by Harvey Lau

Challenge

A global technology company recently launched its new Music, Video and Advertising (MVA) team to deliver on key products of its vision to integrate devices and services. Bringing together talent from several larger groups, the 300-person team has ambitious goals to: 1. adopt a rapid product release cycle while reinventing key consumer applications across all product platforms; and 2. build a nimble culture with a “play for first” mentality. In addition to uniting as a new organization, employees moved from private offices in the company’s suburban headquarters to an open-work environment downtown. As the MVA team’s leaders began developing its go-to-market strategies, they engaged Point B’s expertise in change management to help ensure a successful transformation.

The power of “just enough”

Being engaged early in the life of the MVA team enabled us to assess its legacy culture and change readiness. We interviewed MVA leadership to understand the team’s objectives and obstacles. We also held focus groups with team members to assess the level of buy-in around the team’s goals, cultural principles and organizational structure.

In order to drive results within our client’s ambitious three-month timeframe, we took a “just enough” approach that enabled the team to progress quickly in key areas while laying the groundwork for longer-term change. We developed a change management strategy and plan to launch the team into the change and give them a strong foundation to work from.

Our plan included 16 change activities designed to build a nimble delivery engine, optimize internal partnerships and dependencies, unite leadership, and rally the team. We also linked the change management work to business outcomes with clear metrics that demonstrated how change impacts the bottom line.

Making 10,000 things happen

Gaining the hands-on engagement of leadership and front-line managers was essential to driving rapid cultural change. Working closely with these leaders, Point B supported and coached them in taking the MVA team through the steep curve of organizational change. 

“In a way, the biggest challenge was me,” said Alex G., General Manager of MVA. “There were 10,000 things that had to happen, and if I tried to do them all, we would fail. I’ve seen a lot of leaders try to do it all themselves, and they’re almost always crushed by it.”

As an advocate of servant leadership, Alex was looking to create a supportive environment where employees would be successful individually and collectively. True to his belief that “a successful leader acts in ways that serve to elevate those around him,” we helped him establish a clear public standard for leadership, along with a practical framework and tools to empower other leaders.

“You have to be deliberate. Our leaders can now lead with very little oversight from me. We were able to make this more like an orchestra than a tunnel—and I was the conductor. Point B freed me up to be the kind of leader the organization needed me to be.”

Reasons to believe

Early on, Point B helped MVA leadership model the cultural principles that drove the organizational change. One way that leaders quickly brought those principles to life in a meaningful way was by creating a public forum to air conflicts and resolve them. This commitment to getting conflicts out into the open and addressing them went a long way to earn employees’ trust that leaders were going to embody the change—not just oversee it.

“We were teaching the organization that if people don’t see leaders walking our talk, they have every right to speak up and hold us accountable,” Alex said. “Our cultural principles have become yardsticks we use to judge our performance.”

As the team moved into its open workspace and embarked on its first rapid product release cycle, each work stream leader was intimately involved in driving many levels of change.

Front-line managers held one-on-one meetings to understand employees’ responses to change and address them directly. Leaders took the feedback seriously, and their responses were transparent. Everyone on the team had access to an online “hit list” that included every employee question and suggestion, together with leadership’s response.

Along the way, Alex said, leaders did “lots of little things that made a huge difference”—from finding ways to ease the new commute to providing vegan food options onsite.

“We created a supportive environment where people feel safe and embraced. As a result, they are huge vocal advocates not only for the team, but also for the process.”

A new trajectory

With this publication, the team’s change plan has been in place for 18 weeks. The studio has been through its first several two-week “sprints” and completed a product release. Early results show that:

  • Employees are much more aware of the team’s goals and their role in achieving them.
  • Ship cycles have accelerated as development teams transitioned into the rapid development methodology—reducing the product delivery cycle from months to weeks.
  • Internal dependencies that could slow down the team are being proactively identified and managed.
  • Silos dissolved along with office walls, strengthening collaboration across the organization.
  • The anticipated level of attrition never happened. In body, mind and spirit, team members have made the move to the new location and open work environment.

Even more exciting than MVA’s three-month transformation is the trajectory it’s established going forward. “This is the beginning of something. It’s only the start of the journey, not the end,” Alex G. said.

“We created a deliberate culture and used it to tell the organization the story of change. Change is hard, but if you succeed, you can improve quality, speed and costs—and you reduce the impact on the people who do it while getting them more involved in the success of the studio.

“People are doing legendary work here.”