by Matt Johnson

“Start with the customer and map everything from there.” That’s the ethos that drives Portland-based Point B’er Matt Johnson. An Agile expert, Matt brings more than 20 years of experience in coaching and large program leadership, partnering with customers to build and execute business and technology strategies. He’s seen the power agility can bring to organizations and understands how to structure adoption for sustainable success. We sat down with Matt to discuss why financial firms are turning to Agile and how grounding in five Agile pillars can help leaders avoid common pitfalls.  

What are some of the most interesting challenges facing financial services customers today?  

There’s a lot going on right now – beyond the economic turbulence our customers are facing. Financial services organizations are undergoing an identity crisis. With the success of Fintechs – like Robinhood and even Goldman Sachs’ Marcus – many mature firms are scrambling to keep up and “go digital.” Banks need to compete against these scrappy, fast-moving upstarts. But they also need to maintain their reputation of security, longevity and compliance. Therein lies the challenge: how can they deliver both sides of the coin to their customers?  

Can you talk a little more about these disruptors? 

Younger firms were founded on digital, adaptive ways of working. They were built to work in cross-functional, agile teams so they can scale with speed. Customers want to jump on the latest meme stock or seamless buy-now-pay later transaction, all from their fingertips. And Fintechs can deliver these experiences quickly because their business and technology teams are adept at leveraging Agile processes.  

What advice would you share for leaders undergoing a digital transformation?  

As a proponent of Agile, my first step is always to start with the customer and work backward. Consider what your customer wants and needs—then identify products and features your firm can offer. Effective ways of working increase opportunities for new product development, create more value for your customers and break down internal silos. Agile adoption is a journey of continuous improvement. Empower your teams to collaborate, embrace the mindset shift needed to make it work, and be pragmatic about your approach.  

Is there a playbook for sustainable Agile solutions?  

We recommend organizations ground in Point B’s five pillars of Agile. First, focus on Agile knowledge and how to adapt. It’s critical that leaders understand the principles and practices to truly embrace an Agile mindset and help your organization shift, too. Next, be pragmatic about establishing ways of working. Transformation is about sustained incremental change—it’s not a switch you can flip overnight. Cementing support from leadership and management helps mature your culture. Finally, provide training for your people.  

We think of Agile as a team sport—make sure everyone on the field knows the game and the role they play. Successful leaders assume the role of coach. They take stock of the big picture and communicate the “why” to their people. They also decentralize decision-making as much as possible, finding opportunities to empower those closest to the work while maintaining compliance standards.  

Any final thoughts? 

Like many things, moving to Agile or adaptive ways of working is a journey, not a destination. There isn’t a “perfect” out there—it’s about having a generative culture, instilling a growth mindset and being real about where you are and where you’re headed. At Point B, we know that tailoring Agile to the unique needs and regulations of your business is critical for a successful digital transformation. If you’re curious to discuss this further, please get in touch.  

Favorite breakfast food? 

Scrambled mushroom frittata with plenty of bacon in it.  

Go-to podcast? 

Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway.   

Early bird or night owl? 

Early bird. Right now, I’m working with folks based in Australia. Between coordinating time zones for calls and my kids, I’ve become an early riser.   

If you could meet any person from history or present day, who would it be and why?  

Abe Lincoln. Growing up in Illinois, I certainly learned a lot about him in school, and then later in life, I read “Team of Rivals.” He was an incredible leader and, I think, still regarded as one of our greatest Presidents.  

Peanut butter or Nutella? 

Both. If I have to choose one, peanut butter—it’s more versatile and has less sugar.