Discussing agility in charities, especially larger, more traditional charities is tricky. My mind is a bit of a haze on this topic. It’s a sticky subject.
Having just read that under because the teams are too geographically dispersed, while 34% have failed because the teams didn't plan before getting started or didn't plan sufficiently as the project developed – doesn’t fill me with hope.
Especially when you have more than half of Chief Information Officers in the UK thinking that the agile methodology is just a fad.
Agile Working or Agile Development Methodology?
I mean, what even, is agility? Conversations I’ve had about agility either focus on flexible, remote working or on a methodology that promotes iterative working. And most of them just focus on agility in the IT space, not on greater business transformation.
Non-Traditional Project Management
In light of these challenges, let’s pull the strands apart and examine more closely:
Charities, especially larger ones, struggle with working in silos. These are often age-old structures, derived from teams with particular remits that aren’t allowed or don’t want to work outside of their job. My work across different charities has led me to often hear “why is that team doing that, it’s not their job, it’s ours”.
Definitions are important
user stories being at the centre of the adoption of agile.
Nor is it "working from home" or working without structure...
This notion, in fact, puts the term in danger of becoming a maligned buzzword in financial circles, because of the connotations that ‘make it seem very difficult to budget for’.
Dan Sutch, director at CAST, highlights how agile can work well for charities: “One thing that agile approaches really push is the focus on user-value (or user behaviour). Within the charity sector it is vital that this focus is pushed/reinforced as it’s so crucial to ensure their expertise is presented in ways that actually get used.” So if your charity supports vulnerable people, for instance, agile could be a useful way to put yourself in your audience’s shoes by understanding what they want and need.
Agile changes how people think and behave
It’s very interesting to see how even the most traditional-thinking staff from all parts of charities react when they start to take this agile philosophy on board. Suddenly they start to think in a much more integrated and flexible way. They gather user stories. They do user acceptance testing. And most interestingly of all they do all this even though it isn’t an official part of their job, which is exactly the kind of engagement that is required to achieving business transformation.
In the end it's about leadership
In all my research, I came across a brilliant quote from Jim Bowes, CEO of digital agency Manifesto. I think this sums up nicely what I have been trying to get at – but failing possibly to articulate. Jim does it really well: “In my experience it’s not any specific methodology that causes the success or failure of projects within charities – it’s much more likely to be whether a good vision has been set, that clearly relates to organisational goals and whether the right team is in place to realise the project.”
Kirsten is a guest authour on the Tech For Good Hub, where this post was originally published.