Our team culture: Agile and fun

Maria Drummond
Friday 16 September 2016

If you’ve read any of the posts on this blog, you might have guessed that the digital communications team is an Agile team. You’d be right. And being Agile means that we’re focused on collaborative, iterative development. But as a team, we’re more than this. We also pride ourselves for having a laugh (sometimes at ourselves) and knowing that it’s good every once in a while to play board games, eat pizza and relax.

But it’s not just eating pizza which enables us to work together effectively, it’s a combination of things which allow us to step back and see beyond the to-do list (or Trello board) in front of us.


Conducting retrospectives is key for an Agile team as it allows us to continually improve our work habits. The open and honest nature of these meetings provide a safe space for the team to honestly reflect on the sprint and how we’re working in general. As Gareth puts it:

“It’s about slowly but surely getting better at what we do. It’s about recognising that our processes are not perfect, that we are not perfect, but that together we will slowly work to improve things.”

In a retrospective everyone is on the same level. Without judgement, we’re all given the opportunity to express our ideas, concerns and what we’re enjoying. Often, a problem is highlighted that is affecting the team as a whole, which can subsequently can be fixed.

But it’s not just the problem-solving aspect of a retrospective which encourages a constructive, helpful culture between the team, it’s the acknowledgement of what is working and what we enjoy that confirms that we’re working well. Without this positive self-reflection I think we’d all feel a little isolated from one another. It really reinforces the fact that we’re on the same page, working towards the same goal, despite the daily pressures of work.

If you’d like to know more about our retrospectives, check out our blog posts on the subject.

Daily (sit-down) stand-ups

Daily stand-ups are another Agile process which ensures we are communicating and are on the same page. For 15 minutes each morning we go through our Trello boards and see what stage people are at with certain tasks. Like the retrospective, the stand-up can highlight any problematic tasks that need further discussion before they can be completed. Overall, the meeting is the perfect opportunity for updates, and it allows people to offer advice if it’s needed.

Mahjong Mondays

Now formally a St Andrews tradition (it’s up there with Raisin Weekend and the May Dip) mahjong is played on Monday lunchtimes, and provides a welcome respite to any Monday blues that could be lurking. It’s quite a complex game that requires strategy, skill and sheer luck but once you get your head around it, it becomes quite addictive. If you’re interested in starting the game within your own team (tournaments here we come!) get in touch.

Making time to chat

It’s not just mahjong we play. Every few months or so we’ll book time into the calendar to have a team lunch and play a board game or two and not talk shop. It may be organised fun to start with, but it always just ends up being fun. Plus, it gives us a chance to see just how competitive we all are, and then laugh about just how competitive we all are.


I mentioned earlier about working towards a common goal, with a sense of the bigger picture and finished product. Well, within this finished product is fudge donuts. We have a small motto: “Success tastes like fudge donuts”. Where there’s success, there’s fudge donuts. We’ll admit that we haven’t eaten any recently, but that’s fine, because we have a baker in our team (Jenny) who bakes awesome things on a regular basis.

success donuts

Whether it’s the opportunity to speak freely about what’s bugging you or the opportunity to gush over Jenny’s infamous baking, the digi comms team know when to work hard and have the difficult conversations and when to have a laugh and reach for the fudge donuts.

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