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State of California

Coaching agile through learning by doing


The California Health and Human Services’ (CHHS) Office of Innovation needed help putting the principles of agile into practice. We were brought in to deliver a practical agile-coaching experience that not only tied together all the key principles of the Agile Manifesto, but also allowed the Office to apply these principles on a needed, real-world project.

An instructor showing students, who are sitting around a table, how an agile board works.

The challenge

For some time, the CHHS Office of Innovation had been working to shift their technical and organizational culture toward agile principles. As an organization, the Office is responsible for lean design thinking and delivering innovative solutions to important problems. So it was important for the Office to not only “do” agile, but to “be” agile. However, they were finding it difficult to connect the elements of agile together, such as planning, testing, and iteration.

The solution

As a partner to CivicActions, we helped lead a two-day intensive training workshop to bring every facet of agile in a personalized, coaching environment for the CHHS Office of Innovation. To do that, we simulated five sprints in a microcosm within those two days, focusing on applying the Scrum practices of planning, story writing, story estimation, velocity calcuation, and testing on the Office of Innovation’s website, which was in need of substantial revision. We aimed not only to provide coaching in the Scrum framework, but also the energy to help participants ask the right questions about their agile process. In this way, we aimed to provide both a valuable learning experience and an improved real-world product.

The results

  • Delivered comprehensive training on agile principles
  • Hands-on development of a new and improved website for the CHHS Office of Innovation

We had been training on agile for some time, and before, we understood all the ingredients. But this workshop brought all the ingredients together and showed us how to bake a cake.

Tamara Srzentic, Deputy Director, Office of Innovation at CHHS

As people in the government realize the value and power of the agile process, it’s important to understand that the principles of agile are key. This class teaches people how to get the benefits of agile without being dogmatic. My staff said they have been through multiple agile trainings but none were as valuable and practical as this. They’re now comfortable adjusting the process to fit their needs and culture of the Department they’re helping.

Chaeny Emanavin, Director, Office of Innovation at CHHS

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