Transformation case study from a Scrum Master in the Utility & Telecom industries
Challenge, Context, Problems to be solved
Achieving a 35% global market share in Telecom Asset Management is a huge achievement, however maintaining it is an even bigger challenge. This telecom utilities department had been Agile for two 2 years when they approached me with a view to up the ante. Despite working in an agile way, the teams suffered from low motivation as they were tired of working round-the-clock one sprint after another.
They had been executing back-to-back Sprints and Releases for years which eventually resulted in the teams being demotivated and exhausted. Sprint is a fast-paced, energized work cycle that releases a product / software or part of it at the end of each cycle and the un-ending “hamster wheel” without any gaps would drive even the most talented and gifted employees crazy. The question was simple. How could we ensure productivity in Agile teams without compromising team motivation?
Mission, tools and methodology
Even a true sprinter like Usain Bolt does not run daily sprints. Such athletes need to pace themselves and provide the much-required breathing space for their body to recover and perform at its optimal strength. Similarly, the employees, even a cream of professionals in their field, cannot deliver consecutive Sprints for too long without feeling trapped and exhausted.
Our first step was talking to the demotivated professionals and engaging with them to recognize their pain points. They were not just demotivated; they were angry and frustrated. They would storm out of the meetings in frustration sometimes. Feeling of being trapped in a Hamster’s Wheel was the root cause. Based on two decades of my personal research, I have seen time and time again that lack of productivity is merely a symptom of a deeper root cause. The main challenge & root cause is the lack of motivation and innovation.
I began an 18-month transformation program with the team by focusing on Motivation. Although the teams were Agile, they were trained with the sole focus on productivity. I believe that you cannot be productive if you are not motivated enough.
I began engaging the Telecom teams so they could visualize their progress and retrospective actions by making cumulative flow diagrams, doodling technology solutions and using visualising work using KanBan boards. This was to get their creativity flowing. Creativity inspires motivation and innovation. To enhance motivation, I laid emphasis on Autonomy, Master and Purpose across teams.
To help the team get some breathing space between sprints, a novel concept of innovation weeks was introduced for the team to brainstorm, pitch innovative ideas, or do whatever they want as long as they presented it at the end of the week. For a whole week the employees came up with a range of creative ideas and presented a demo at the end. When the idea is yours, you own it. You go an extra mile to make it a success. And that reinvigorates innovation and motivation in the team working behind the idea. As the Innovation Week concluded, a total of 9 ideas were presented to the Product Owners and at the spot they removed 3 features from the existing product to incorporate the top 3 ideas presented at the innovation week demo.
- The outcome of these sessions on innovation week was overwhelming as it unlocked people’s true potential by providing them with a breathing space to explore their creative ideas without the typical delivery focused grind for a week. The department broke its records on innovation and their product sales skyrocketed.
- With the help of a combination of emotional, visualized and varied facilitation process - I ensured productivity in the teams without compromising team motivation. The three-step methodology from Diagnosis to Prescription to Lifestyle change, helped us produce tangible useful outcomes.