GOV.UKAn inspiring post from GOV.UK explains why employees were encouraged to take a few weeks to pause in their regularly scheduled “to-do lists” and work freely on whatever they wanted, as long as it was good for GOV.UK. Called a “firebreak”, this period of unleashing creativity and getting rid of backlog had Agile-style overtones — like teams working in sprints, presenting regular demos, and sifting quickly down to good ideas by learning from failures and noting successes.

From the post:

“Between [phases] of work, it was vital to release some pressure from the system. Our people were tired, running real risk of burnout, and the layers of complexity which arise when you build things fast were becoming increasingly expensive to service. To make sure we can do a good job of what’s needed next, we first had to invest a bit of time repairing our people, technology and processes.

More positively, we also wanted to make space to think and try out some ideas which had had to wait while we hit deadlines.

. . .

Problems we’d been putting up with for months (in some cases years) got fixed; big and bold ideas were explored including one which will have a huge impact on how we improve our content and navigation; we learned from a failed experiment about improving site search; and we made a whole heap of immediate, tactical changes which will speed up our delivery and reduce human error in future – like cutting our release process (a task we perform about 10 times per day) down from 30 steps to just 5.

. . .

People paired with people they’d barely spoken to before, some spent time shadowing people from other disciplines to learn how they work, and about 40 of us took part in a workshop on how we can improve our culture.

And, most importantly of all, the team regained its energy.”

Read the full post: GOV.UK’s Firebreak: Why and how we spent a month working differently