When Agility is No Longer a Choice - Our Story



Three months ago, we were debating how to introduce a work-from-home option in a phased manner. Little did we know we were all about to become part of a forced experiment that would keep us all “out-of-office” for the next two months.

As an organisation, we had spent over a year adopting the Agile framework. This McKinsey article describes an agile organisation as one that can mobilise quickly, is nimble, empowered to act, and makes it easy to act.

Adopting Agile for software development was achieved fairly quickly. Extending this transformation across the organisation was more difficult. With an on-ground presence across different countries and team members from all walks of life - industry veterans, ambitious young leaders, and fresh graduates - implementing an agile framework was disruptive, to say the least.

Nothing accelerates innovation quite like a crisis though. As we start emerging from the lockdowns, it must be said that the way we operate has completely changed and by embracing agile, we have experienced some spectacular results.

We wanted to share some of these in the hope that it will inspire others to go all in and develop agility that outlasts any crises.


Progress not Discussion

We had already adopted Google Meet for virtual meetings for cross-market teams. As working from home was implemented by default, the number of “meets” drastically increased for everything from leadership updates, business unit daily stand-ups, and townhalls.

Surprisingly, while the volume of meetings increased, so did the number of outcomes. We adopted the PPP structure - Progress, Plans, and Problems for most stand-ups and this automatically led to a clearer understanding of what the next steps were.


Transparency First

These PPPs also get reported on multiple online chats where teammates can be tagged, issues can be highlighted, and cross-functional dependencies are identified. These chats are almost like the pulse of the organisation. At any given time, any of us can have a quick view of how we are progressing revenue-wise, product-wise, or even marketing-wise, and so on.

Providing this transparency is enabled by tools like Google Chats and Meet, HubSpot for sales and marketing automation, and Jira by Atlassian for work management. But it is only possible when the entire organisation feels comfortable providing this transparency.


Empowerment and Role Mobility

By reporting progress and not processes, that too at an organisational level, the individual teams are empowered to go about reaching their objectives however they see fit. It also gives everyone the opportunity to get involved wherever they feel they can contribute.

For example, we developed an ad hoc campaign - Project Heroes - to recognise the efforts of frontliners across Malaysia. This was a collaboration with various industry associations and brands.

The project was conceived, planned, and executed in a matter of two weeks. The internal project team consisted of various cross-functional contributors from marketing and sales to human resources and engineering.


Cross-Functional Teams as Business Units

Another big change we implemented was to turn product teams into proper business units with their own revenue targets, delivery resources, and business teams. As media spends were decimated by the pandemic, each business unit decided to focus on the following:

  • Increase the velocity of platform and features development: A few of the teams had planned a complete overhaul of the cloud-based tools they were providing. During the downtime, the teams focussed on completing this twice as fast as originally planned.

  • Double lead nurturing efforts: We must have all become webinar experts during the lockdown periods. Out business units used this opportunity to engage their stakeholders via a series of online presentations that emphasised the importance of automation and measurement tools around out-of-home media.

  • Make it easier for client-facing teams to provide product inputs: Everyone in the organisation was trained to develop user stories that provide clarity on new feature requests and suggestions. It also makes it easier for product managers to analyse them using their prioritisation frameworks.

The next important step is to make sure many of these changes stay in place even as some of us start working from physical offices again. Flexible working may refer to when you work or where you work from. Both are possible as long as everyone in the organisation feels empowered to work how they want to achieve common goals.


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