about who is doing what and how fast we’re making progress.

We’ll post again a bit further into the project with some more reflections on how agile is working for us. In the meantime if you’re running agile for a charity or social enterprise project then we’d love to hear your tips and words of wisdom in the comments box below.