Agility, an asset for a successful company launch

A year away from D-Day of a new subsidiary creation, whose deadline was a challenge, the management team reviewed its work approach to focus on an agile transformation. The challenge? To mobilize, motivate and engage, around a single shared vision, all collaborators involved in a complex project.

Prior to the creation of this new subsidiary, the due diligence period made it possible to ensure the viability of the project and to promote the business. During this pre-contractual stage, governed by a strict confidentiality agreement, only a few managers were involved in the creation project. They also focused on defining the scope of responsibility and the rules of interaction between the mother company and its future subsidiary.

First, a classic project management organization (PMO)

When the project was formalized, 10 workshops involving about 50 participants were launched: IS, HR, logistics and moving, governance and organization, data management, finance, etc. These very specific workshops, conducted in parallel, operated in silos with little sharing, coordination, communication and no overall vision.

The risk of not delivering on time

A year away from D-day, members of the management committee shared a lucid observation:

  • The project turned out to be very complex, with increasing interdependencies between projects.
  • It had started without any real reflection on the work methodology.
  • It was added to the current activity of the participants while its developments were intensifying on all fronts.
  • It involved few people at a time when the mobilization of all employees was becoming essential. Lacking information on how the project would impact them, the teams were worried. It was necessary to stimulate their desire to join the new subsidiary and engage them in the transformation by finding a way to build together.

A participant, who had experienced the benefits of working in agile mode on a similar project, convinced the management committee to dare to do things differently by using an agile coach. 

It was a courageous and exemplary decision that acted as a catalyst for transformation.

Clarifying the vision and ambition of the project

From then on, the priority was to help the management committee to reclaim its strategic role. Having focused on the "how" and its management, the committee had not taken the time to define the "what" or the "for what" of the project. It had to clarify the value proposition of the future subsidiary to its ecosystem and stakeholders.

To get employees on board with the transformation, it therefore formalized the "vision" with a clear roadmap and an inspiring value proposition, enabling everyone to understand and take ownership of the project's raison d'être and ambition.

Evolve the governance of the project

The second lever was the establishment of a tightly knit project governance team, responsible for steering the transformation. This highly operational team was tasked with coordinating the project, putting in place the necessary levers (including tools), removing obstacles as they arose, ensuring exchanges between the various projects, and communicating continuously to explain what was being done and to give meaning to the project.

Creating a collaborative dynamic using SCRUM

At the same time, a pilot workgroup began experimenting with the SCRUM agile method with the support of an Agile Coach. Here are the principles:

  • The group works on short periods (Iterations) of 2 weeks. Its objective: to deliver value at the end of each iteration by relying on rituals (Planning, Synchronization, Review, Retrospective...) that maintain the pace and ensure coordination and communication.
  • Within the group, the productowner defines the expected deliverables to meet the vision of the management team for the period. The team decides how to achieve them, organizes itself and plans the work according to the availability of each person. It makes short synchronization points (15 minutes) regularly to ensure that everyone is moving in the right direction.
  • At the end of each iteration, a review of what has been produced is shared in complete transparency.
  • A retrospective time allows the team to clarify the way it is working and to reflect together on how to continuously improve its internal functioning.

The results obtained after one month were convincing, in terms of the project’s operational progress, the team’s energy to collaborate, and the commitment to build. The method has therefore been adopted for all projects. Similar rituals have been set up at the company level, on a 2-month period, to ensure coordination between projects and alignment with the management vision. As a result, the new subsidiary was launched on time.

Deploying new tools and skills

New work tools were deployed: visual management tools such as Jira and Confluence; knowledge management tools. They have enabled the organization to appreciate the benefits of the agile method in terms of information sharing, collaboration and transparency. In addition, in the context of the second containment telecommuting where everyone had to be taken care of, Miro, a collaborative virtual whiteboard, proved to be very useful to encourage listening, stimulate participation and to reconcile different viewpoints. In addition, agile coaches accompanied the management committee and the working groups.

Accepting discomfort

Far from the engineering culture which teaches to analyze and design before creating, the agile dynamic invites to accept the fact that we cannot know everything, nor control everything in advance. It implies trusting the capacity of individuals and the group to formulate answers adapted to the constraints that we discover while moving forward. In an agile approach, there is often a difficult period when the teams, including the management committee, feel destabilized and doubtful. In order to negotiate this critical period, it is important to accept this time of discomfort, which requires everyone to clear their minds before they can reinvent.

Working in agile mode mobilizes the fundamentals of human collaboration. It teaches individuals to collaborate and interact. It is particularly adapted to the management of a business creation project which is, by essence, complex and full of uncertainties:

  • It restores the strategic vision and decisionmaking roles to the management committee, preventing it from getting caught up in the project’s operational management.
  • It empowers and motivates the teams. Instead of undergoing the transformation without understanding it, they take ownership of the project and participate in its construction.
  • It delivers the solution in an incremental way, allowing it to be tested iteratively and to be adaptive constantly while staying on course.
  • It favors coordination between the different projects, allowing thus the project to be prioritized while taking into account interdependencies and risks.

Matthieu Bourgue

Agile coach