Like many designers, I like maps. We use different types of maps at FutureGov to help guide organisations through change to build the future they want to see. In mid-December, we rounded off a review of Adult Services in North East Lincolnshire Council (NEL) with a roadmap.
We’d spent 6 months working alongside staff and citizens through research, co-design and testing to design better and cheaper services. Getting to know the people and place, we learned as much as we could about the council, their challenges and their goals. When it was time for us to step back and let the NEL team get on with the good work, we first helped them outline a plan for the team to action throughout the next year, breaking down the transformational change work into defined themes and manageable tasks.
Agile baking: from recipes to roadmaps
Making long-lasting, transformational change is complicated. It requires flexibility, room to experiment and the freedom to make mistakes. There are simply too many shifting components to pinpoint a single way of planning work. Whilst it’s important to create a plan that evokes action, it must also be versatile enough to accommodate this uncertainty.
When we’re trying to design for the future, finite project plans can be limiting, which is why we use an agile approach and mapping. It can take getting used to the ambiguity that comes with these methods. Who wouldn’t prefer a simple set of instructions with detailed timings? Many of the staff in NEL are used to set clear and concrete project plans before even procuring work. It was only natural there would be scepticism towards flexibility.
One way of looking at this is to imagine baking a cake. Only, the oven settings and ingredients are constantly changing. That’s what transformational change is like. Your favourite, more detailed recipe won’t serve you well here. You’ll need a new recipe that keeps you on track and allows you to adjust. Time, temperature and amount of ingredients may change, or in the context of a council, staff resourcing, service user needs or changes in policy. This is where baking down, I mean breaking down, a roadmap into clear themes is helpful.