The
Challenge
.

Research Platform Services (ResPlat) is a department within the University of Melbourne. At its core, ResPlat aims to helps graduate researchers better conduct research by connecting them with the best tools, training, expertise and communities.

ResPlat needed a better way for their Research Community Leads (ResLeads) to 'get things done', while also providing visibility and accountability to Product Managers.

ResLeads are responsible for the management and delivery of knowledge transfer and training amongst the research community at the University. Essentially, ResLeads are PhD students that train other PhD students under the supervision of the Product Manager.

David Flanders, ResPlat Research Community Manager, is a great advocate for agile methodologies, which is essentially how a software developer would approach project management. Agile encourages self-organisation, collaboration, responding to change and prioritising interactions over process.

Knowing the value in this project management method, David reached out to Kiandra for an Agile Coach to consult and work with one of its new Product Managers who oversees a team of twenty PhD students.

The
Solution
.

Kiandra’s Agile Team worked with ResPlat to establish and evolve their agile practice, in particular their adoption of Kanban — a specific method that helps to visualise work to better understand the entire project flow.
 
David said agile was the first choice when it came to the kind of methodology to roll out to their PhD students and Kiandra’s expertise fit well in the academic environment. To improve the ResPlat’s agile approach and empower staff to effectively run agile ceremonies and practices, Kiandra delivered the following services:
 
  • Driving effective scrum/agile ceremonies
  • Supporting teams to progress work
  • Feedback, guidance and support
  • Coaching, training and mentoring on agile practices
  • Agile assessment and retrospectives.

Initially, Kiandra’s Agile Coach worked through a series of discovery exercises with the team in two half day sessions. The result of this then allowed the coach to effectively work with the team to achieve their specific aims.

The
Outcome
.

Kiandra’s Agile Coaching services were twofold.

While Kiandra helped to set up a team of 20 PhD students for project management success, it also acted as professional development training for ResPlat’s new Product Manager, Sonia. David said the coaching process helped deepen Sonia’s skills to help keep her team on track.

“This work was primarily professional development for Sonia as a product manager to understand what agile was and how to utilise it to get the best outcomes for her team.

“Kiandra’s Agile Coach, Leila's contagiousness was what really brought this up to be. Initially our Product Manager, Sonia, was intimidated with working with 20 PhDs, as anyone would be. However, Leila was able to empower the process. Sonia had a shallow toolbox as a people manager at the beginning of this process and now she has a plethora of tools to empower her staff.”

Over three months, Kiandra helped ResPlat establish a physical Kanban board, regular stand-up meetings to monitor work-flow and the initial feedback loop, which helped with the delivery of knowledge transfer and training amongst the research community.

By nature, agile is collaborative making the process more transparent, which spreads accountability across the team. This was apparent as the research team engaged in daily meetings that enabled the team to recognize and mitigate risk early. This was a vital component to then set and reach longer term goals.

Other benefits include:
 
  • Adoption of agile and lean practices
  • Initial review and audit of current Kanban practices
  • Ongoing review and iterative feedback to continue improving and optimising the agile process
  • Collaboration with direct and indirect stakeholders to obtain feedback and demonstrate progress
  • Risk mitigation through the establishment of cross-functional teams, stable and predictable delivery pace, continuous feedback, and engineering practices
  • Expert advice on what tools to use whether physical like a wall or digital like a Trello board
  • Enabling management to plan long-term and increase the amount of time they can schedule
  • Transparency allowed more time to assess risks and identify feasible solutions.

At the end of the project, Kiandra’s Agile Coach conducted a retrospective to evaluate how the project had run. As a whole, feedback was positive and David said they are hoping to roll out an Agile based project further.

Update from @ResPlat: a record number of ‘bums on seats’ came through our researcher training service, with over 1400 people participating in community events during 2018!

DAVID FLANDERS
ResPlat Research Community Manager, University of Melbourne
Kiandra’s Agile Coach, Leila, understood the academic environment and was able to navigate this well in order to deliver a series of successful workshops.

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