Scaling Back Australia’s Largest Agile Deployment

“There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them” – Tom Krause

Two years after announcing Australia’s largest agile project (called New Ways of Working (NWOW)), ANZ Bank CEO Shayne Elliot says the bank has now paused from deploying it further than the 9,000 employees it currently encompasses.

In an interview with iTnews, Elliot said the reason for scaling it back was an overriding desire “to get that running really, really well rather than keep adding to the number.”

The bank says the benefits from NWOW include removing internal gatekeepers and layers of management who were blocking instead of enabling progress, productivity improvements of 30% in some areas and increased speed to market in deploying technology projects.

Elliot shared the challenges as: “It doesn’t work in some areas. It won’t work in contact centres, it won’t work in branches, it won’t work in a dealing room.”

I applaud the leadership of Shayne Elliot as history is littered with stories of CEO’s who live or die by the major projects they initiate. While I assume ANZ Bank embarked on the NWOW initiative for the right reasons, the trouble is agile has now reached a stage where the very term agile is such a buzzword that too many leaders (showing very little leadership) embark on agile because others are doing so. For those who do this, it’s dangerous when the motives and commitment to success are wrong.

Make no mistake, agile is expensive to implement across an organisation. The level of change management and upheaval is significant. Consultants and leaders jumping from 1 agile project to the next are making careers and copious amounts of money from agile.

Opponents say agile is another management fad, while advocates can be almost cult like in their belief in agile. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Small incremental improvements

If you’re a manager who can’t afford or stomach the upheaval of agile but need to increase productivity and reduce cycle times, what else can you do? This is where small incremental improvements can provide massive impactful results. In fact, even if you’re implementing agile you need to be doing this.

Ask yourself: “What’s getting in the way from my team being more effective?” While a large company wide transformation could do wonders, the real issues at an individual level are likely to be smaller day to day challenges. Therefore, how much more successful would each individual be if they?

  •        Reduced the time wasted in ineffective meetings

  •        Reduced the level of interruptions

  •        Increased the time spent on meaningful work

The thing is you can achieve this by small incremental changes in a matter of weeks, not months or years. Now that is agile……