Agile is a set of principles, behaviours and approaches for delivering work. Many organisations successfully operate in agile.
Agile teams are able to create, adapt and improve products and services over time. Agile embraces change and learning ‘as you go’, which can make it look unpredictable at first. In fact, agile is focused on sustainability and predictability, and requires as much discipline as other project management methods.
Agile is about:
- delivering products and services by focusing on outcomes
- breaking large bodies of work into smaller chunks
- testing, learning and iterating
- delivering value early and often
- making evidence-based decisions using research and data.
Adopting agile won’t produce instant improvements in quality and efficiency. New agile teams will probably experience some discomfort and disruption. It takes practice, discipline and persistence to see results.
Agile vs waterfall
There are key differences between agile and waterfall (traditional project management).
- Uses shorter plans with multiple iterative cycles.
- Relies on data and insights from ongoing research to inform the right solution.
- Aims for predictability through sustainable work patterns.
- Is flexible and responsive to changes and new information.
- Delivers benefits continually through smaller releases.
- Involves extensive upfront planning.
- Solutions are identified before the start of the project.
- Tries to predict how and when projects will be completed.
- Relies on sequential activities happening on a strict timeline.
- Benefits are realised at the end of the project.
Choose the right methodology for the work you are doing. For digital products and services, agile is usually best.
Getting started with agile
Set a vision
Set up multidisciplinary teams who share one goal: creating great services for users.
Keep things simple
Limit work in progress, re-use work across teams and reduce waste.
Develop the mindset
Support agile ways of working, champion them and protect your teams from distractions.
Support teams to use research to iterate designs and fix problems
Encourage continuous improvement
Establish short feedback loops so teams can learn fast, apply new thinking and work better.
Ask good questions
At sprint reviews or showcases ask your teams:
- What problem is this solving?
- What is the value to our user(s)?
- How have our assumptions changed?
- What have we learned?
Ready to start? Check out our agile plays below.
Stand-ups are short meetings to share updates and track progress.
Retrospectives (retros) give the team a chance to reflect and share what went well and what didn't.
Resources for agile in government
Learn more about agile with the following links.
- Doing agile for the first time? See what success looks like in Am I doing it right? A check up for agile teams.
- See how the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment used agile in their Taking Farmers to Market service delivery handbook.
- Learn more from Atlassian's no-nonsense guide to agile, The Agile Coach
- Access basic tips and templates to help your team deploy agile in the Policy Hub's Agile Policy Playbook.
- Understand the principles and values behind agile in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
- Catch up on our Digital Insights podcast - Episode 3: Adopting Agile successfully in government.
- See our recorded Agile Fundamentals for Leaders as part of our Digital Fundamentals course (exclusive for Digital Profession members).
Join our agile community
You'll find more resources, advice and support in the Digital Profession's Agile and Lean Community. It's an open and safe space to connect with peers, share experiences, ask questions and help solve common problems.
The community also runs a 'Lean Coffee' meetup every second Thursday of the month. This event is open to anyone who would like to discuss topics around agile, lean start-up, DevOps and more. Lean Coffee is a structured, but agenda-less, meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are relevant and productive because the agenda for the meeting was democratically generated. Find out more on the home page of the Agile and Lean Community.