I am engaged in this commercial leadership role for about a year now. The Tribe has still been forming when I took over the team. During the first few months we were in a process of recruiting Product Owners and Squad members. Majority of members were recruited as internal forces from existing departments.
The Tribe is organized in Squads (Teams) that are dedicated to a certain product lines/categories. In a vertical organization, each Squad has a Product Owner. In a horizontal organization there are Chapter Leaders acting as specialists in Product management, Business Consultancy and Analytics. Chapter Leaders are helping members in each Squad to grow in their fields as Subject Matter Experts.
Before we jumped into Agile organization structure there were a lot of unknowns: How will leaders, experts and specialists adopt, are we going to be (really) even more customer oriented, can we understand and address their needs in digital and telecom world, are we able to develop products faster, what will be a consequence on revenue?
Important ingredients for a success of Agile methodology in T-Mobile organization was: constant support, monitoring and steering from Top Management, agile-dedication of Tribe Leaders, full-time engagement of Agile Coaches in Tribe structures to support Agile deployment, daily practicing Agile ceremonies among teams, learning of collaboration tools.
After almost a year practicing Agile we are experiencing benefits: Working in sprints enables faster execution of tasks but also easier adaptation to customer needs during product development. Tasks, goals and progress are much more transparent and tracked in system Jira. Dependency on resources from other Tribes and Development teams is being discussed in advance before the actuals Quartile executions takes place, such that there is no bottleneck in product/service development.
The difficulties on Agile road: Making employees believing in Agile methodology as a “helper” in their everyday work. It should be clear that Agile methodology & Principles requires set of processes, procedures and rules that needs to be understood, addressed and practice by teams. For many employees (team members), this came as an additional obligation and extra work next to their everyday work. Therefore, in the beginning it has been accumulating stress, misinterpretations, and misunderstanding. There we got a great help from Agile Coaches to establish everyday routine, procedures, processes, inspiration for smooth transitioning to Agile operating Framework. And a help from Top Management and Leaders in different organization layers to make sure that it is the best way forward. An equally important was to show small successes and victories when using new methodology- faster product delivery and deployment versus old organizational structure. Offer “measurable” evidence of Agile methodology.
Regarding collaboration between Tribes (Products, technology), it goes much better within the Agile framework. Together, during the established regular meetings, we discuss all inter-dependencies regarding resources, processes and tasks to be fulfilled. Again, in the beginning when the organization moves from regular line reporting to Tribes, there is a process of establishing Tribe identity (within the Tribe, for members to feel as part of the tribe) and between Tribes (established set of responsibility on products, tasks, P&L). During this process Tribes are internally focused and there is a less collaboration. However, in a quartal or two the collaboration is back in place and Customer centricity and Customer Focus is getting priority for all of them.
Going forward, I hope we are going to master Agile operating Framework. And enjoy all the advantages that it offers for running Customer-Need driven organization. Nonetheless, Agile is a methodology, not a solution to all business challenges. We still need to work hard on inspiring employees to perform their best, to foster good collaboration, to nurture open-minded environments for all employees. Happy employees will greatly contribute to happy Customer Centric organization which is important in business sustainability.