This article continues the Agile Transformation Journey, the way from a traditional company to an agile organization, from MDI. In the first article to this topic we took a look at the definition of an Agile Change Journey and today we’ll focus solely on MDI.
We organized some agility trainings for our team. We were curious about trying out more agile methods. And we introduced quarterly development talks. Once per year is not enough anymore to ask questions like “Where do you see yourself in 1 year or 3 years?” This increased retention and we had more focus on strengths, development needs and planning next development steps.
On a boat on the Neusiedler lake we celebrated our first fuck up night. Team members and MDI trainers shared stories, where things were going wrong. This loosens up the atmosphere and people feel, that it is totally normal to fail fast in order to succeed soon. And then something happened which excited me in my CEO role, who initiated the agile transformation journey. People started to experiment with new agile tools themselves and it was infectious. One team installed a Kanban wall and held daily stand up meetings. Soon other teams followed. Later another team changed to a Kanban software. I was the latest in the whole company to join in. But now I also love Kanban.
We had our first internal Design thinking process. Our challenge was the rapid sales growth and we wanted to find ideas and solutions of how to keep up with our team development. It was fascinating to see that the semantic analysis of our problem formulation already changed reality and gave room for different thinking approaches.
In the meantime, a bank academy asked us to help them introduce OKR. This was our start into agile transformation consulting, which became the fastest growing solution in our portfolio.
We observe that our market is changing from very fragmented and local to concentrated and global. A big international company prefers to work with international leadership development providers in order to shape the whole company culture. E-learning, LMSs and virtual training methods accelerate the concentration process. As we cannot be specialist in all relevant areas we started to look for suitable alliance partners in the areas of e-learning, innovation consulting and software solutions.
And we organized our first Autonomy day. Each MDI-team member got one day to work on whatever she wants, when she wants and with whom she wants. The only expectation was that the projects contribute to the development of MDI. On a Friday afternoon in a relaxed and fun environment the results were presented to the whole team. Great ideas came up and were put into realization within the next months. E.g. as we were fed up with email overload, we decided to move repetitive communication to Yammer.
We opened ourselves to playing. With Lego serious play we created visions for our departments. With bricks in the hands, dreaming and alignment of our ideas of the future took off to another level. E.g. in the Solution Development department, we built an electronic leadership assistant. This software on e.g. a smart phone will pro-actively remind you of upcoming leadership challenges and help you to get prepared e.g. with virtual reality skill building sessions. There is some way to go from Lego to reality, but we have a direction.
The MDI Agile Change Journey
We started to implement the idea of creating our e-learning market place for leaders. Shortly later we realized that Linkedin was implementing a similar idea. Another example for how quick disruption takes place nowadays.
Finally, we also started to work with Scrum. Our process manager decided to try out the method for adjusting all our core processes. And it worked well.
In our international trainer meeting we experimented with the Bar camp method. Honestly we prepared some topics to avoid the risk of too much improvisation. Also, agile methods are no dogmas, sometimes it makes sense to customize. And we had the first time virtual participants by streaming some of our workshops. Streaming does not only save travel time, but it is also an important contribution to our eco-system by avoiding unnecessary flights.
This was the quarter of WOL (working out loud) and co-creation. A team of 4 people committed to spend each week one hour together for 3 months to go through the detailed briefings of John Stepper’s WOL process. Some of us only spent this one hour per week, others up to 6h per week, to work on their individual goals. It was an interesting learning process, especially about how to build value adding relationships and how to co-create. I e.g. worked on a new leadership approach for the digital age. The result is the co-creation of our disruption surfer model. And we did our first Hackathon-Session, resulting in good ideas and motivation.
Last year we optimized our process descriptions. In Qu1 2019 we wanted to make sure that we use technology and software to automatize part of our core activities. We started with the automatization of our trainer search and of how to allocate our trainers/consultants/coaches to the various client projects. After a while we had more than 1000 trainers in our database, which can be searched by using tags like country, language, competence etc. This reduces the work load for our key account managers a lot and we are able to create better fits for our customers. Other automatizations followed and will follow. Digital transformation takes place on the input side of a business as well as on the output side. We realized that we need to focus on further automation, as otherwise our competitors will have better and cheaper solutions.
Our “customer focus team structure”, which we implemented 2,5 years ago worked well, but reduced the commitment to help each other out between the teams. In the meantime, it turned out, that the work load developed very differently. We started a capacity optimization project and the project group came up with a toolset and a process, that makes sure, that adjustments can be made on time and that we also focus again more on our productivity.
In an agile atmosphere productivity focus is not always perceived as fun. But to increase the ability to provide optimal value for our clients, we also need to continuously increase productivity and stay flexible between the teams.
We made a mistake: With all our excitement for agile culture and making the world a better place, we blindsided controlling and realized, that our cost growth overtook our sales growth. But this is a great opportunity for introducing Lean management. At the moment we discover areas of waste reduction. Although we are a consulting company and not an industrial production unit, we realized e.g. that we can reduce our seminar material production to about 20%. The biggest waste avoidance potential is in always asking: Does my activity contribute to MDI’s mission and do our clients perceive that as real value and are prepared for paying the price.
In this recent quarter we also kicked off the new MDI Partner model. Our partners have the possibility to build their own business under one common brand and use our resources e.g. in Marketing, IT, solution development and trainer management.
Conclusion: Are we an agile company now? I don’t know, but we continue striving for. Three years ago, I would consider us to have been a 3 on the scale, now a 7. And with each experiment we continue learning, also from our mistakes. It is more about the journey than about arriving at the goal of being 100% agile. We will never arrive, but we approximate.
If you are interested in reading more about agile change, I recommend: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/change-always-agile-masha-ibeschitz/