4 Tips on how to accelerate to the speed of a start-up

Agility is a popular buzzword in marketing, and an increasing number of large organisations are achieving success through adapting their ways of working to operate at speed. Yet changing your own organisation can seem daunting, especially because small scale attempts to superimpose agility onto a ‘Business As Usual’ model often fail.

If you are looking to successfully enable agility in your organisation, read on for 4 simple tips.

The shift to agility is driven by the changing norms of how we work, led by the explosion of innovation from start-ups and SMEs stealing share from long-established businesses. New, agile businesses are quick to launch products that meet the latest consumer needs and can pivot to address ever-changing trends. But businesses such as GSK and ING Bank are adopting new approaches to keep up with the speed of the start-ups, deploying new ways of working across areas from strategic planning to innovation, to enable progress at unprecedented speed. Leading businesses are using new approaches, some deploying Agile Teams, and others using Design Sprint methodologies, such as those pioneered by Google.

At Brand Learning we see the best results realised by organisations combining both these approaches, to build a solution tailored to their culture and the required deliverable. Agile Teams are sometimes called SLAM teams: Self-Organising, Lean, Autonomous and Multi-disciplinary. They break free from the traditional approaches to work at speed in a series of short sprints to deliver key outputs each week, enabled through significant autonomy and freedom to progress outside of the organisation’s normal decision-making process. Only by breaking the rules of the ‘normal’ way of working can these teams keep pace with customer demands by adopting a truly different, and sometimes uncomfortable approach.

The Design Sprint Methodology breaks down a large deliverable into a series of key elements to be worked on in a series week-long sprints. The decisions made at the end of one sprint charge the next sprint, maintaining the fast pace. Such an approach can cut project times from years to months – but good planning is key to enable to work smoothly. Design Sprints were originally designed for software development, but can be adapted to fast-track work on any business issue – this 90 second video summarises the thinking.

Case studies can often appear complex, and evidence significant investment to develop agility, which can make them less useful to others. Below, we share 4 organising tips for agility that can be applied anywhere without significant investment.

  1. Create a clear Vision and Purpose for your Agile Team. This unifies the team and creates the energy, momentum and confidence critical for a team that will be working in a very different way. The Vision and Purpose will also help the rest of the organisation understand the team – and understand how to help them be successful.
  2. Create a clear governance structure for the team. This means clearly defining what decisions the team can make autonomously, and which decisions need internal approval - and fast-track access to those decision makers.
  3. Coach the team in the SLAM approach, covering the key elements:
    - Self-Organising: who does what, based on who has the information needed to do the job
    - Lean: ideally 5-9 people: stick to the 2 pizza rule: the team should be no bigger than can be fed with a couple of pizzas
    - Autonomous: team members can make decisions themselves over the work they are doing, as they have the right knowledge and experience
    - Multidisciplinary: the team contains people with all the skills needed to deliver the work
  4. Craft a clear How To toolkit: the right tools and approaches, selected for the specific project. This is Design Sprint methodology, the breaking down of the project into focused one week sprints:

Short, sharp sprints, with weekly alignment on tasks, outputs and responsibilities.

agile working

Design sprints can be built around a 5-day sprint using the Map | Sketch | Decide | Prototype | Test framework, or they can be adapted to work in a series of sprints to break down any large project into a short timeframe. Sprints are powerful and effective, and work best when they are planned thoroughly to ensure good progress and momentum.

Want to read more? Go here to learn how four new innovation capabilities can help you thrive amidst ever-increasing change, as an individual and an organisation.

Brand Learning tailors new ways of working using agile teams and design sprint methodology to help clients across CPG, Pharma and Financial Services accelerate to start-up speed - if you would like us to help you then get in touch.

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