SPARK'S AGILE TRANSFORMATION

In July 2018, Spark New Zealand went live with arguably the largest Agile@Scale transformation anywhere in the world. It was the latest in a line of bold moves by the company dating back to 2013, all designed to turn Spark from a traditional telco to a world-class digital services provider.

Why Agile?

Being a leading digital services company puts you in direct competition with some of the most admired brands on the planet. To compete for market share with the likes of Microsoft, Amazon and Google, Spark needed to do 3 things:

1. Be more customer inspired

2. Be faster to market

3. Empower our people to achieve their full potential

Agile was chosen by the Board and Executive Team as the operating model most likely to deliver these changes. But participation couldn't be optional - for it to work, Spark had to be "all-in" and deliver the Agile transformation across its entire business of 5,000 people. It was a massive call by the Leadership Team, but real transformation takes courage. Together with its Partner, McKinsey, Spark completely designed and implemented an Agile operating model in 7 months...

Many Moving Parts

Implementing Agile@Scale requires a redesign of almost ever part of your business. Very few areas remain untouched. This creates an incredible opportunity for improvement, but it inevitably has to be done with minimum possible impact to the commercial operation. It's like changing the engines on a 777, mid-flight. Pretty challenging. To go fully Agile, Spark needed to solve a massive operational puzzle:

  • Tribe and Squad design - which of the many options is right?

  • Chapter Leads and Product Owners - completely new roles to define

  • Agile Coaches - critical roles, but lack of available talent in market

  • Quarterly Business Review (QBR) process - from rigid to flexible OPEX/CAPEX process

  • Job titles - new employment agreements and career models

  • Competency Frameworks - development paths for all roles, gold standards

  • Cultural transformation - a radical shift in mindset

  • OKRs and KPIs - the metrics required to run an Agile business

Mark was part of the 20-person Leadership Team who developed and then stood-up Spark's Agile operating model. When it went live, Mark took the role of Agile Tribe Lead for Business where he had go-to-market responsibility for all Business customers - a $1.7bn portfolio stretching from SME through Corporate, Enterprise and Government. The move to Agile has had a fundamental impact on Mark's approach to team achievement and his leadership style. The empowerment it brings to Squads has been profound. One size does not fit all, but Agile is the future of work.

Agile In Action

It's not all roses. Transforming to an Agile way of working is tough: everyone faces a steep learning curve, behaviours need to be undone, and the pace is relentless, Above all, it requires a huge mindset-shift for everyone working in the new model. But when it starts to come together, it can deliver a material step-change in the attitude of the people, and significant benefits in productivity.

20% MORE EFFICIENT

An Agile operating model can release 20-30% of efficiency from your Teams

3x FASTER

Working in x-functional, end-to-end squads can really speed-up outcomes: up to 3x faster to get work out the door

4x CADENCE

Agile requires a move from 'rigid' annual planning to 'flexible' quarterly cycles. Excellent, but hard.

+20pts eNPS

Teams operating in Agile experience on average a 20pt increase in employee NPS. Some Tribes run at +70 or more

Mark is one of only a handful of Executives anywhere in the World who has been through an Agile@Scale transformation of this size. He's seen the good and the bad - what works, what doesn't - how to influence without control and how to inspire teams through what can be an uncertain change journey. The opportunity of Agile is awesome. Tread carefully.