Client Case Study: Transforming to a new way of working

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The story of how one sustainability behemoth evolved to embrace change as a constant, and the path you can take to follow in their footsteps.

Established organisations can find it hard to enjoy the agility of challenger brands. Whether they’ve evolved over time into complex beasts, and/or become victims of their own success through acquisitions/mergers, the result is the same – large portfolios that suffer delays and can’t keep pace with market change, so the business is unable to move their strategic KPIs

One of our clients was no exception. When it struggled to move these dials, it invested in technology to try and consolidate/upgrade the IT infrastructure, adopted new working practices – including Scrum and Kanban – as well as engaged its staff about what change was necessary and why. But despite their best intentions, the business became stuck.

In this situation, external practitioners bring a fresh perspective and challenge the organisation. But this can be met with a push-back. Typically rooted in fear or lack of understanding, resistance to change can be your biggest blocker to progress. 

To move the dials and allow the business to thrive, change is necessary. However, supporting a large enterprise that’s nervous of change is a fine balancing act. On one side, we’re there to share our expertise to help the business transform and thrive. But on the other, we must be respectful of all the hard work that has come before and recognise our clients are the experts on their businesses.

Change must be a partnership where we work to understand the business challenges together, as well as identify the actual customer, and map the customer journeys at a high level.

Establish the guiding principles of change

Work within a strategic framework and most tactical decisions become pretty obvious. Therefore, the first step when delivering change with our Business Agility Accelerator is to define a core set of principles so you know how to deliver higher value to your customers and your business.

Working with the leadership team, we set the mission to provide an overall direction, and assembled a team of specialists from across the business with the necessary skills to deliver. Because the team is responsible for delivery, they were empowered to get on in the best way they know how. From a leadership perspective, the priority became to remove any barriers that would prevent the team from being successful. 

The pace of change is fast, which is why we focus on iterative change , rather than transformational change that is revealed in three years’ time. We set the team the task of working out the maximum value they could deliver to the customers within a 90-day timeframe while aligning to the overall mission. The team then translated this intended value into OKRs and hold themselves accountable for achieving them.

 During the 90-day delivery cycle, the team was placed into a Glass Tube’ where new ways of working and cultural norms started to emerge. The business had complete transparency and access to empirical data to track progress, but nobody outside the tube was allowed to interfere. 

The outcome?

In just 90-days our client created patterns for new ways of working that:

  • Reduced its penalty payments (which were £29k per week!)  by 90% through resolving customer backlogs. 
  • Achieved a 60% reduction in the manual effort required to support the onboarding of new customers. 
  • Retained 1,000+ customers who wanted to leave.
  • Employee engagement and retention significantly improved
  • Improved its CSAT score by 17%.

The legacy of this change continues well beyond the first 90 days though… The transfer of knowledge, tools and expertise has left the client with the ability to apply this approach across whatever challenge or initiative presents itself. The recent Energy crisis provided an immediate test to the newly deployed capability.Since summer 2021, the client has on-boarded over half a million new customers and counting through an industry process known as SolR (Supplier of last Resort) which supports orphaned customers whose energy supplier has gone into administration. 

“The level of pace and accuracy of this onboarding would have not been possible without these new Ways of Working.”

Embrace servant leadership

To make change stick requires you to embed new ways of working into the rhythm of the business. The reason is because it is a deep immersion accelerator into modern delivery methods

The client chose a real, complex problem for the team to address – the onboarding journey for new customers. Instead of telling the team what they wanted the outcome to be, the leadership team posed the question: “How do we build a frictionless experience that delivers exactly what the customer bought and then earns trust with as low customer/business effort as possible?”. Before stepping back and allowing the team to come up with new/different/better ideas. 

To trust your people with something so important might feel scary if you’ve not done it before. As our client said, “As leaders, we’ve been used to setting the path and the direction. In the new ways of working it’s more about clearing the path for delivery, so that’s been a big change – and not necessarily the most comfortable change for all of us.” However, by providing coaching to help our client embrace servant leadership, it created a better working environment for the team, which led to better outcomes for the business:

“It’s intense but the level of enthusiasm and commitment from everyone has been fantastic.” 

“We’ve done more in 3-days than we’d previously done in 1-2 months of workshops.”

“It’s really empowering. A fantastic opportunity to sit with engaged colleagues all around the business.”

Change is individual to an organisation. New ways of working must be allowed to emerge naturally within the team to ensure they’re right for your context and the challenges you face. In three key areas – customer, delivery and change – we paired our team 1:1 with our client’s team so every individual received the coaching and mentoring they needed. We even augmented the team with additional capabilities, including UX design, solution architecture, and agile coaching. 

The rate of change was always driven by the client. Our role was to enable their team to capture the new ways of working and support them until they felt confident to continue themselves. With continuous change embedded as part of the rhythm of the business, our role transitioned to that of a critical friend and supportive partner, where we provided ongoing drop-in sessions to act as a sounding board. 

Start small and scale

Start small, demonstrate the value of what you’re doing and scale the resulting feeling of excitement to ensure success. The more you can amplify the voices inside the Glass Tube and evidence their success, the easier change becomes because people who resisted change at the outset start to view it as an opportunity for good. 

We started with an inception phase to determine the most customer value we could deliver in 90-days. This involved understanding the customer journey, as well as what the qualitative and quantitative data was telling us would move us closest to the mission brief and strategic KPIs. We established the guiding coalition and assembled the delivery team, who then set their 90-day OKRs.

The first 90-day value cycle is critical to secure buy-in to the new ways of working. As well as make change happen, the team inside the Glass Tube must communicate their success and build excitement across the organisation. We helped our client to use a variety of media to ensure their message was heard, including lunchtime show and tells, brown bag sessions, videos, blogs and newsletters through our ChangeMedia service. Because the team measured value realised against their OKRs during the 90-days, they could provide hard data and evidence, which translated directly back to the business strategic dials. Additionally, they had a new ‘Way of Working’ (WoW) blueprint.

Moving to the second 90-day value cycle, the focus became scaling the success using the WoW blueprint. We established new delivery teams that were responsible for other parts of the customer journey and tasked them with overcoming specific challenges. Additionally, we created communities of practice where individuals could share their experience of what did/didn’t work, as well as drive collaboration on cross-team directional thinking, such as product vision, architecture, and UX standards.

With each 90-day value cycle, the team grew in confidence and the WoW blueprint became embedded into business-as-usual. At the end of each sprint, the business saw its dials move because the team was focused on OKRs that delivered specific value and were linked back to the overall mission and strategic KPIs

As the CEO concluded, “I don’t see any other way of working in the 21st century.”

Want to know more about how S&S can help move your strategic dials?

With out Business Agility Accelerator, we help our clients

  • Move the dials that matter.
  • Make sure the customer is at the heart of your business.
  • Ensure the people are empowered and engaged.
  • Make decisions driven by data.

Read more here.

Written by
Sullivan & Stanley