This article is part of our June series about the future of work. Click here for more.
Could you work in a company with no managers? Once unheard of, agile, self-managed teams and non-hierarchical structures are becoming increasingly popular in progressive workplaces across the Asia Pacific region.
Case in point is regional banking heavyweight ANZ, whose future-focused mission is to deliver value to customers and employees by constantly innovating and meeting their expectations around what a modern and technologically fluent organisation looks like.
Chris Venter, GM of omnichannel platforms at ANZ, spoke with CMO.com about the financial institution’s recent transition to an agile workplace, including what the process involved, how it engaged employees, the role of emerging tech, and some fruits of its labor.
CMO.com: What does agile working look like at ANZ, and how did this change manifest itself?
Venter: At ANZ, we call our agile way of working “New Ways of Working” (NWOW). We have essentially realigned our business and technical teams into squads of multidisciplinary teams who are all aligned around customer missions. Each of our squads is grouped into a tribe, then that tribe is centered around a single customer purpose.
We needed to get ourselves to a point where we could react to our customer requirements at pace. The transformation at ANZ is all about building an organisation that can quickly adapt and change direction in accordance with whatever our customers need, both now and in the future.
CMO.com: What prompted this kind of transformation?
Venter: The pace of change in the industry drove our decision to transform. Customer expectations are very different today compared with only 10 years ago. What customers now expect from their banking application is heavily influenced by their experiences with technology-driven companies like Uber, Amazon, and Apple. We needed to transform ANZ to be able to adapt to meet these new customer needs.
If you look back to where traditional hierarchical structures came from, they stem from two key historical management doctrines. The first is aligned to military structures of command and control; the other stems from the industrial revolution and is aligned to structuring teams around efficiency. What organisations find with traditional hierarchies is that speed of information flow and adaptability to change is often hampered by the structure.
Our ongoing operational objective is to deliver value to our customers in a world where their needs are regularly shifting and changing. To do this, we have moved to non-hierarchical, agile teams where we provide them with all the resources needed to achieve their mission.
CMO.com: How long did the rollout take?
Venter: Our CEO, Shayne Elliot, announced to the market on 1 May 2017 that ANZ was going to “blow up bureaucracy and take the bank agile.” On 29 January 2018, the first group of squads and tribes went live under NWOW. I’m proud to say that as of now, over 2,500 people who support the Australian division and some of our global platforms have moved to working in this new way with continued rollout across the organization to follow.
CMO.com: How did you involve ANZ employees during the transformation process?
Venter: In early 2017, ANZ ran what we called the global JAM initiative. We surveyed all of our 40,000 plus employees globally about the things they liked and did not like about working at ANZ. They told us there were a lot of organisational processes, silos, and hand-offs required to do their work. The bureaucracy was frustrating them and resulting in delivery of less value than they would like for our customers.
When ANZ announced we were moving to NWOW, we made it very clear to all of our people that we were doing this for three primary reasons: speed to value–one integrated organisation that could deliver the things customers valued faster; to create a highly engaged workforce and make ANZ a place that is fun to work; and to remove silos and the inefficiencies that came along with them.
We found that these objectives provided a clear purpose that was easy to understand about why we need to undertake this change. Perhaps most importantly, we showed them that the change we were making would address many of the feedback points they gave us during the JAM initiative.
CMO.com: What challenges arose during the transformation process?
Venter: The biggest challenge we had during this process was the sheer size and scale of the transformation journey. We started with the non-frontline components of the Australian division of ANZ, including all associated tech functions. We have now transformed our organisation and taken over 2,500 people on a transformation journey. A significant part of the challenge was change management and communications.
We needed to factor in how to keep such a large group of people both aligned to the purpose and up-to-date regarding the progress of this change. It was important we proactively addressed that we were undertaking this wholesale change for them, for ANZ, and most importantly to deliver a better experience for our customers.
CMO.com: So how did you pull it all off?
Venter: The one thing we learned along the way is that you can never overcommunicate with your people. We spent enormous effort and time planning our communications across several channels. We ran multiple town hall meetings, weekly and monthly, across four geographies–Australia, Singapore, India, and China–with teams on the ground talking about the change, the squads, our tribes, and the benefits of aligning on customer missions for us and our teams.
Transparency was hugely important for us during this process. The entire transformation team worked from a glass room where anyone could come any time to ask questions and see our progress on the Kanban walls. We even had biweekly “pizza update sessions,” which were definitely the most delicious way of keeping staff up-to-date with the latest updates.
CMO.com: What role does emerging tech play in enabling agile workplaces?
Venter: For us, workplaces of the future will be aided by innovation that allows teams to make quick decisions, run small experiments, and then rapidly respond to the results of these experiments. Many emerging technologies today support this approach. For example, the advancement of technologies like the cloud, coupled with services like AI kits, enable teams to deliver great value at speed–without having to know how it all works under the surface.
Another example is around infrastructure. Historically we had to focus on building, running, and operating infrastructure. Today we just focus on using it. Agile work structures like NWOW require collaboration at a scale we have never seen before, and real-time collaboration tools are instrumental in helping us achieve that.
CMO.com: What are some of the ways workplace agility has supported the speed at which you offer customer value?
Venter: We have only been working in this new way at scale for a relatively short amount of time, but we are already seeing the benefits in terms of our ability to rapidly meet customer needs. I have already seen numerous examples across our squads and tribes where a squad has taken their own initiative to solve customer pain points and respond to customer feedback.
Things that would have traditionally taken months to address in a more bureaucratic structure are now occurring in weeks or even days. For example, we recently released the new ANZ app. Since going live, our app has received over 10,000 pieces of customer feedback, and it hasn’t always been positive. Our designated delivery tribes are able to collate all the feedback, often provided through multiple channels, make the appropriate changes in the app, then redeploy within a week to provide the most efficient and satisfying result for our customers.