Agile or Sprint working is common in the software industry and is associated with the successful delivery of projects.
Advocates of the method discuss these values:
– Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
– Working software over comprehensive documentation.
– Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
– Responding to change over following a plan.
In short, it is about working closely with the people you are producing something for, through lots of iterations (continuous improvement), to make sure they get what they need.
At first glance, these values don’t seem to lend themselves to NHS Management. But, with a small bit of adaptation, the principles behind the Agile Manifesto, make perfect sense in many public sector services: –
Our highest priority is to satisfy the people we serve through early and continuous delivery of useful services.
– Welcome changing requirements, whenever they come. Agile processes harness change to deliver services that work. – Deliver improvements frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
– Service users and service providers must work together constantly throughout the project.
– Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
– The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a team is face-to-face conversation.
– A service being used is the primary measure of progress.
– Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, service providers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
– Continuous attention to excellence and working smart enhances agility.
– Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential. – The best services, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
– At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
Through 2015/16 the management team at the NIHR CRN Yorkshire and Humber tried a radical experiment: to apply these methods to the work of a whole organisation and see if, by focusing on the customer rather than the target, we could achieve more together.
It was a great success and, at the end of those twelve months of focusing on our customers, our KPIs had looked after themselves.
One year after starting sprint working, our network recruited more patients than ever before, exceeding all targets and expectations.
We also delivered countless little improvements to our systems and services along the way.
All by focusing on the customer, not on the target. So, agile-lite (as we came to call it) might have lessons for many in the fast-moving NHS.
Maybe you could benefit from a different way of meeting and working.