4.2.2010 — This report describes a large successful case of a goal oriented managed change, based on empowerment and reﬂection. The organizational culture and emergent nature of the change were respected by a continuously adaptive approach.
This report describes a large successful case of a goal oriented managed change, based on empowerment and reﬂection. The organizational culture and emergent nature of the change were respected by a continuously adaptive approach.
A signiﬁcant improvement was reported in the atmosphere and work of teams, departments and leadership teams, and from personal perspectives.
Lately retrospectives have become popular as the reﬂective learning practice along the Agile SW development movement. I hope this report encourages to invest in a learning culture, let it be called Kaizen, learning organization or retrospectives.
The organization in question was Switching Platforms, Nokia Networks,about 1000 people in matrix organization, developing a distributed operating system for telecom switches. The change program was initiated bottom-up and sponsored by the strong management team of the SWP.
The program continuously adapted to the real conditions and capability. It was continuing to add value from 1998 to 2002 until ended with a radical organizational change. The following was achieved:
The organization in question was Switching Platforms, Nokia Networks, developing a distributed operating system for telecom switches. The organization was a typical matrix with separate project organization, the line being responsible of people and the software maintenance.
From 1998 to 2000 the number of people grew from 650 to 1000. The majority of employees were men with technical education. The average age was about 33.
The rate of changes in the surrounding organization was growing all the time. Major reorganizations occurred 1/2000 and 8/2000. From 8/2000 to 2002 there was a greater turmoil in the wider organization. The investment into the change program was decreasing, but the coaches skills proved very useful in supporting the organization in adapting to the the continuous change.
At the starting point the culture was characterized by extensive specialization and hierarchical leadership. It was natural, because the 2G standard deﬁned the product hierarchy. Individual designers working with their own piece of code in their own room. Project managers tracked and agreed the resourcing. Elite decided what was going to be implemented. Separate testing organization was just starting to grow. Hardware development was part of the organization, but in another dimension of existence.
The management sponsored the change program to achieve:
These goals were written around 2000, when Agile was not yet fashionable nor known to us.
The change program started with the planning by the external consultant and the internal owner. The sponsoring and goals were agreed with the top management team.
The next step was to ﬁnd a program team. It was based on volunteering and enthusiasm about teamwork. The members represented different parts of the organization and different roles from designers to second level managers.
The task of the program team was to learn by combining the internal context knowledge with the external understanding of human behavior. The following was made:
Communication was promoted from the management. Teams at the ﬁrst two organizational levels were encouraged to have a one hour presentation by an experienced coach. The presenter was carefully selected to ensure positive result. This was voluntary for the teams, still some meetings were tense. First battles with the resistance.
One department never started. In some teams you only needed to give permission to inspect and adapt, and enthusiastic work started immediately.
The ﬁrst training group ﬁnished and fourth started.
The program team continued to learn about the culture and develop the approach. Experimenting and adjusting of the change program was needed, when the real work started in the organization.
The work started earlier continued. The basic training groups 2 to 5 ﬁnished.
The advanced training groups 1 and 2 started. With selected participants the advanced training went deeper into the group dynamics, providing more material for reﬂection and action learning.
Managers got interested and started to participate the training program. Management teams started to develop their work.
A research was made and get togethers were arranged for the coaches.
One second level management team did 1.5 years of serious development work with very good results.
The work done so far continued and started to bear fruit.
The program team was developing the approach to more speciﬁc needs, like special training group of project managers and improved toolbox for coaches.
There was special effort to cover as much of the organization as possible, with local coaches.
Gradually covering the organization. At some point the general opinion turns favorable. Some parts may never be covered voluntarily.
There was more focus to the management, but with less result. The sponsoring management team did not start reﬂective work themselves, and the attitude cascaded downwards. It is possible, that the approach was initially prepared and/or communicated from the developer team perspective. Or the management teams felt more insecure.
The slogan was to have work development as integral part of everyday work.
The developing of the approach was on wider basis. One advanced training group developed metrics for development.
The training program proved valuable. Even when the sponsoring of the whole change program gradually weakened, the training program was appreciated by the participants. There was a group with several of second level managers. The last training group ﬁnished in the spring 2002.
A large (300 person years) product program used coaching, and received a companywide leadership award.
The amount of reorganizations, even dramatic, was increasing. The ability of the organization to inspect and adapt was beneﬁcial. The pool of coaches ran workshops and helped the organization to cope with changes.
When planning investment in change programs like this, often only calculable results are considered. The following consequences can be traced back to the change program now, seven years later.
A unique approach was developed by combing internal research and external experience:
Intensive co-work of the external and internal consultant, who lead the program team, and the whole change program. The Society of Organizational learning has studied about 10 large successful cultural change programs, and every one of those had this intensive external-internal co-work.
The program team was learning, teaching and planning next actions. It is recommended to have people with diverse status and location.
The main tool to support the change was the training program for internal coaches/change agents. It was concentrating to the behavioral aspects of change. The method was based on experiential learning/action learning. It was extremely important to have a pair of internal and external coaches with equal status. Main themes were:
We respected the power and mechanisms of the culture, both when analyzing the organization and planning for the change program.
The key value was empowerment. The participation was encouraged but voluntary. The communication strategy was to make groups painfully aware of the current situation, and to offer support in solving it by own learning.
The change does not happen without resources. There needs to be some people to whom this is the main work. People need time for their part-time coaching work.
It is wise to collect formal metrics and statistics, to continuously negotiate with the sponsors. The ﬂower of the key principles (Continuous Conscious Work Development detailed) that evolved during the change program, recorded by one of the advanced training groups. Please forgive the language, I will translate this when someone seriously requests:
The principles that emerged during the project.
Learned and proved
Did not succeed
The following testimonials describe the change. We trust that the sponsoring management did the correct judging from the proﬁtability perspective, when they continued the project.
Everyone attending the coach training was expected to lead an own development project. About half of the started projects actually achieved something according to the corresponding coach. The managers of the teams estimated that 65% of the development projects were clearly useful (4/5) and 12% were very useful (5/5).
The training program
Coaches experienced the following:
Managers about their teams/departments
Leaders’ own work
Kati Vilkki main organizer and coach, Soile Aho consultant, Ari Tikka coach, Antti Heimonen, Seppo Taanila, Aila Laisi, Lauri Närhi, Leea afHeurlin, Kirsi Lagus, Jyrki Innanen, Sami Lilja, Raija Tamminen and dozens of other activists. Please notify me when you wish to have your name here.
Before finding Agile, Ari built software for embedded distributed fault tolerant software for seven years. For the next decade he worked as an organizational therapist with cultural change, teamwork and leadership. Since 2006 he has contributed to LeSS-flavoured Agile transformations including mechanical engineering, market automation, and embedded system development. For the last couple of years Ari had international coaching assignments ranging from teams to board.