Aaliah says agile has helped to grow her team
Inspiration | Telstra Careers |

Going agile: why it’s helped my team to grow

By Aaliah Eggins-Bryson November 23, 2020

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.

Are you interested in joining us? Head to our careers page where you’ll find our job openings.

Advice | Telstra Careers |

Five ways Agile ways of working can improve your personal life

By Natalie Sutton January 23, 2020

I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of Telstra’s transition to Agile at scale and have learnt valuable skills that have shifted my personal and professional mindsets.

I have found the benefits of Agile practices and methodologies don’t just translate to the office, they can extend to your personal life and can help improve your mindset and approach to life.

I asked our Agile Coach Jane Ilsey if learning about Agile can shift your personal mindset. Her response was:

“It’s not uncommon to hear stories of how people have taken the Agile mindsets, practices and tools and applied them to their personal life.

“I love that the changes we make at work have impacts that extend beyond the work itself and into the lives and homes of our people, whether it supports a couple getting married using sprints and Trello boards, or helps shape the building blocks for family agreements with team charters on the fridge.”

Here are the positive impacts Agile methodologies have had on me:

Setting personal goals

Often in our personal lives, we usually set a large goal without really breaking down the steps into smaller chunks. For example, a personal goal could be to buy that dream house or car.

Using the OKR framework here is how a personal goal could be broken down:

Objective: Buy your dream car

Key Result: Save 10 per cent more money month on month

Example Epics: Food, Travel (pillars to save money on)

Example Stories: Make lunches, cycle to work, work out in the park over the gym etc.

Every two weeks, you should review your stories and plan new stories to reach your goal. You can also use data to measure the impact your stories or epics are having on your key result.

This framework could be applied to long, medium or short term goals. It’s important to identify what type of goal you have, to help you with your planning.

Create a charter to live by

When we formed our new agile team the first thing we did was to create a team charter. This conversation is a great opportunity to learn more about your team and what values you all have.

Every two weeks at our Retrospective we review our team charter and ensure we are living it and review new items. One of the rules that resonate with me the most is to assume positive intent, which has built overall trust in our team.

Some members of our team have even created their own charter with their families and have stuck it on their fridge. They created it as a family and regularly check in on the values.

Here’s an example of the framework:

An example of a charter framework.

Burn rate and burn out

Early on in my career, I went 110 per cent all the time to achieve my goals. My theory was the harder I pushed myself, the more I would achieve. What happened was burnout, and I soon realised it’s impossible to achieve peak performance at all times.

What Agile taught me is that ‘slow is smooth, smooth is fast.’ Looking at your work in two-week sprints is a great way of pushing yourself as it allows you to peak, recover and start again.

Each burn rate might not be perfect, but it allows for peaks and troughs to be measured. This enables you to avoid burnout in the long run, which translates into a happier personal life.

Regular verbal communication

When we first introduced our agile ceremonies we were a bit freaked out by the number of meetings we had in the diary. Suddenly we had daily stand-ups, planning sessions, sprint prioritisation sessions, sprint reviews and retrospectives. We were all a bit concerned about when we would find the time to do the work!

However, having the agile ceremonies as regular as we do means we solve problems quicker and have open conversations. It also means less emails, which has meant we have more time to do the work.

In our personal life, we can also fall into the trap of phone messages and group chats and forget how powerful regular verbal communication is for connection and problem-solving.

Creating psychological safety

Google spent years studying effective teams and they found that the single quality that contributed most to the success of teams was ‘psychological safety.’ They code-named the study Project Aristotle, a tribute to the philosopher’s famous quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The researchers found that what really mattered was less about WHO is in the team, and more about HOW the team worked together.

As a keen hockey player, I have introduced this concept to my team. It’s not about our team having the greatest hockey players in the league, instead it’s about how we play together and trust each other.

Now that I have adopted this way of working, it’s challenging to think how we didn’t ever work like this. I look forward to how we continue to evolve and mature on our agile journey here at Telstra.

Learn more about Telstra’s transformation, purpose and values here.

Business and Enterprise | T22 |

From blockers to champions: using a GBS model to deliver change

By David Burns July 10, 2019

One of the components of our T22 strategy is to simplify how we work so it is easier for our people to deliver great service; invest in the workforce of the future; while reducing our cost base and maximising our portfolio management. Our Global Business Service function, created in July 2018, is helping us deliver on this.

As a global business service function serving Telstra, we’re changing how we work and what we can deliver both to our customers and our people as we execute our T22 strategy. Part of that new strategy means overhauling how we deliver end-to-end services to the business in the form of our Global Business Services division – and that’s not an easy task for the largest and oldest telecommunications company in the nation.

Managing change is difficult for every organisation, no matter the size, shape or industry. A key to success, however, is gearing your organisation and your people for change. Here are just some of the lessons we learned when implementing our new Global Business Services model.

Getting nerdy with it

Look at the data you have across the business and how you can use it to coordinate with other parts of the business.

Bringing our disparate analytics teams from across the business under the umbrella of GBS gave us an opportunity to centralise this source of truth and knowledge, and to use that knowledge to inform our decisions and make sure that the changes we were making were the correct ones.

Having our data, reporting and analytics teams organised vertically in our matrix model helps them focus on understanding and planning as a specialty function – instead of operating with a broad remit, that specialisation allows them to find areas for efficiencies, improvements and customisation, and highlights areas of duplication that can be shared with other parts of the business.

Being able to clearly demonstrate the time and money saved when a new process is implemented makes it much more likely that you’ll generate the support you need to make that change. We’ve seen this clearly as we’ve made changes to simplify our bills, introduced new tools to support our field technicians and shifted our supply chain processes to be more efficient.

Agents of change

Separate out the day-to-day operational work from the strategic. You need to give people time and space to focus on innovation and simplicity.

Our CEO Andrew Penn made the point of learning not to expect to be comfortable. The process of change is by its nature disruptive and contains uncertainty, which requires a different mindset to the day-to-day work we usually undertake.

To drive change, you must have a person responsible to both advocate for it and to push for that change to be more radical and innovative. In the GBS model, we deliberately split operations and delivery from strategy and innovation for purely that reason – a strategic lead can look at options like automation and AI, which are still in a nascent state, without the pressures and distractions of making sure day to day operations continue to run smoothly.

Geared for change

Make sure your organisation sets you up to succeed. You will need buy-in from right across your company and the backing of your leadership team if you’re going to create real change.

For us, we couldn’t change quickly enough in the state we were in at the beginning of 2018 – so the T22 strategy formed a fundamental foundation for our push for organisational change. Companies that do not adapt do not survive.

Our leadership team recognised the need to make significant changes over our multi-year transformation – changes that range as far as becoming a more agile organisation in the way that we work, with those changes cascading down to all our employees across the business.

We decided quickly that a Global Business Service model best suited the goal we wanted to achieve in our function, and we had the buy-in from our leadership team to make it happen.

Changing mindsets makes change happen

Shifting mindsets is crucial to effecting real change in an organisation of any size, shape or industry. What links all of the above learnings is an underlying mindset change. Our people need to be thinking differently, challenging the status quo and seeing opportunities in new technology to break down static and stubborn processes.

We saw this when our team looked at our warehouse processes and realised that not only could we save time by simplifying how we package our products, but that we could reduce our impact on the environment by eliminating the use of redundant plastic packaging in the process. All it took was someone to look at a process we’d been doing the same way for years with a fresh set of eyes, and we found a simple way to save money and offer customers a better experience.

Key to the mindset shift is creating an environment where people feel safe to voice suggestions and, importantly, where those voices are heard by management and considered. Leading by example and continuously highlighting and celebrating innovation-led thought has helped us to foster this new mindset. It’s not always easy and you need to stick at it, but it’s necessary.

We believe that we have set ourselves up for continued success with our transformation, and no small part of that comes from the mindset we have adopted throughout the journey.