A Transformation towards Business Agility requires System Change driven via Iterative Change-Experiments bearing Unwanted Side-Effects says Hendrik Esser
Hendrik Esser is Manager, Special Projects at Ericsson. He is a key driver of the agile transformation at Ericsson. Hendrik is also the Program Director of the Agile Alliance’s initiative “Supporting Agile Adoption”. He is also an internationally active speaker at numerous conferences and company events on agile product development, HR and project management since 2012.
Hendrik is speaking on the Business Agility Day at #AgileIndia2018. He will be sharing his Practical Experiences implementing Business Agility at Ericsson.
To listen to Hendrik at #AgileIndia2018, please register here.
What were the biggest challenges for you in the transformation at Ericsson? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge in our transformation was the change towards an agile mindset for all stakeholders of our product development. Truly and fully embracing change means to make change the norm and change your practices and structures accordingly. This is a big step when you come from traditional formal risk and change management. That mindset change was already a challenge within product development, but when you need to have all stakeholders – also from other parts of the organization – on board it gets very difficult.
To get our product management, finance and HR on board we invited them early to think together with us in product development about what the idea to make change the norm could mean practically. Through everybody’s early involvement in laying out the needed changes, we managed to keep everybody aligned and created a great change momentum. Another key success factor in our transformation was the early buy-in from leadership up to executive level. There was a full leadership support when driving the needed changes and that made changes in HR and Finance easier to do.
What were some changes that occurred in different functions such as HR and Finance due to the transformation?
In HR, the change started with changing recruitment criteria for leaders. Trying to see whether an applicant has an agile mindset became an integral part of any job interview for leaders and managers. Another change driven by HR was the change of our career model. When we introduced cross-disciplinary teams with architects, developers and testers in one team we intended to strengthen the so-called T-shaped competence profile. In line with that idea, we merged the job roles of architect, developer, and tester into one called “product developer”. Similarly, we merged all leadership roles – the formal managers and the informal leaders – into a “Product Development Leader” role.
In Finance we introduced a number of feedback loops to become better in following-up on our predictions. So we started to log our estimates and the final results to become able to learn. Also, we moved from yearly budgets and quarterly follow-up rounds to a more flexible business review scheme to frequently re-check and possibly change where we distribute our investment money.
How has your decision to include other functions such as Finance and HR helped the overall Transformation?
Through the early inclusion of all stakeholders, the overall time for the change was significantly reduced. I have seen other organizations, who were not doing this and while our core transformation took about 1-1.5 years, their transformation took 3-4 years.
What has been your learning from this experience?
Inviting these functions to the journey at a very early stage was a key contributor to getting everybody’s perspective and buy-in. So instead of avoiding the debate, inviting all key stakeholders early and really discuss things through together with them is something I would very strongly recommend. This also helps us align with what we want to achieve with the transformation. We did not start the transformation with the goal to introduce Agile. Our goal was to shorten our time-to-market and be a reliable partner for our customers in a complex business environment.
What is your advice to leaders who are leading such changes in other organization?
Start with the leaders: get a good coach, that helps you understand and maybe even experience the essential mindset shift of embracing change. Then invite all stakeholders to the table, align on the goal and think & discuss together with them how to practically and concretely go about the change. Use Systems Thinking, leadership models like Cynefin and sense-making to identify and drive change experiments.
What are the key takeaways for the attendees from your talk?
The key takeaways from my talk are:
- A transformation towards business agility is a system change: you need to have all parts of the system involved to be successful.
- That system change is driven via iterative change-experiments. As all change efforts bear unwanted side-effects, you continuously need to observe what happens in the organization and then take corrective actions.
- I will share a number of real-life stories about what changes we did in product management, product development, HR, and finance. These stories will give the audience an idea of what can be done, what side-effects might occur and how we dealt with the side-effects.