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Main case

The UK Government Digital Service

By Julian Birkinshaw, Scott Duncan


The case describes how Mike Bracken, the newly appointed head of the UK Government Digital Service (GDS), took on the massive challenge of setting up, from scratch, a centralised team to deliver online public services efficiently online across all of the government’s digital channels. This involved not merely overcoming great operational and technical challenges – legacy IT systems, lack of recognition and reward for specialist skills – but instigating deep cultural change and securing senior-level buy-in to make the necessary changes happen. The case illustrates how to approach implementing large-scale change across a highly bureaucratic organisation; in this case, the UK government. As such, it is a beautiful illustration of where agile works well. One key point to note is that, rather than focusing on the specifics of agile working, it demonstrates when agile methods can be a very powerful tool for enabling change. It also illustrates the importance of a decisive leader in getting an agile way of working implemented (and to some extent, risk-taking on the part of Mike Bracken and his sponsor in government). We will discuss the pros and cons of this approach.

Learning objectives

  1. Understand the issues in making change happen in large corporations and the tactics to use.
  2. Highlight the criteria and preconditions necessary to implementing change successfully in such a scenario.
  3. Illustrate how agile working can be successfully deployed.
  4. Show that deploying an agile approach is not appropriate to every situation.


Publication Date: August 2018
LBS Case Code: CS-18-28
Subjects: , , , ,
Industry: ,
Pages: 11
Format: pdf