Monthly Archives: July, 2013

Fast iteration and small steps helping UK government IT projects

Interesting news today of the UK government moving to a much more active and agile-like way to run IT projects. Quote from the article:

“But if this project succeeds it could have a wider benefit than modernising government transactions – it could show the way forward for any kind of major public sector IT project.

Or at least that is what Mike Bracken thinks. The boss of the Government Digital Service was previously the digital director at the Guardian and has had a long career in the technology sector. He contrasts the approach his team is taking with the standard government IT procurement process, where a massive contract is handed to an outside supplier, inevitably a huge company.

“You then end up three years later with something that might be fit for what you were doing five years ago.” Compare this with the GDS approach: “Do it quick, fail fast, learn your lessons and continue to change – that’s why you need the skills inside the organisation.” And with a philosophy of open standards, there is much more flexibility to work with other, smaller suppliers as the project moves on.

Full piece at

SF Tip #2: Break the deadlock with the power of what’s wanted

Niklas had a tough situation (writes Shakya Kumara of sfwork). As CEO of an IT consultancy Hi5 (, he knows how crucial security is to his customers and his business. Yet there was one potential issue in this area he and his team had been grappling with for over 2 years. Despite 20 or 30 attempts, they hadn’t even been able to definhi5 niklase the problem.

Then he tried Solutions Focused methods he’d learnt. Within 5 minutes they generated a breakthrough, and within 2 weeks they’d halved the risk and designed a long term solution.

How did he produce the breakthrough?

They had been asking the question, “What’s the real problem here?” – and after 2 years they still didn’t have an answer. Niklas produced the breakthrough by switching to Solutions Focus and asking a different question:

“What would the situation would look like if we started out with a blank piece of paper, and designed something new that was ‘the best of the best’.”

What can we learn from this story?

The first lesson is clear – looking for the “real problem” can take a very long time! Switching the focus to “what’s wanted?” can be an incredible time saver.
If you’re already familiar with Solutions Focus, you’ll also recognize the “Future Perfect.” The “Future Perfect” is a Solution Tool which steps beyond the immediate issues, into a future world in which the problem has vanished. So: if you’re faced with a stuck situation, and people can’t agree about the problem, you could try the same approach. The simplest way is to ask, “In an ideal world, what would we like instead?”

But Niklas is a very skilled Solutions Focus practitioner, and we can draw another lesson from the way he used the Future Perfect tool: “Fit the Future Perfect to the People.” There are many ways to introduce the Future Perfect, and the image of the “blank piece of paper” and the idea of “the best of the best” were a brilliant fit for his team of highly talented and intelligent IT consultants.

With such an appealing Future Perfect, the team could easily agree what was wanted – and that made it easy to agree further steps forward. Deadlock broken!

p.s. If you try this yourself, or you’ve got a question, do email me at

Shakya Kumara is a Trainer, Coach and Developer with SFWork. He specialises in working with managers, coaching them through their toughest challenges, and helping them bring out the very best from the people they manage.

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