About the Series
In 2017 I had the exciting opportunity to introduce business agility at Moonpig, one of the UK’s best known start-ups. This series of blog posts provides an in-depth case study of my experiences, and I hope will provide a useful set of steps for others looking to adopt and scale lean and agile. I have written this for the benefit of the wonderfully generous lean and agile community from whom I have learned so much. I hope that by sharing my learnings, others can benefit as I have.
In the previous post I outlined what being happier looked like for Moonpig, and how we planned to measure our progress in this area. In this post I’ll focus on some of the specific actions we took.
As I mentioned in the last post, this was very much a collaborative effort between Roopa Singh, then HR Director at Moonpig, and Lawrence Hay, Group Head of Talent for the Photobox Group (to which Moonpig belongs). Many of the initiatives I’ll discuss were lead by Roopa and Lawrence and thus this provided one of the biggest areas of learning for me personally.
I discovered a huge overlap between the agile, HR and L&D functions, because fundamentally we are all working to improve the culture, and culture is very broad. Provided you share the same values and vision, which we certainly did, this collaboration can be very powerful and very rewarding.
Squad principles and happiness
In an earlier post I described two of the key principles on which the squads were based. Firstly that each squad should have a clear mission, and secondly that each squad should have the autonomy to achieve that goal independently. Thus the squads were very much based aligned with Dan Pink’s theories around motivation.
In addition to these key principles, leveraging lean and agile working practices which were introduced to increase speed, were also intended to promote a sustainable pace of work and better work life balance. As well as improved quality of work experience, it was also hoped that sustainable pace would provide people with more time to learn.
So there was an expectation that by working within this model we would naturally start to see improvements in engagement. However, over and above this, there were also several broader programmes launched to improve engagement. These are all in the early stages so I can’t report on any outcomes, but it’s worth sharing the ideas.
Developing a healthy culture is intrinsically linked to engagement, so it’s not surprising that this was a key area of focus. Roopa and Lawrence began by running listening sessions, involving people across the organisation. The objective of these sessions was to understand both the healthy and the less healthy elements of our culture. From that we could begin to determine a set of company values that were widely supported and could drive behaviours that would improve the culture. An inclusive approach to developing the values meant they were more likely to be supported and embraced by the organisation.
In addition to the listening sessions, Roopa and Lawrence asked for voluntary culture champions, thereby creating a working group that could help promote our values and culture across the business.
Having run the listening sessions and started developing the values, a company offsite was used to involve the wider organisation in identifying specific initiatives that we could run to embed the culture and values. The culture champions ran workshops with groups of people across the organisation to brainstorm ideas which they could then take back and develop.
Culture is driven by the leadership, so focusing on developing good leaders is vital to developing a healthy culture.
To focus on improving leadership Lawrence and his team developed Be THAT Manager — a training programme which anyone involved in line management or squad leadership would attend.
As I mentioned in the previous post, Lawrence firmly believed in Dan Pink’s theory of purpose, mastery and autonomy being key motivators, and he sought to embed these in the leadership training programme. The programme itself was built around the three key themes of Focus, Support, Challenge:
- Focus — providing inspiring vision and clear goals
- Support — adopting the coaching style of leadership which encourages managers to help others solve problems rather providing directive instruction
- Challenge— this focused on helping to develop and build people by encouraging them to push themselves beyond their comfort zone without over stretching them
The leadership programme was designed to develop great leaders that would excel at developing high performers while creating an environment where people remained highly motivated and engaged.
One long running complaint we had was lack of career progression. This had been particularly problematic in technology but was also recognised as a problem elsewhere.
To address this we developed a competency matrix against which we could align roles and provide clear guidance for individuals to develop and progress. Whilst this was developed as an initial pilot within technology, it was written with a view to extending it across the organisation.
We focused on 12 competencies, 3 of which were specific to engineering. The others covered more general areas such as leadership skills, soft skills and ways of working.
The competencies very much reflected the values and behaviours we wanted to encourage. The leadership competencies aligned with the themes of our leadership training programme, and were based around the themes of focus, support and challenge. Likewise ways of working encouraged lean and agile working practices and softer skills emphasised areas such as communication and collaboration.
As well as providing a framework for career progression the competency matrix was also intended to support recruitment, helping us to acquire talent that would contribute to a healthy culture.
Over the course of a mammoth 11 blog posts I’ve attempted to provide a detailed journey of Moonpig’s adoption of business agility. In my final post I’ll outline some of the results that business agility delivered. I’ll also summarise my key learnings and insights and offer some advice for anyone else that is interested in adopting business agility.