Big programme design and the willing suspension of disbelief involved

Change is a constant
  • What could our digital transformation ‘offer’ look like?
  • How could we deliver (big) agile programmes not just agile projects or products? And the question that sits behind this; how do you create a change approach that reflects the fact that the context around the work you are doing is always changing?
  1. We brought the idea of a backlog into the programme design (via the hopper) and made the design function more integrated/multidisciplinary and iterative than is usual in a Prince 2 type set up. The aim of this was to embed an agile mindset in the programme and to bring things through based on their value and not just because the team running the show think a particular order is logical.
  2. We drew a bigger distinction between the ‘engines’ that drive the programme — such as comms/engagement (people in the diagram) or knowledge/insight — and the actual packages of work (in this diagram the solutions). In this model the engines are responsible for sense making and continuity while the solutions move through the programme pipeline from ideas going into the hopper and then through the validation and design process into delivery — and sometimes back again as the process is designed to iterate.
  3. We built in much more discipline around benefit realisation into the design process — everything that went through the hopper process was tagged for potential benefit types with the goal being that solutions included the generation of the data needed to measure their impact. We also did work around expanding the range of value types that a programme could target — this list is designed for a local government environment and one of the jobs for my team this year is to look at what a similar family of benefits/outcomes could look like for CRUK.
  4. We separated the governance into procedural (programme and measurement) and strategic (purpose and outcomes) in order to create different spaces for the different conversations that need to be had with the rest of the organisation. These are; 1) Procedural: is this programme doing what it said it would do on time and on budget? 2) Strategic: Is this programme achieving the outcomes we hoped for or do we need to redirect its purpose? We did this because of an observation of too many ‘decision’ forums being bogged down in procedural stuff and not getting chance to talk about the strategic issues — we wanted a parity of esteem between these different conversations. We also wanted the purpose of the programme to be treated as a living statement — something the organisation could regroup around to check that this large piece of work was actually doing something useful.
Agile programme design
The hopper
  • When we got into it and viewed it as a data problem it became much more meaningful
  • The breaking out of the different value types really helped the team to unpack some of the hidden work in the examples we were working with — the things you pursue because they are ‘Good Things’ but don’t have a mechanism to measure because they are not financial outcomes
  • Benefit measurement is deeply agile — ie the pursuit of value — but it is also where you see the advantages of properly disciplined research and analysis methods. I love research and analysis methods!
  1. The idea that you can plan a two or three year programme and deliver certainty of process and outputs from the start
  2. How can you possibly expect to create a more digital organisation if your change programme is being delivered in an analogue way?
  3. Creating a programme structure sets up the risk that the process of delivering the programme becomes as important as the work that is being delivered.
  • it puts purpose as a central tenet to the work and something that you return to to check that you are on the right track
  • it needs to embody the kind of future you are trying to deliver
  • it needs to deliver value incrementally and do so in a way which builds the organisational inclination and ability to change
  • it needs to, overtime, transition into ‘how we do things round here’ rather than existing until end of times as a separate entity
  • it needs to be open and transparent to corporate scrutiny. The organisation has to be able to trust it
  • it needs to be agile and adaptive to changes in the organisational context and not just continue on its tracks irrespective of what is happening around it




I'm all about thinking, doing, multidisciplinary practice and being kind…in a socio-technical way

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Catherine Howe

Catherine Howe

I'm all about thinking, doing, multidisciplinary practice and being kind…in a socio-technical way

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