An Agile Approach To Change

An Agile Approach To Change

Can you really use technology as focal point to drive rapid  business wide change?

Can you really use technology as focal point to drive rapid business wide change?

Increasingly we are using new technology aligned to an agile development and user centric development pathway to create incubator solutions that develop from need, to paper concept, to live system in a matter of weeks – In fact we have created a 30 Day Plan for this because it is entirely possible to do it that fast.

However first it is worth setting a bit of context. Especially as most peoples first reaction is “you can’t create a live solution in 30 days”. However I will say we have previously done so now for 2 utility companies, a logistics business and one of the UK’s largest retailers.

Let me be clear. Change delivery is a function of hard work & detail. But the start is simple

We adopt a pretty simple model to change. This is because whilst driving change is a very complicated, involving and detailed activity, the actual components of it are not. Now this quick blog is not about our whole change approach, but in a nutshell you need to:

  • Be very clear about what you do better than your competitors (and what commercial value you are looking for. This is usually your Purpose/Proposition & Marketing/Business Plan
  • Engage all of your Colleagues in your brand in a way that allows them to contribute to it and feel good about themselves whilst doing so
  • Ensure all of your internal processes & procedures support your Colleagues in delivering the brand to your Customers
  • Make it a priority focus on, and continually refine how easy you make it for customers to get at the things you do best, that they want most and drive the greatest value

The trick of course is to do this whilst breaking down not only the horizontal silo’s, but the vertical barriers that most business put in place to de-risk & control decision making.

The role of ‘Agility’ in change

I have written previously about agility and on change. The main thing you need to remember is it really is best only to do agile change once you have a clear Purpose and Marketing/Business plan. This informs the direction of travel for any agile activity.

Once you have this ‘Agile’ becomes a very powerful way of working as it creates momentum in Colleagues against a common purpose, and this can transform a business in a very short amount of time – again easy to say, but hard to do and the devil really is in the detail.

For me ‘Agile’ is NOT an IT/IS approach. What it is, is a collaborative, iterative, visible and outcome focussed way of working that enables you to de-risk (provided you cover the steps above) any change programme because you are harnessing the greatest asset your business has, your colleagues, within a framework that focusses the change on the things that deliver greatest business value. 

Using technology as part of an Agile approach – A 30 Day Plan
If you want to unpick the implications of things like: Cloud; Big Data; Web Services Architecture; App Driven Development; .Net Code. Then simply adopt the following as a generic approach and you will not go far wrong:

What used to be very expensive and high risk to deliver single application solutions that took years to create, can now be used as part of a highly Agile – “Don’t Tell – Show” approach, which is a good thing, because technology drives more than 85% of all off business activities.

So what is holding us back?

Oddly quite often it is IT/IS. This is because whilst business capability can and does change quickly, culture does not and this is because people, not capability, create the business culture. This is why we often see ‘disrupter’ businesses as a generational thing, when in fact it is simply a function of education.

In IT/IS terms, it is like not updating your operating system. Just think how fast you’d become out of date if you did not update your Microsoft or Mac operating system (Ok it can get irritating updating every 3 months). You would soon be out of date.

Giving your Colleagues an update

We have come across this on nearly all of the engagements we have had since we founded Custerian. It is why I think we have developed specific skills in this area.

It is why we use technology and various service design principles, all under the umbrella of agile change, to help our Clients to move about talking about new CRM applications or Warehouse systems or multichannel cross platform solutions.

What we always find is Colleagues who, whilst initially hesitant (ok sometimes resistant) soon warm to the fact that rather than spend weeks ploughing through requirements specifications for something that will have changed by the time it is developed. They can quickly create a paper prototype of the application, which can then be developed in a ‘Live’ application within days and then put back into user testing and use.

What does ‘Live’ Mean?

Just for clarity Live in this context often means that the application being created is done so using real data, is integrated with internal systems and data sets, is operating in a fully resilient data.

architecture/systems and can therefore be sent live if desired once the testing is finished.

Or put even more simply. Rather than talk to you about how a system requirement can be met. You can look at it and test it in the real world to see if you want it or not.

We would like to share Our 30 Day Plan

We have set out our 30 Day approach and you can download it by giving us your email HERE.

This is an approach we have developed and used and it can take 30 days. The reason it will take longer is down to the culture shock that it creates internally. However this is a shock worth having as increasingly we are finding that internal functions are specifying end point solutions without involving their IT/IS function.

This is a function of the fact that a lot of these teams sit in areas that have a more external face and as such are exposed to constant Customer (& often board level demands) to increase the speed and capability against an app technologically enabled world.

They are desperate to move the discussion and capability along and our 30 Day Agile approach facilitates this.

By Simon Norie - Co-Founder & Empathy Creation Specialist
Data led Board level Brand marketeer. Passionate about aligning Colleagues to a common purpose they can contribute too. LinkedIN

Agile agile business align business intelligence customer experience empowerment engage new ways of working operating model proposition thoughts value

Agile – But where are the people?

Agile - But where are the people?

Agile working has been talked about for years but now, the conversation moves to virtual agile working and how you can make this effective. 

Agile working has been talked about for years but now, the conversation moves to virtual agile working and how you can make this effective. The team at Nimble have provided their thoughts on this at: We have also been practicing far more virtually than in the past an have honed our processes accordingly.

We are big advocates of working with Agility, almost as much as we are fans of getting the most done, with the least amount of effort. Creating great outcomes by liberating the people potential contained in all business, within a very commercially orientated framework. So as you might imagine I have a view on this debate.

A view does not mean I think I am right by the way. A view is a way of looking at something… I just thought i’d say that before getting to the meat of this post… which is many of these things sort of miss the point for me.

It’s not the methodology. It’s the people

One of our meme’s is “In this increasingly virtualised world – It’s people that  make (and will continue to do so) the biggest difference”. I introduce this as the Agile Vs Prince – which may or may not encompass Waterfall etc – debate often seems to exist in a process vacuum and therefore misses the things that for me define the very essence of a successful project or not.

Leadership style


Before you look at which project method to adopt, consider what the leadership style (which by the way will define the culture – it always flows top down) is. There are two simple camps on this, and this has also been done to death by a lot of people, but you really should consider the following:

– Purpose driven – Is the business driven by a common, widely understood (this is different from agree with by the way) sense of what the business exists to do, that people feel able to contribute to and understand their role in creating value for Customers, Colleagues & other stakeholders. People here come to work because they feel they make a difference. 

– Process driven – Is the business focussed on how things are done, with people having an understanding of what their specific role is and are measured and rewarded on the basis of delivering tasks that they, and the teams they are accountable for, need to get done. People here come to work to move things along.

I don’t really have a strong view on which is better of the above in terms of achieving outcomes, and in effect most business’ don’t present in such a black and white manner. I do however know which I prefer to work in.

What I would absolutely say is one of these requires less management effort (which means cost by the way) and is in my business experience more likely to create sustainable value over time. It does this because it is built on emotional engagement and as I said at the head of this an emotionally engaged team can move mountains. I will leave you to work out which one it is.


In my humble option Context (capital ‘C’ of course – I used to run a Direct Marketing Agency, what can I say – type as you speak!) is more important that talent, insight and process for creating correct outcomes. Again though this has been done to death by a lot of others, which of course may not mean we take heed of it.

But here are two factors that again get missed by many in the which approach wins debate (either, neither, or any combination being the real answer of course). Again I think these should be understood with crystal clarity before you ascribe any approach:

Technology – Put very simply the cost and consequence of any change – which of course will involve technology as almost everything does – has fallen though the floor and is continuing to do so at an accelerated pace. Business used to be quite rightly very risk averse as you were often banking the business future when making service/operating model changes. That is very often not the case today. Interestingly though it is mostly people capability that holds this one back – Legacy Systems = Legacy Mind/Skillset.

Enviromental – When you look at how business is being done today, it is at a crossroads, with the internal ways of working increasingly looking at odds with the widely connected, personalised and increasingly ‘try, keep, dispose’ culture. The important it here is not that people who have been in work for a while need to change. It’s bit about the fundamental shift that new (and not so new) work entrants are bringing with them. For them it’s not a change. It’s how they expect things to be.

Final thought

I remember sitting in a board meeting when I was working in Home Shopping (subsequently re-invented as on-line, then e-commerce and now morphing into Digital first) and presenting about the potential impact of a new retailer called ZARA (yep.. that long ago). We were talking about how the pace of things were changing – Zara had 4 week lead times, ours were 18 months – and that we needed to adapt or die.

So perhaps the question is not what methodology, but do you understand the leadership style and the current context you will be delivering in.

What ever you decide the one thing that is absolutely certain is if you don’t approach change with agility, then there is a high chance you will not adapt in time and the business could die.

By Simon Norie - Co-Founder & Empathy Creation Specialist
Data led Board level Brand marketeer. Passionate about aligning Colleagues to a common purpose they can contribute too. LinkedIN