Agility isn’t just for software, Part 2: Non-Profit Outreach

We are going to continue our conversation around “Agility isn’t just for software” this week with a bit of a mishmash of stories. The reason is that I want to protect the identity of the organization since they value privacy, so I changed the location and the type of organization to another group that I did some work with many years ago. All-in-all, this is still an accurate representation of the work that was done to bring the culture and values of agility and tactically apply them to a completely different type of organization.

Business Case

Social care, population health, giving back to the community – all aspects of what this upstart non-profit in the Ozark Mountains focused on.  But there were problems: 

  1. Interfacing with multiple other organizations all with differing methods and core competencies towards a single goal,
  2. Not only reaching but understanding the challenges of the population so that the services can be focused to reduce waste and complexity,
  3. Creating a partnership with the population so that the cultural impediments could be overcome.

All of this was daunting at first; people that had never worked together and had strong personalities across multiple teams serving “customers/clients” who, like other clients, weren’t very sure of what they wanted or needed.

One of the founding members, however, was a former scrum master who decided that the concepts of teamwork, collaboration, design thinking, and product management could be applied to this scenario.  Working with the rest of the team, the agilist focused on creating a single, small effort that would not just introduce the non-profit to the community but would provide a valuable effort using a small portion of the team to provide a huge impact and receive feedback at the same time.  What was this service going to be?  A health bus – a mobile doctor’s office complete with imaging and mobile surgical – capable of bringing proactive and preventative health to the very remote areas of the Ozarks.  

To prepare for this first launch, the team had to set aside their previous “manager mentalities” and adopt a leadership model which allowed each team member to focus on getting this one launch to done.  The team worked collaboratively together, developing materials, visiting prospective areas, setting up a schedule, and more importantly, using the local community centers as sounding boards for feedback and announcements.

With the first launch near, a ‘kanban’ board was used to identify both tasks that needed to be done, but also efforts that needed to be “designed for” during the launch.  Team members who were not part of the medical team were to spend time socializing with the community to find out what they could do next to help out.  Without action, without there being something valuable to deliver, the locals would not have been open about other needs and necessities.  Some were small – helping with frozen water lines – to larger efforts like bringing sustainable power to aging patients for refrigerated medication storage. 


While the first launch was an amazing feat, the feedback/survey helped find problems that were unknown.  If the team would have only done what they had thought was their “first step,” it wouldn’t have been what was most needed and possibly would have created more contention between the non-profit and the local population.

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