Explore UCD

UCD Home >


Welcome to UCD Agile

UCD Agile is a unit created to support the university community in making UCD a better place to teach, research, work and learn.  Our focus is on the support ecosystem and, in this, both on how we enhance processes and procedures and on our culture of making things better - the commitment, collaboration and creativity that shapes this aspect of University life.

The question underpinning UCD Agile’s work is “how do we make the best use of our resources to the best effect?”, a question which is relevant for colleagues from any stratum of the University, colleagues in any niche, colleagues at all scales of responsibility.

‘Best use’ relates to efficiency (doing things right) and effectiveness (doing the right things).  ‘Best effect’ relates to the value our work delivers to its intended beneficiaries, to how it enables reaching our strategic objectives, and to how we ensure a sustainable University in doing this. And ‘our resources’ are our people, their time, creativity and dedication, as well the financial and environmental inputs we configure and use in delivering the support ecosystem.

Agile was created of out UCD's 2015-2020 strategy through the initiative to 'increasing agility and effectiveness' in our processes and procedures (see UCD Strategy 2015-2020 for more details).

Why Agile as a unit name?  Agility implies energy, responsiveness, adaptability, quick-wittedness, flexibility, and more, characteristics that are evident in many aspects of how the University operates.  Agile's objectives are to nurture these aspects of the UCD culture and to further develop our capabilities in continuous improvement and operational excellence.

Agile promotes and develops the use of the Lean methodology as UCD’s structured process enhancement approach.  This takes a number of broad forms – through delivering white, yellow and green belt training, through supporting colleagues in the initiatives/projects which use this training, through working with you to introducing Lean’s visual management or ‘A3’ problem solving techniques, etc.  This work has expanded to include scoping and project initiation workshops, team lead development, scoping and remit planning workshops, strategy and planning processes with teams and units.  Activity in all these areas is often rooted in a common start – the first cup of coffee, the first “I was thinking about…” 

Beyond the direct development of skills, one of Agile’s objectives is to help empower staff through giving them a methodology which UCD says is useful, strong and credible, and then building their competence and confidence in their skills, using some of the liberating aspects of Lean (asking ‘why?’, ‘who benefits?’, ‘what does success look like?’, ‘have you data to support that?’, ‘what does the customer really want?’) to help them tackle new and old challenges alike, as well as drawing out the creativity and commitment of staff in shaping better futures.  

Along with skills development and empowerment, Agile’s third objective is to develop our continuous improvement culture.  Lean is liberating in itself.  Supported well, it empowers staff.  The continuous improvement culture then looks to sustain this in two ways.  Firstly, through ensuring a supportive and nurturing environment for the staff working at making things better in this way.  Secondly, through developing the organisational competence in identifying and pursuing opportunities to make things better.  This development includes our focus on developing team leads and operations environment, as well as the work we do with colleagues on planning and strategizing in their areas.  

In all of this Agile, as a small unit, aims to be both a catalyst and a collaborator, and so offers a spectrum of supports – from colleagues are just beginning to explore ideas and opportunities, others are looking to carry out concrete work.  The best way to find out what Agile does and how it can help is to contact us and we can talk. 

Agile works with a 'learning through doing' approach. 

The initial 2016 waves of green belt projects (significant in scale, team leads who go through the green belt training) were used as a way of engaging with the support and academic units, both to see how they would engage with Agile the unit and Lean the methodology, and to create initial success stories in UCD.  We learned a lot, primarily about how units approach ‘customer focused’ change and development, as well as how they support their staff in tacking these challenges.

Training remains a key ‘input energy’ we provide to the University.  Over 550 colleagues have been through our various white belt (half day), yellow belt (full day) and green belt (six days) offerings.  We have added some additional training offerings focused on team leads and their capacity to use some of Lean’s key principles in running their day to day operations, recognising the multiplier effect.  Initiatives and projects have both direct effects as well as impacts and influences that ripple out from them.  

In order to further generate strategic, top down, drivers for change we developed, with senior management, the Student Experience Mapping Project <<<link>>> as a way of using students’ experience of the environment we create for them to shape how we go about improving that environment.  In mapping their experience we gave students free voice to describe what living and learning in UCD is like for them, gaining insights in to how they see and interpret their experience of our support environment, learning the language they use, the time element of how and when they pay attention, the folks they turn to for supports etc.  The project is therefore about attention not intention – focusing how students pay attention to what we offer rather than on what we intend by what we offer.  Using this ‘voice of the customer’, four project areas were endorsed by senior management team in June 2019, along with their commitment to the use of experience mapping in principle, and autumn 2019 will see the development of detailed work in these areas.  Agile’s goal of using experience mapping to catalyse change has, thus far, been met.

As part of our commitment to the UCD community, Agile is sponsoring UCD's Work Smarter Together and the WST Communities of Practice.  Highlights in this area have been the WST 2017 and WST 2019 university wide events, each event drawing colleagues from across the campus to a day of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, poster competitions and the opportunity to meet and work together over the course of the day.

To find out more please visit (opens in a new window)worksmartertogether.ucd.ie.

If you would like to know more about Agile please get in touch by mail or by phone. Contact details are here.

Always happy to meet at a spot on the 'coffee... to project' spectrum, we in Agile look forward to hearing from you.

Michael Sinnott
Director of Agile
Stiúrthóir UCD Inniúil

If you would like to know more about our formal remit and how we fit into University structures then check Agile Terms of Reference Updated Oct 17 (PDF)