Agile Transformation 

When ATB started down the path to Transformation we were acutely aware that in order to transform banking, we needed to transform into an agile organization. Becoming agile is vastly different than going through the motions of adopting a few tools and processes. It requires a sea change in organizational mindset. With this, we’re presenting the first in a series of articles on alphaBeta that chronicles our process of becoming agile – starting with how we outlined our principles, developed an enterprise coaching strategy, and defined an Agile Governance Framework to measure our maturity through this transition. 

A vast percentage of ATB Transformers already understood agile methodology, and many had been using certain tools, practices and frameworks already as part of their own development cycles. But, marry that with some team members who were still developing using more linear waterfall practices, and we were risking a frankensteined “wa-gile” environment unless we united everyone under a common purpose.

ATB Agile Principles.
Knowing ‘how’ is different than a universally understood ‘why’ so we decided to frame our commitment to agile transformation in an ATB context.

This led to the creation of ATB’s Agile Principles which formed the foundation for why becoming agile (not just piece-mealing it) was important. To us, agile transformation meant wholeheartedly embracing the Agile Manifesto, placing ultimate prioritization on delivering functional solutions for customers with quick time to feedback and value.. 

To do so, we share accountability, work collaboratively, test early and often, leverage data to inform decisions and measure success, and commit to reflecting on and adjusting how we work with one another to create a positive and efficient environment. 

Shifting Mindset and Sticking to It.
Agile transformation requires creating the right conditions to encourage agility. Creating these conditions required a long game and unified momentum. For ATB, it started with the creation of a three-year strategic framework for Transformation in 2016. In September of that year, the Transformation business unit was formed and teams were organized into pillars and squads because movement starts with people. 

Using our ATB cultural framework, our own Agile Principles were created, then in October 2018, the Agile Governance Framework came to be. 

This framework now formally oversees the principles and ensures that we speak a common language about Agile at ATB. It also formally created the ATB Agile Advisory Council and ATB Agile maturity model. Today, with these foundations in place, we have our eyes set on fostering strong cross-functional leadership to move the needle and sustain our agile transformation.

Through this journey, we’ve also discovered other key considerations which have influenced the coaching, culture, and agile frameworks, including:

Role clarity: When working cross-functionally, team members are better equipped to tap into skills and decrease time to value if they clearly understand what they’re responsible for, what they’re not responsible for and exactly how they contribute to the objectives of the squad.

Psychological safety: Individually, team members need to feel secure communicating their perspectives openly. Establishing an environment where this is encouraged and accepted has been key since agile favours fast outcomes.

Breaking up silos: one of the most difficult habits to break is a sense of ownership over products and the segmentation of information. In the Agile framework, nobody owns a specific squad. This forces a new habit of communicating with stakeholders across the organization early and often to stay informed and avoid pitfalls.

Building Our Organizational Agility.
Getting everyone on board with the idea of being an agile organization is key, sustaining this advocacy is even more critical. Therefore we set the goal of ensuring all leadership members and Transformers go through intensive, collaborative training to not only understand the shift but to understand how they and their teams personally play a role.

2-3 day intensives bootcamps: 
Not because training is important (though it is), but because delivering for our customers is more important. We believed by taking the time to give each Transformer the chance to instill agile thinking into their own context, come to a common understanding, and learn shared language that we’d create a sense of shared purpose. To date, over 50 per cent of Transformers have been through bootcamp, with the rest of Transformers set to follow throughout 2019.

12-week coaching:
Teams and squads experience coaching over a 12 week life-cycle. This coaching specifically steers clear of defining any processes or styles, but plays a role in helping teams establish trust and accountability, embed cross-functional leadership, find a groove of self-governance, and develop effective approaches to communicating, prioritizing, and increasing performance, predictability and quality.

Are We There Yet? Governance and Measurement.
It’s one thing to say we’re doing it, but we needed a framework to actually know if we were (and are) doing better. The Agile Governance Framework oversees the Agile Principles and baked in an understanding among leadership that becoming agile would mean being committed to - and consistent in - empowering teams and allowing them to self-manage and trust in their decisions.      

So are we becoming more agile as an organization? To answer this we developed our own Agile Maturity Model as part of our Governance Framework, which considers a variety of qualitative and quantitative factors:

Are we aligned in vision and purpose?
How good are we at prioritization? 
Are we distilling ideas down into core themes that are adding value to the organization?
Are squads self-managing and taking means into their own hands, finding innovative ways to optimize and deliver value? Do we know how, when and who to interact with outside our squads?
How effectively are we using our tools? Do we have a performance culture?
Are we automating where we can?
Are we seeing agile practices embedded in day-to-day culture?
Are stakeholders and leaders present at sprint reviews? Do they have transparency into work in progress?

And, importantly: value delivery ... 

Are we getting to market quicker and are we getting customer feedback?
If we accomplish that - we know we’re there (but we can never stop).

Want to learn more about ATB’s journey of Transformation? Sign-up to follow alphaBeta, where we’ll share more about our leadership’s own lessons and learnings from making the shift to agile, as well as explorations into AI, machine learning, blockchain and more.

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