Our fellowship begins with CfA


Day 1

Quote of the day: “Build from the trenches… simplify from the overview”

During the first day we all got to know each other by doing a modified Pecha Kucha presentations. My biggest take-away from that was just how short 20 seconds is… but it was also great to get a glimpse into everyones little spark, what is it they just had to cram into 20 seconds

We also did an interesting gamification workshop with Steffen Walz using his Future Deck strategy cards which reminded me of Enos Oblique strategy cards

Finally we discussed the importance of team agreements and the value of checkins and honest communication. We also discussed how shared understanding can help drive shared outcomes and conversely competing visions can often lead to divergent plans

Day 2

Quote of the day: “Manually intensive internal process”

Today we discussed the importance in our role of demonstrating agile methods and design focused development for the government. We also covered how joint creativity and visioning exercises can help to highlight issues in current stakeholder discussions.

We also had short presentations from the government officials involved in the three challenges. Since then I have found out that we are going to the Department of Treasury and so it seems that my mind has expunged the DWELP/Parks and Legal Aid challenges entirely.

The DTF challenge outlined a cumbersome system build for requirements long past… there were stories of databases migrating, the emailing of spreadsheets extracted from databases and the wailing and gnashing of… ok, maybe not the last one.

Ideally our solution would work alongside the Construction Supplier Register to promote better feedback from industry, increase transparency into the purchasing choices of the government and ideally assist in forecasting decisions for government procurement

We also did a few visioning exercises as a group and as individual. I found it incredibly heartening to find that the most common thread between everyone in the group is that we all individually wanted to produce long term sustainable solutions that will persist beyond our fellowship. Unfortunately as a group our vision was a chaotic circus

Day 3

Quote of the day: “Nothing quotable is ever said on day three”

We talked with a mentor about the importance of following through in customer relations. Whilst it might not seem to be an overly insightful observation it is something that we, as technically minded people, can lose sight of. We must do our best to follow through on all our contacts requests and address them in a timely manner. We also discussed again the importance of lucid and real negotiation in agile. If we are not genuine, then we will fail to come to a genuine agreement. Part of being genuine is honestly being yourself, but the flipside is honestly listening

Day 3 also saw our first challenge. The easy one. This challenge turned into a great example of our strength at rapid development of design and simplification of problems. All groups created a visible or even demonstrable prototype. While these prototypes had some rough edges that the department representatives could see, they all still represented real paths forward that could be tweaked and utilised to simplify the process by the end of the week or two (pending paperwork)

Day 4

Quote of the day: “Why, why, why?”

We were spoilt with three guests on day 4 (including Guss from RHoK, who’m I’d thought I’d serendipitously bumped into downstairs) and we mostly talked about how defining the real problem is critical and often difficult. Playing the “why?, why?,why?” game can help but often we must go further than that and question the very problem we are looking at or broaden our stakeholder group

We also discussed Launch Vic which invests in infrastructure for start-ups, things like promoting the building of co-working spaces, encouraging the expansion of capacity of existing places or investing in shared infrastructure

We also had our second challenge in what we thought was a PTV form redesign. I read the problem, and I read it again. I looked up at my colleges and shrugged. They looked at me and shrugged… We all read it again. Finally someone broke the awkward silence: “what’s wrong with that?”… “nothing” we all replied. It was then that we made the fatal mistake… we assumed the role of the customer… when the customer was about 150 meters away at the nearest train station! Had we consulted with our stakeholders they would have told us that all the problems we saw with the system were non-existent… although what do we do at that stage: the right answer (which one team did) is: pivot.

It took me about three days to think of the perfect way to pivot that problem that still keeps it relevant to the problem that the seniors ticket is suppose to solve. One of the benefits of the program is to make travel at non-peak times more attractive to seniors and so reduce the load on public transport during peak times. So I would investigate the feasibility of providing seniors a more comprehensive package that included reduced fares for travelling in non-peak times during weekdays in addition to the free weekend pass, further driving down peak demand.

Day 5: Retro

Quote of the day: “As fast as things are now is as slow as they will ever be”

On our final day we had a very enlightening discussion about the importance of designing with not only our users in mind but also the next generation. If our systems are to last they must be usable today and tomorrow… and tomorrow, that tomorrow might not look much like tomorrow does today

We also repeated the theme of finding the real problem, this time with an emphasis on visibility and making problems easy to find. Paint your problems red! There is also the possibility of using active agents to find problems, proactively creating autonomous entities that will seek out issues and conflicts.

Our teams also self formed on Friday and obviously I was in the TDF team. It was very interesting to see the self formation process. I’d love to tell you more but it’s all secret agile retro business (which might be beer if you go on the slack messages)

I’ll finish on a photo of lunch time discussions at TeamSquare level 4 with a few people from the DTF!

Written on August 8, 2016