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Matt Shearer
13 Jun 2017

How this agency survived election fever

When Theresa May announced the General Election on April 18th, Outlandish kicked off several projects inspired by our commitment to social good and fairness in society.

The projects include cross-party policy comparison, interactive infographics of proposed budget cuts for Schools and proposed cuts to the NHS, and more.

Elections are carnage

BBC US Election 2012 - this one was particularly stressful for the teams, though seamless for the audience

BBC US Election 2012 – this one was particularly stressful for the teams, though seamless for the audience

 

I’ve some background in elections website projects, having delivered a couple for BBC News online as a portfolio manager (2012 US Election & 2013 UK Local Elections).

It’s a repeating pattern:

We need to carry on with business as usual, and we also need to do this special election stuff.

Each election is the same: everyone is passionate, everyone is engaged, and oh lord does everyone get creative. The upshot of this is that each time you turn around, the plans have grown.

In the past I’ve seen team members crying, screaming at one-another, coughing-up blood and going off sick.

This is all part of being a human with a mission, but as one gets closer to the date, the pressure builds up against the immutable deadline.

This time we only had six weeks.

A surprise election, like this one, was a whole new breed; six weeks is NOTHING for a digital project.

When the Outlandish team committed to a huge slate, and shouted “Yes we can!”, I put on my tin hat and closed my eyes.

BUT – it all went well!

Why?

Five Outlandish ways to support election survival:

  1. Sociocratic decision making – ability to decide on the direction together, giving us all ownership (vs Command & Control or consensus deadlock)
  2. Agile prioritisation of both scope AND project titles (vs “Prioritisation? Yeah sure; everything is top priority.”)
  3. A team of project managers working the slate together (vs fighting about unruly dependencies)
  4. Ability to choose our projects, at an individual level (vs doing what you have to)
  5. A lot of humour (vs wailing and stressing)

These things are not necessarily unique to Outlandish, but as a veteran of “Event-led-kick-bollock-scramble” projects, I think they’ve enabled us to survive in spite of Theresa May’s terrible digital timelines.

Tweet @Outlandish if you want to find out more.