Financial Services

From doing Agile to being Agile

The challenge

Our client is a bank ranked among the top 5 largest in Europe and among the 10 leading banks in South America, present in 11 countries with over 130,000 employees.

They had a clear strategic vision, but realized that they needed to accelerate the execution of their digital strategy (digital channels growing 2 to 3 times slower than competitors).

They adopted Agile as the method to fulfill their aspiration of having autonomous, empowered and engaged teams who could deliver value to their clients as quickly as possible.  This required their leaders to erase whatever was left of the traditionally hierarchical, siloed and risk-averse banking culture, and relinquish micromanagement in favor of a shared and servant leadership style. With the transversal reach of this Agile transformation they are setting precedent in the industry, which meant they did not have a benchmark to reference.

Adding an extra level of complexity to this challenge was the need to scale the change program globally across the different headquarters.

 

The approach

The company launched an enterprise-wide cultural transformation journey to provide the adequate environment for the Agile teams to thrive, starting by ‘doing’ Agile at the base of the organization. It soon became apparent that applying Agile ways of working was not enough.

We claim that in order for companies to succeed in implementing Agile, leaders should first operate a fundamental shift in mindset (from Defensive to Constructive, or from Reactive to Creative, to use the prevailing terms among thought leaders).

We partnered with our client and built an approach driven by these key principles:

  • Top management support and active involvement – they undertake their own journey just like the rest
  • The starting point for discussions is always their business challenges
  • Have participants experiment with behavioral change over the course of the program, request and reflect on feedback, and find a mechanism to hold each other mutually accountable for change
  • The program consists of a series of learning experiences rather than isolated training events
  • Flexible design: after-action review after each experience, integrating user feedback in an iterative and incremental manner
  • Less teaching and more group facilitation and coaching

The core of the approach was to work with Intact teams over several weeks with designated coaches for group and individual interactions. So far we have worked with over 50 intact team workshops and completed around 400 individual coaching sessions.

The leadership journey has three main milestones: the first helps participants transition from  knowledge about Agile to understanding the mindset shift required for them to lead successfully in this new environment (Agile Leadership Immersion); the second allows them to practice the behavioral change they need to focus on as a result of their self-reflection and feedback received from peers and team members (Agile Leadership Transformation); and the third specifies what they commit to being and doing as a leadership team, based on a collective action plan they draw up and become accountable for (Agile Leadership – the ‘New Normal’).

 

The Agile Leadership program has helped us strengthen our relationship as a team, set common objectives and develop as servant leaders to continue our transformational journey. It has been essential to share quality deep dive spaces to be able to achieve it. Thank you Axialent for your effective role as facilitators.

The impact

Participants paused to reflect, share and manage challenging conversations – doing this in depth at senior levels of the organization had a clear impact on the leadership team dynamics, that are a key success factor of ‘doing’ Agile. Some recognized immediate value in shifting some dysfunctions in their leadership team before the end of the program, e.g. in their ability to listen or to truly empower.

Requesting, providing, receiving and integrating feedback was the backbone of the program and helped participants practice this behavior – so crucial for Agile teams.

The program surfaced the underlying concerns of many leaders, and some deeply ingrained beliefs, which allowed them to be addressed with concrete actions that they willingly decided to commit to, and then became accountable for.

Most leaders realized that they were polarizing between “pro-Agile” and “against-Agile” as if they had to solve a problem with only one solution, that was “either Agile or not.” Participants realized in practice how they can operate from a mindset of discovery, collaboration and abundance to address this false polarity (from doing Agile to being Agile).

“Axialent helped me develop a practical and useful set of tools that allowed me to maximize my skills and manage more effectively my gaps, adding more value to the collaborative Agile environment.”
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