Agile Transformation at KPN iTV

| by Ben Linders Follow 15 Followers on Feb 22, 2018. Estimated reading time: 6 minutes |

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There were several major changes implemented within the agile transformation at KPN iTV: the management team had to became a leadership team that was responsible for creating a working environment for the squads where they facilitated instead of directed; autonomous squads were co-created using self-selection; and work is not organized in projects anymore, and is instead brought to stable autonomous teams.

Edgar Stormbroek, agile coach, and Menno van Eekelen, agile management consultant and coach, spoke about the agile transformation at KPN iTV at the annual conference of the Agile Consortium Netherlands. InfoQ is covering this event with Q&As, summaries, and articles.

InfoQ interviewed Stormbroek and van Eekelen about how the agile transformation started, how it impacted culture and leadership, their experiences from using self-selection for setting up teams, and what they learned during their transformation.

InfoQ: What made KPN TV decide to start an agile transformation?

Stormbroek: It started as a result from discussions with Board of Directors of KPN about the innovation speed of KPN iTV end of 2015. Innovation slowed down and it was not transparent what the root causes were of this slow down.

Van Eekelen: As a part of new Strategy for KPN TV, KPN decided that an agile organization was the best fit to increase innovation speed and frequency of delivery.

InfoQ: How did you get the employees and managers involved in the transformation? What did you do to keep them involved?

Van Eekelen: Focus was first on the management team, making them understand how their role was going to change in an agile organization, especially their expected behavior. The senior management team members were responsible for the transformation and to create an environment in which it would emerge more naturally.

Stormbroek: After six weeks, the management team concluded they could not do it on their own. They extended the transformation team with 20 persons. These persons got the same organizational agility training and were heavily involved in designing the initial agile organization. The rest of the 150 employees were involved through six-weekly update sessions. (iTV –Café’s)

InfoQ: How did the agile transformation impact culture and leadership?

Stormbroek: There was a large impact. We believe ’Culture follows Structure’. Together with the employees we designed the new organization in which all the employees were plotted in 1 of the autonomous squads (5-9 persons) that are responsible for the delivery and the results.

Van Eekelen: The major change (and challenge) for the management team was to change to a leadership team. They had to let go of traditional top-down directive ways of management and find out how to create a working environment for the squads where they facilitated instead of directed.

InfoQ: There is no project management role anymore at KPN iTV. What happened to the project managers?

Van Eekelen: The whole organization was converted to autonomous squads of 5-9 people. Each squad having their own Product Owner and Scrum Master whom took over this project management role. Some of the project managers have become product owners, others have left.

Stormbroek: Work is not organized in projects anymore, instead the work is brought to stable autonomous teams. In the market place meeting, the priority of the work is set and decided what priorities were picked up by what teams by the product owner team.

Earlier, InfoQ interviewed Mamoli and Mole, authors of the book the book Creating Great Teams - How Self-Selection Lets People Excel, and asked them to explain self-selection:

Mamoli: Self-organizing teams are groups of motivated individuals who work together toward a shared goal and have the ability and authority to take decisions and readily adapt to changing demands. ... Our book is about self-selection, which is a process you can use to set up self-organizing teams in the first place. Self-selection happens at an organizational level rather than at a team level and is a way to get everyone into teams.

Mole: Quite simply, it is an alternative to the most familiar way of selecting teams in most businesses which is for several managers to come together and decide how teams should be made up.

InfoQ: You used self-selection to set up teams. How did that go?

Stormbroek: We started with an experiment with 25 persons to make three (small) chapters. With some guidelines and goals, we asked them to make the chapters.

Self-selection was done in four steps:

Step 1: preparation step.

Every Scrum master made his own A4 profile, with his main Scrum Knowledge / Expertise and what he wants to learn.

In a round of 45 minutes the Scrum masters challenged each other to make the profile more clear.

Step 2: first round of self-selection

Scrum masters would hang their profile on the wall in the chapter group (5-9 spaces) where they thought they can add the most value and learn the most.

Step 3: second round of self-selection

After the first round, everybody looked at the three chapter groups and asked the question, are the three groups equally strong? Since this was not the case, we started a second round to mix some persons.

After the second round we did the same check. At this time, the groups were equally divided.

Step 4: third round to chose your own captain

In the third and last round, the groups chose their captain (chapter coach). This person is in the lead to organize the first meetings and facilitate the first backlog in the start-up of the chapter.

It worked well and we learned from this experiment that people are perfectly capable to make very clever choices and very good chapters. After this experiment we did this for the whole tribe (department) of 175 persons.

Van Eekelen: The most important learning is that the preparation lies within the co-creation process with all people upfront. This means that we involved all employees in small groups in sharing our thoughts in the self selection process and embedding their feedback in an updated approach for the self-selection day.

The feedback was very diverse. Many people could not believe that they could choose their own chapter where they want to develop. After becoming aware of the fact that they themselves had an influence on the frameworks and actual design, the feedback quickly changed into questions to understand it better and they came up with points that were important to them and their development, which is a first step of co-creation.

InfoQ: What have you learned from the transformation? Any advice that you can give?

Van Eekelen: Do it together with a compact and empowered leadership team that believes in an agile transformation. This takes time.

One of the things I did was explain how things work in an agile organization, after being asked questions. If people ask, they start listening and are really interested.

The funny thing is that a management team asks me as a consultant to help them with their agile transformation, expecting to give a blueprint of both the new organization and the transformation journey. It takes time and patience to make them understand that they are also part of the change and that they are the conductor of the transformation and as consultant I’m only advising them and keep them creating/working from the agile mindset. So when starting a transformation start with a small group which has this awareness and already acts on it and define the first experiments to get the rest of the organization in that same mindset.

Stormbroek: After the leadership team is empowered and believes in a transformation, co-create with the people involved. They know best how the work can be done.

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