A trip to Birmingham City University and a reflection on agile working

Last month, I was invited by Birmingham City University to take part in a panel meeting to re-approve their MA Design Management course. As an external practitioner advisor, my role was to critique the suggested course detail whilst identifying points of good practice and suggesting any areas for improvement. 

I found that the opportunity offered an interesting chance to reflect on my first 6 months working at Lagom, whilst also thinking about the skills and knowledge aspiring design managers and researchers need to be successful in the contemporary workspace. 

One thing that stood out from my reflection was a reaffirmation of the importance of agile working, in particular design sprints. 

At Lagom, we carry out discoveries and user research in line with agile principles. Research is often conducted in sprints with the goal of learning from users and identifying actionable insights in a short time frame. 

There is an expectation within the public sector that digital projects will be carried out in this manner. And before joining Lagom, I had also noticed that this expectation was growing within the private sector too. In particular, this was evident amongst smaller businesses who were using design sprints as a way to explore innovation in a cost effective way. 

Recently in carrying out a discovery for a public sector client, I was struck by a series of posters documenting rules for design sprints displayed across their workspace in an attempt to inspire employees to integrate design principles into their ongoing work. However it was also apparent that there was a lack of experience in working in this way. It is this type of environment where I think aspiring design managers and practitioners have the potential to drive innovation and impart real change. 

It comes quite naturally for us at Lagom to manage user research in this way. We realise that agile working isn’t for everyone, however there’s a lot to be said about working on something a bit at a time, learning from successes and failures as you go, whether you are a student designer, a UX agency, a small business or a huge government department. 

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