https://sfadigital.blog.gov.uk/2017/04/05/5-things-weve-learnt-on-our-journey-to-oneteam/

5 things we've learnt on our journey to #oneteam

Mark Dalgarno
Mark Dalgarno (delivery manager at the Department for Education) introduces the agile manifesto to the policy team

In my previous post, I blogged about bringing policy and delivery together. We’ve been doing this on the apprenticeship service since day one.

Tomorrow, we’ll see a key part of apprenticeships reform policy come into force when the apprenticeship levy is introduced. From May, employers will be able to see their apprenticeship funds in their accounts on the apprenticeship service.

It’s been a long journey. To build the right thing we had to find new ways of developing policy and building a service at the same time. If you are #oneteam then this should be quite easy. In reality, being #oneteam can be quite difficult. We had to try some new ways to make policy and service design the same thing.

5 things we’ve learnt

1. When you design a new digital service, you start by doing a small project to understand what the service should be (called a discovery). At this stage, it’s important that someone from policy plays a leading role. Understanding the policy is as important as understanding user needs. As a bonus, this is an excellent way to transfer delivery skills and sympathies into the policy team. Make sure you support the policy lead with an experienced digital team; it's probably the first time they (the policy lead) will have done something like this.

2. Quite often you’ll find that policies change. This is inevitable in government. Don’t fight it – embracing change is agile. Categorise your policies into those that can’t change and those that might. We called this ‘hard policy/soft policy’. It gave us enough certainty to plan our research and it gave the policy team a list of prioritised questions to answer.

Categorise your policies as hard or soft
Categorise your ‘policies’ as hard (fixed ones you can’t change) and soft (ones that are still being formed or just steers). Then focus your discovery on the soft ones.

3. At some point you will need to show the service to your minister. Take someone from the service design team (like a user researcher) along with you. We found that ministers really value the user perspective.

4. Get some agile training for the rest of the policy team (top photo). To an outsider, agile can seem like another language that delivery teams speak. We offered our policy teams a 1-hour introduction to agile, using visual management and post-its.

5. Finally, show and tells are a great way to share information. Ideally, teams will share everything they know, but in reality this doesn’t always happen. Ask policy experts and delivery experts to show one another their work regularly. It’s a great way to mop up anything you’ve missed and to get policy people more involved.

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