Vodafone New Zealand's Agile Transformation Case Study
Creating a Customer-First organisation
In late 2018, Vodafone New Zealand set out to improve its customer experience by adopting a ‘digital first’ mindset. Investing in agile would underpin this approach by introducing ways of working that reduce complexity, improve collaboration and bring the customer to the forefront of each decision.
With an ambitious 18 month timeframe, Radically’s team was deeply integrated into Vodafone to provide confidence and experience, initially acting as the ‘scaffolding’ for the new agile model, then building capability and gradually stepping back as Vodafone’s maturity grew.
Winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of all involved was critical to the success of this complex business change. To achieve employee buy-in, the programme was structured around four core principles: Clear Purpose, Simplicity, Pragmatic and Deep Agile Expertise, and Great Leadership.
Reaching Agile Maturity Ahead of Plan
The 18-month programme followed three stages.
Stage 1 – Set Up Foundation
Company-wide agile awareness and engagement activities established a strong foundation for change. These drew on the experiences and success stories from a series of agile pilots Radically had run with individual Vodafone business units throughout 2018.
Most of Vodafone’s business units and digital delivery teams transitioned into the new operating model which was designed for New Zealand culture and business environment. Ten tribes were ‘stood up’ across the organisation, each made up of multiple squads. In total, 55 squads were created, each a blend of business and technical experts. New roles were established including Tribe Leads, Product Owners, Chapter Leads, Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches. Priority was given to Vodafone employees, and over 300 interviews were conducted to find the best internal talent.
Stage 2 – Grow and Stabilize
By September 2019, nine months into the rollout, Vodafone was ahead of plan and the agile mindset now widely adopted. A new, more urgent rhythm was now clearly visible, centred on a high impact quarterly event called Big Room Planning, during which all tribes meet to align and prepare for the next 90 days.
A critical aspect of the transformation was consistent coaching and advice for all levels, from executives to tribes and squads. This helped ensure that ways of working were adopted consistently and supported the overall business approach.
- Tribe coaching created alignment on goals through OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), and making progress transparent to everyone. It also strengthened a tribe’s identity by focusing on its core mission and normalising agile ways of working
- Squad coaching embedded the new operating model by guiding squads through the process of ‘forming, storming and norming’ and empowering them to self-organise around clear accountabilities.
- Tribe Leadership coaching helped develop effective tribe structures and refine the behaviours which drive culture change and enable greater collaboration. Radical Candor, Agile Leadership and Psychological Safety formed a key part of this new, innovative culture.
Stage 3 – Sustained and Continuous Improvement
Within a year, Vodafone had achieved a high level of agile maturity. Products and services were now coming to market faster, with improved customer and business outcomes. This included a revamped online store, My Vodafone Mobile App, new Wireless Broadband products and Vodafone TV.
Employee Net Promoter Scores (NPS) doubled for the people working in the new model. Employees embraced the agile culture, enjoying work conversations that had become more meaningful, empowering and collaborative.
The new model created some unexpected challenges, such as managing the interface between fast-pace squads and the non-agile teams servicing them within the pre-existing structure in the. To prevent a two-speed system emerging, Radically drew Vodafone back to first principles and established new forums where leaders cold align on priorities. Cross-departmental collaboration provided the agile squads and non-agile teams with increased autonomy, accountability and alignment.
Self-sufficient in Agile
By mid May 2020, Vodafone’s Agile Practice was well established and employees were fully embracing the agile mindset and operating model. Experience also showed the value of adequately structuring squads and tribes to unlock employees potential. This allowed Radically to transition out as planned, knowing that Vodafone was in a good shape to sustainably operate.
While the journey continues, core lessons are now embedded as guiding principles, like the importance of simplifying as much as possible and working from one integrated plan.
Republished from the Radically website with permission.