GDS Delivery Manager training

A few weeks ago I went to Leeds to do the GDS Working Level for Delivery Manager course. It’s a 3-day session for Delivery Managers with 6 months + experience in the role, and is part of the Delivery Manager Career Pathway in ONS which means it’s a course identified as a good opportunity to gain the skills to progress.

I’ve recently become a Senior Delivery Manager (in DDaT-speak) and wanted to make sure my skills were the best they could be, as well as meeting other Delivery Managers and sharing some knowledge and skills. I’ve picked up a lot by osmosis/begging/stealing/borrowing in the last 3 years in the role and have had some training, but I’d never had full chapter and verse. It’s always good to have the comprehensive list of what you should be and seeing if you match up!

We covered (amongst other stuff):

  • Kanban best practice
  • Team roles
  • Story pointing
  • Different types of testing
  • Writing product visions and user stories
  • What makes a great retro?

At the start of the course we were asked to rate how confident we felt with agile principles and ways of working. There were differing levels of skills and experience in the room, which is what made the course so good. For less experienced Delivery Managers this gave plenty of opportunity for knowledge sharing, and for those more experienced it made you rethink why you’re doing what you do, and whether it provides the outcome you want. It’s definitely however not for the newly minted – it gives a lot for you to learn and 3 days could be pretty swamping!

I loved how interactive the course was (show me a DM who wants to sit in a room for 3 days and only listen!). There were lots of activities (full of the mandatory post-its) to take part in and feedback on, and you were invited to talk and provide your experience and opinion at every turn. If you’re an introvert, it’s also cool – don’t worry 🙂 Everyone was really friendly and you can opt out of presenting back to the group if you need to and get the loud person (like me) to do it instead.

As someone who initially struggled with the lack of control (being entirely honest here!), it was lovely to be brought back to the constant development of the team as the thing that brings the good work. Remembering that control is the enemy of trust and therefore the enemy of value can’t be overstated enough in an agile world. This sparked some very honest conversations for some around “How often can you say you genuinely welcome changing requirements late in development?”. 

I really enjoyed the “who does what” exercise on the roles of a Scrum team. Here at ONS we don’t generally do Scrum (some teams may but it’s personal preference) so it was amazing to see what our team thought, the 5 activities we put on the wrong roles, and how much more the Product Manager and the team picked up of what I always considered a DM’s work. It provoked some interesting conversations around the nature of agile in organisations, particularly those using a “Scrumban” approach, and the shift in remit for people whose roles had shifted from Project Manager to Delivery Manager in their organisations.

Like all courses, it covers things you’ll already know as well as new stuff, and it’s about cherry-picking those bits to spice up your current offering. I’m currently in a role where I’m delivering value through outcomes and not a product. The course offered me loads of reminder information about working with software teams to deliver product, but also some handy hints to take into my current work to speed up my delivery.

Whether you’re an experienced Delivery Manager or someone who’s relatively new, the course is super-useful and I’d advise anyone to go. The only downside was that it was 3 days, and it would be great to shorten it or to run more as in house training for other government departments. In ONS I’ve started conversations around whether we could do something similar around the role of Delivery Support to ensure everyone has access to all of the good stuff, but we can fit this around the requirements of the role.   

Let me know if you’ve been on the course and what you thought below…