It may have been the hottest day of the year to date last Thursday, but that didn’t stop eager Agile Managers and Leaders from coming together for our meetup on Cultural change, visualisation and transformation.
The desert-like heat outside was also fitting for the Egyptian, Art Deco elegance of our venue – Greater London House (which thankfully has aircon!) – where the British Heart Foundation generously played host to the meetup.
The British Heart Foundation's Agile Transformation
The British Heart Foundation’s Head of Digital, John Bevan, kicked off proceedings with a fascinating overview of the charity’s ambitious Agile transformation. Since starting in his role in August 2017, John has led the transformation as a key means of addressing and overcoming a range of business challenges, including the need to match capacity with demand, the need for greater predictability, the need to reduce risk and cost, and the aim to deliver value much more frequently to the charity’s donors and beneficiaries.
Working towards these ends, the British Heart Foundation has been reducing its dependency on external suppliers and has been scaling up its in-house Agile delivery capability. In July 2017, a team of 25 in-house and external providers supplied 70% of digital work. A year later, 80% of digital was delivered fully in-house, including the new website and some major new products.
Another important element has been in beginning the transition from a project-led approach to a product-led approach. The product management discipline was introduced early in the transformation programme, with coaching and training to upskill staff to the new ways of working. Rather than being responsible for specific products, the Product Managers cover specific areas of the charity’s work, including fundraising, ventures and healthcare innovation.
The approach is being driven forward by collaboration between a range of teams and groups. Working Groups set standards and direction, and shape generic requirements; Product Scrum Teams design and create user-facing features; a bi-weekly Scrum of Scrums provides a helicopter view of Scrum teams; and the BAU and Systems team maintain live systems and services.
John explained that a year into the transformation, it was gradually becoming possible to move beyond reactive work and to begin to have the space to innovate. Today, “digital@heart” comprises Digital Product, Digital Marketing, Digital Content and Creative, Digital Delivery, Digital Systems and Development, and Digital Transformation – and they are still hiring! You can find details at the end of John’s presentation – download the slides here (PDF, 4MB).
In his session, John emphasised the importance of visualising the product roadmap, enabling staff and stakeholders across the organisation to keep up to date with what was being delivered when – which provides a neat segue to the topic of the second half of the meetup.
Visualisation and cultural change
The session was facilitated by Nicoll Loyd, Organisation Development Lead at the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), and Laurence Wood, Agile Consultant and Leadership Coach for IndigoBlue. They have been working together with NHSBSA’s Chief Digital Officer, Darren Curry, on the organisation’s Transformation Programme and it has been an exemplar of the transformative power of visualisation – demonstrating how visualisation can help to change behaviours and shape ways of working, actually creating the conditions for successful delivery.
Getting the meetup group up on their feet, Nicoll and Laurence took them on a tour of the room, in which they had visualised their visualisations! Nicoll explained that they had started by changing the physical working space, moving away from blank walls and partitioned desks towards more colour, more break-out spaces and more visualisation on the walls. This immediately encouraged more collaboration and better communication.
Laurence talked through the user story maps that were now being used to help the NHSBSA to map out and model user journeys through products, and to plan their incremental development. String was tacked to the board to delineate planned product releases, which helped one NHSBSA colleague to understand the approach and remark, “So, we need to move the string up the board.” Nicoll explained that she was not from a technical background, but that the story mapping technique had helped her and other non-technical stakeholders to participate fully in discussions and decision-making about products.
Moving on to portfolio visualisation, Laurence showed how different colour sticky notes were used on the portfolio board to indicate different work streams, giving an instantly digestible view of what was being worked on when, timescales for releases and what dependencies there were. Simple road traffic symbols were used to provide a universally understood means of communicating any concerns or issues – making them transparent to everyone in order that they could be discussed and resolved.
At the NHSBSA, the impact of these visualisation techniques has not been confined to the product delivery teams. From the beginning, staff from across the organisation have been invited into the space so that the delivery teams can talk them through the work that’s underway and seek their input.
This has not just been direct stakeholders, like steering groups and front-line service teams. Staff who might have imagined themselves to be peripheral, such as in Finance or Procurement, have been involved too – with the delivery teams showing respect for the rigour of their disciplines, discussing how the change programme might affect their work and inviting them to help shape the outputs and outcomes.
In this way, the impact of visualisation on the NHSBSA has been visible on work and wall surfaces, and at the same time has gone much deeper, helping to drive and reinforce the cultural change – transforming behaviours, expectations, communication and ways of working.
We’ll be running more Agile Managers and Leaders meetups in London soon:
Join our London Meetup group here
If you’re based in or around Leeds, Laurence runs an Agile Leaders Forum meetup group – join the Leeds meetup group here.
And if you want to discuss the impact visualisation could have in promoting cultural change in your organisation, please get in touch.