Agile working

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One of the most exciting aspects of our EdTech Hub work is agile working. Agile working refers to a way of working that empowers the team to work flexibly (minimising external constraints and distractions) in order to constantly improve their work and optimise performance (the GDS service manual has this to say about agile-delivery).

What exactly does it look like in practice though? Rather than giving a theoretical overview, here’s what we’ve been up to.

At the heart of agile working are iterations (sometimes called ‘sprints’). In the EdTech Hub, we currently have two-week iterations. Each iteration addresses a specific set of tasks. To record tasks, we are using Kanban tool (for which we have a free subscription). This allows us to record what needs doing, what we are working on what has been done already. At the start of an iteration, we do an ‘iteration replenish’ where we review the ‘programme backlog’ (everything that we need to do at some stage) and move tasks to the ‘iteration backlog’ (everything we’ll work on and complete within a two-week time frame).

The kanban tool has helped us self-organise, plan and communicate our progress across the teams we are working with. Along with reviewing our work every two weeks, we are also having daily standups reviewing our day-to-day work (see photo below). Every day at 10 am, we all stand up and briefly share what we did yesterday, what we will work on today, any challenges we encountered and if anyone needs help. To make it more fun, we pass around our lovely team mascot to the next person ready to talk!

As we have teams from several organisations around the globe, we cannot work from the same location. However, that does not stop us from working together! First thing every morning, each team turns on their webcam, which helps us have brief, informal chats to talk through ideas. It’s like a virtual open-plan office. We also regularly use a whiteboard to record our work and important decisions our team has made. To communicate these ideas to the rest of the teams, we simply take a picture of it and post it on Slack, an online tool we have been using to stay in contact. Finally, we used browser-based editing tools, such as Google Drive and Zotero, to work together on the same documents simultaneously.

By using these agile working methods, we have created a flexible working environment where we all stay connected, supported and productive wherever we are in the world!

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Dr Björn Haßler is the founding director of Open Development & Education.
For more details see https://opendeved.net/team/bjoern-hassler/.

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