How To Lead Your Entire Organization Through An Agile Transformation
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How To Lead Your Entire Organization Through An Agile Transformation

Rohan Amin, Chief Information Officer, Consumer & Community Banking, Jpmorgan Chase
Rohan Amin, Chief Information Officer, Consumer & Community Banking, Jpmorgan Chase

Rohan Amin, Chief Information Officer, Consumer & Community Banking, Jpmorgan Chase

Technology is central to our modern world and the global pandemic has demonstrated why organizations need to invest in their tech infrastructure to support the ever-growing demand for digital solutions. u will need to be nimble to pivot quickly to better respond to your customers’ changing needs and unexpected events.

Most technologists will be familiar with agile software development practices, but what if technology leaders led their entire company to adopt an agile mindset? You don’t have to be a technology company to benefit from this approach.

Regardless of the size of your organization, this type of institutional change is going to be difficult. Startups are now born with an agile mindset, giving them a competitive edge that many are trying to stay ahead of. Larger organizations can learn a lot from smaller companies that tend to run lean and be more efficient.

There has never been a better time for large companies of all types to adopt an agile mindset, as the benefits will be felt far beyond your firm’s technology function.

Your first step will be to forge partnerships with your product teams to empower quicker decision making. Everything you do for your customers needs to become a fusion of product and technology.

Finding your eureka moment

Many of your colleagues outside of technology may look at you in bewilderment as to how technology processes can translate to other functions or lines of business. But consider telling the story of how long it takes to go from concept to market and driving home why it takes that long.

My eureka moment happened while outlining the process of adding a button for customers to lock and unlock their credit card online or in our mobile app to protect against fraud.

At first, business leaders told me: “It’s just a button, how hard can it be?” To be honest, very.

Our concept to delivery roughly took 18 months – an unacceptable amount of time. Dependencies, change management, bureaucracy and antiquated technology systems held us back. Moving towards a product architecture made our teams’ work more visible across the entire company and set a clear map for accountability.

We’ve been on our agile transformation for the last three years. Since then, we’ve progressively broken-down legacy systems, organized teams around customer value streams and extended agile principles across our technology and business teams. During the pandemic, we also narrowed decision making to key product owners and leaders to create new programs and build technology systems in a matter of days and weeks instead of months and years. That speed helped us to assist our customers when they needed us most.

These examples brought the value of agile to life for a much broader audience. Today, our entire organization is committed to revolutionizing how we operate at speed and at scale.

Winning hearts and minds

To transform your own technology team and beyond, you’ll need to identify individuals who can offer different perspectives, either because of the nature of their work or the teams they represent, to help you lead grassroots change throughout your organization.

Don’t get me wrong, senior leadership buy-in is critical, but you won’t be able to drive change without also winning the hearts and minds of all, including those that are most skeptical.

Engaging with these champions frequently and empowering them to enact change locally within their respective teams will go a long way to accelerating your organization’s agile transformation.

Leading by example

There will be set-backs, delays and unpredictable events that will challenge everyone’s commitment to change. However, it is precisely during challenging times that the merits of agility shine through.

During COVID-19, we didn’t start coding faster, we made product decisions quicker.

Over the past three years, Chase has organized into over 1,000 scrum teams and has been focused on driving continuous improvement by leveraging metrics like backlog health, forecast predictability and churn. As we matured, we began to see improvements in long-lived teams and data driven management.

So where do you go from here?

Progress isn’t a linear process. Your organization’s agile transformation

won’t be either. If you lead by example, keep demonstrating the value of the transformation across all levels of the organization and showcase wins outside of technology, you’ll succeed.

Three lessons for success

There isn’t a bona fide, step-by-step guide for an agile transformation of a large

company. You’ll have to make decisions and be agile yourself in what works and what doesn’t. Read up and learn from those who have been there, but you are forging new territory. Fail forward.  Strong leadership is important. This will be a large organizational change and people will need clarity. Make decisions, be clear about why those decisions were made and lead from the front setting the example.

 Do the right thing not the easy thing.

It will be hard to dismantle processes that have been in place for decades. Focus on the problem and design systems what should be accomplished now and in the future. Remove waste wherever possible.

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