Blog Header Test 05 HealthWest goes agile #2

October 13, 2021

Image by MH Rhee from Pixabay

In our last blog piece we introduced you to our experiment – trialling a new way of working using Agile Project Management, or at least a HealthWest version of it. We shared our thoughts on applying agile to the first part of our Recruiting for Diversity research project.  In agile-speak this was “cycle 1”.  As agile is largely about taking an iterative approach to managing a project, we are organising our work into stages, or ‘cycles’ – much like steppingstones and, to a degree, crossing bridges as we come to them.

This next instalment of ‘HealthWest Goes Agile’ was written at the end of our second cycle in August. (We are now currently well into our third!)

Cycle 2: Participant interest

Cycle 2 in our Recruiting for Diversity research project involved drafting and finalising a Research Proposal (including interview questions) and ‘testing the waters’ to see who might be interested in joining us as research interviewees.

In order to determine the success of this cycle we set ourselves the goal of engaging 3 – 5 organisations, varying in type, and up to 10 interview participants.


Once we reached the end of our second cycle, the staff group came together for our end-of-cycle retrospective.  Our retrospectives provide a space to both track project progress and to continue our reflections on the application of the agile methodology.

Our Agile Project Management Learning Enquiry Framework (how’s that for a title!) identifies the key questions we would like to reflect on throughout our agile experiment and sets out a structure for how, when and where we will do this. Using this framework to guide us, we are, as a group, reflecting on the following questions:

  • Is agile helping us to be more adaptable?
  • How is our way of working (agile) impacting on team relationships?
  • How is our way of working (agile) impacting on external relationships?
  • What are we learning about ourselves as an organisation in relation to our values, purpose and mission?


Cycle 2 Retrospective: What we have learnt

Based on the above questions to prompt us, we have learnt and/or experienced that the agile approach:

Helps us to be more purposeful and builds confidence

Whilst working with some degree of iteration and agility is not entirely new to us, our current way of working with Agile Project Management is providing us with a framework that supports us to explore and capture, in greater depth, our decision rationales, as the project unfolds. We are, it seems, more purposeful in documenting our adaptions and the reasons for them, which in turn builds our confidence for new approaches or iterations we may be taking.

Brings pros and cons

We are pondering the pros of working more collaboratively as a team (more heads = more robust decisions) and the cons of this (the time it can take), and are conscious there may be some tricks of the trade (that we are yet to learn) that might help us to do this more efficiently.

Requires us to ask where decision making is located

We have found ourselves wondering where to locate decision making. This is now not always so clear as it has been with more traditional forms of project management. We’re feeling a little unclear about this and look forward to exploring this question in some up-coming training.

Supports better external communication

We have found that we are communicating more about the way we work to our partners and member organisations.

May or may not work for everyone

One question preoccupying our thinking is about who agile works for and who it does not. Would funding bodies support an iterative approach? How do we reconcile a more fluid, evolving and unfolding way of working in a world where structure and detailed planning is the norm (apparently Adaptive Planning / Adaptive Management models may hold the key).

May or may not pose a tension with community engagement

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

Our team continues to consider the interplay between working internally in an agile way whilst pursuing our values and commitment to community involvement and engagement. How do we bring our community friends along for the ride whilst pivoting from A to B and then perhaps to J?

More questions & quandaries?

In some ways you could say that our Learning Enquiry questions (and the agile experiment as a whole)  are leading us not so much to answers but to many more quandaries and questions.  And I think it is.  If we can sit with the discomfort of ‘not knowing’ then it is a good place to be.  In these early days of trying something new we are perhaps now knowing what we don’t know – an exciting step forward in the journey of learning.


For more info

Contact Kate Baker, Evaluation Project Manager

Evaluation, News@HealthWest