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9 February 2023

Learning the ropes – joining the Delivery Management Academy.

Josh Parker

Learning the ropes – joining the Delivery Management Academy.

It was 9 am on my first day at Hippo. I was ready and raring to go with a mug of tea in hand. I’d better brush up on some last-minute terminology. That might just prevent me from saying something silly in a virtual room full of strangers. 

‘Agile values’, ‘Scrum Master’, ‘Kanban’…not all unknown to me, but nonetheless: imposter syndrome activated. Just two mouthfuls of tea down, and I found myself debating whether or not I was in too deep. Was going back to bed a valid option?

Of course, it wasn’t, I reminded myself. However, I was right to be anxious. Up to now, ‘Agile’ has felt like somewhat of a buzzword to me. I threw it around a lot in conversation, but I often found myself stumbling when asked to explain it.

Fast forward three weeks, and I have just graduated from Hippo’s very first agile delivery management academy. We planned delivery, coached colleagues, built out our backlogs and even handled some difficult conversations. By no means an agile expert yet, but I am impressed by the knowledge I have gained in just 1.5 sprints.

We may not have done it all by the book, sorry to those die-hard scrum fans – but for me, the academy was living and breathing proof of the Agile Values in action. Let me explain why.

Value 1: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

Having the right people is important, but creating an environment that allows those individuals to thrive is essential.

For me, it’s the things you don’t see that ultimately make the difference when building successful teams. When present, they seem to slip under the radar, but it slaps you in the face when they are missing.

This is what set the Hippo academy apart. I felt valued from the onset. Browsing the Hippo Slack, it’s hard to find anything other than colleagues supporting one another, solving each other’s problems and making each other laugh. I had not even set foot in the office, but the anxiety and stress that accompanies any new job had already diminished significantly. 

Takeaway 1: Happy people are far more productive and effective. It’s a fact. So place value on the small things for your teams because, in the end, they all add up!

6 people stood around discussing their prototype ideas on white pieces of paper and colourful post it notes

Value 2: Working software over comprehensive documentation. 

It’s okay to have unknowns and assumptions. Just getting started is enough.

A couple of days later, it was my chance to meet everyone in person and immerse myself in ‘Design in a day’. This gave us our introduction to design thinking. We discussed:

  • what it means to be user-centric
  • never stopping asking ‘why?’ 
  • getting to know our assumptions – this turns out to be pretty much everything during the early stages of projects! 

By the end of the day, we had completed a mini-design sprint. It certainly wasn’t perfect, and I doubt we met our definition of done. However, this day demonstrated how much you could learn if you throw away your perfectionist tendencies. It might just be a brain dump and not mean much to anyone, but making a start is better than being right. 

Takeaway 2: Get started, do enough to build something, share what you have created and learn from your feedback. Then rinse and repeat. Simple, really.

Value 3: Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. 

Getting regular feedback is essential – you need to know what your users want.

At the end of each week, we took part in a team retrospective. This was our opportunity to reflect on the following: 

  • what we enjoyed
  • what we didn’t like
  • what was lacking 

One example of the latter was some real-life case studies, or practical interactions, to complement the theory we covered. We had the content, but we felt like we were missing some context.

The following week we had a session on team ways of working. I thought I would have a quick look over the slides before I joined the session. 60 slides of content *gulp*. I joined the call shortly after and was quickly put at ease. Our trainer, Adam, had heard our thoughts from last week and had changed tack, opting for a practical workshop instead. 

Long story short: this session ended up being one of the highlights of the academy, so thank you, Adam for freestyling that one. It was great!

Takeaway 3: Everyone has a role to play in collaboration to truly embed valuable change.

Three people sat at a table looking at a man who is talking them through what he is presenting on a large screen

Value 4: Responding to change over following a plan. 

You learn as you go, so don’t let old thoughts hold you back. 

In a previous project management role, I spent a lot of time writing elaborate plans with milestones set in stone. I wasn’t against change, but to be truthful, it was a pain having to alter my precious Gantt chart

However, some of the biggest successes from the academy were the things that were not always part of the plan. Something we decided to introduce as a group was end-of-day reflections. Without these, I doubt we would know each other as well as we do now, and I am not sure we could have coped without them!

It’s OK to go off-piste and try something new. Don’t get me wrong, and this doesn’t mean you can change everything and never commit to an approach. Having said that, environments are constantly changing, and things don’t always work out like you think they might. Therefore, remaining open to change and staying pragmatic is key.

Takeaway 4: Change is inevitable, so you may as well embrace it. 

Final thoughts

There are a whole number of ways you can do agile, but we need to be agile. So when you get stuck with a decision to make, just think back to the values above. If it satisfies one of those, then I’m sure you’re heading in the right direction.

Hippo is content designers, user researchers, business analysts, delivery managers, developers and everything in between. Interested in having fun at a future academy? Keep an eye on our academy page.