For my commercial marketing team here at Telstra, agile working has become an incredibly important part of our daily working lives.

Agility has improved our workflow, increased the quality of our output and enabled us to better understand and deliver on our customers’ needs

I think it’s interesting to look at ‘why’ it’s been so beneficial, as well as ‘what’ the benefits have actually been. To me, agile leads to great results because it brings out a new leadership style, a completely different way for people in organisations to work with one another and a change in mindset. Everyone who is required to deliver the outcome is in the team – it’s such a simple change but has unlocked so much in terms of efficiency for us.

Here’s what my experience leading an agile team has taught me.

My team’s experience with agile working

When I compare our pre-agile and post-agile processes, my team’s workflows have improved substantially. It’s changed the way we work with each other, for the better.

Part of agile is that the team is fully autonomous, with limited handovers and reduced input from external areas. Everyone simply being together and inputting into the planning and design process has significantly improved how we deliver to customer needs. The problem-solving, design and execution process is relatively straightforward: when presented with a problem, the whole team plays a role in brainstorming and designing the solution and then we execute the agreed change.

Aaliah with her team at Telstra

The benefit of an entire team’s contribution and a multitude of different perspectives is game-changing. Because we are all aligned on executing to the same outcome, we get a natural speed to delivery without having to brief multiple teams and groups to deliver.

A new way to lead, a new way to work together

One of the biggest changes for newly agile leaders is learning to ‘let go’. The whole model is predicated on the team being able to collectively form and prioritise the work they focus on. This is not a comfortable position for new agile leaders to be in initially, but I can assure you that it does get better and is entirely worth the investment.

The truth is the first few months of going agile can be hard. You need to get your head around the tools, vocabulary and change in how you work. Agile’s power comes through people embracing this shift in mindset and allowing it to create what is a more effective way of working.

The shift has taught me how to be a more effective leader, and I’m lucky to be leading an incredibly high-performing, motivated and customer-focused team: data scientists who provide the customer insight, product marketers who design the customer treatment, marketers who build and execute the customer communications and channel team members who ensure our frontline teams are fully equipped to respond to change.

These people make each other better through teaching one another new skills, thinking differently and most importantly, helping each other when needed. Agility genuinely empowers them to prioritise their own work based on their capacity and as a result, the quality of output has improved.

Getting started with agile

My advice when first making the move to agile is to persevere. Once you start getting used to the change, the benefits are profound. You’ll see tangible improvements in the way you work and your outcomes, and realise the true importance of the collective team.

I think Telstra has managed the move to agile successfully because our people have adapted to the change so well. Agile is all about teams coming together and being willing and able to work in a new way. Our leaders throughout the organisation have facilitated that change and then been able to demonstrate improvements in all our metrics. It’s also improved our ability to respond to unforeseen impacts (with COVID-19 being an obvious recent example).

We are 18 months into ‘going agile’ and still learning. Of course, there have been some bumps along the way, but the benefits truly outweigh the setbacks. Going back to the way we worked before is not even a consideration.

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