Becoming an agile organisation; the value-creation approach

Software has transformed the way business is done. At the heart of this sit lean and agile processes, putting people at the centre of your organisation

Software has transformed the way business is done. At the heart of this sit lean and agile processes, putting people at the centre of your organisation

Housing Partners

Listening to customers and developing products off the back of their feedback is at the core of our business model. These practices can be referred to as ‘lean’ or ‘agile’ approaches, which involves placing your business in a state of constant reflection and innovation rather than in cycles of push and plateau.

In the face of having to do more with less, eliminating lengthy processes and organisational waste is essential for the housing sector to create value for those working in it and their customers. According to the King’s Fund there will be an estimated funding gap in social care of £18 billion by 2031, which will have a direct effect on housing; service providers will need to be able to adapt quickly and constantly as uncertainty grows. Some businesses have adopted agile approaches to prepare them for these challenges.

But before we get to the details, let’s start simple: according to For Dummies, “lean is a customer-centric methodology used to continuously improve any process through the elimination of waste in everything you do; it is based on the ideas of ‘Continuous Incremental Improvement’ and ‘Respect for People’.” In practice, teams take time to identify, visualise and streamline their processes to develop products quickly and bring them to customers in real-time.

Product development teams are at the forefront of a lean, or agile transformation – with a drive in the housing sector towards increased self-service, technical excellence and products designed to be inclusive are proving a fundamental requirement. At Housing Partners, our TSAR customer satisfaction tool was developed and brought to market in collaboration with NPSS and LAs over a period of just eight weeks. This module formed part of a wider goal of improving efficiencies in the local authority sector, by collecting feedback from users of the service. It’s essential that agile practices have a twofold focus; on achieving long-term visions, whilst engaging your organisational purpose daily.

 

6 CHARACTERISTICS OF AN AGILE ORGANISATION

 

  1. Whole-system thinking

Innovations will come from highly motivated teams that view themselves as part of the whole organisation. Departmental silos should be broken in exchange for “entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets, and departments to customers.” An agile system innovates from building knowledge through consultation.

  1. Collaborative

The diversity within your organisation and client base is an asset for innovation. By fostering an environment where people feel confident sharing their ideas across work-pools, each employee should know they can contribute in a meaningful way. Each department has a mutually inclusive purpose; it’s worth sharing knowledge.

  1. Aligned

To set your organisation on an agile path you must make sure your vision and values are explicit across your team. Pathways to innovate should be standardised and teams should be well aware of the tools and strategies available to them. Within organisations, change initiatives tend to fail when employees aren’t given a clear explanation of the benefits of those changes.

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” Patrick Lencioni, Founder The Table Group, ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable’

  1. Eliminate Waste

A leading principle of agile development is to cut organisational waste. If there are too many projects at a ‘work in progress’ stage, that’s waste. If employees are spending time on tasks that could be automated, that’s waste. SwapTracker, our follow-on for landlords once a mutual exchange has been agreed, automates and standardises the entire process – giving housing officials time back.

  1. Culture of Respect

Encourage an environment where employees can give their best. Incentivising staff has moved beyond remuneration and businesses need to work out why their staff come to work. Line managers should give team members credit that they know what they are doing; these employees are on the front line and often have a clearer overview of practices and customer needs.

  1. Be humble

Mistakes, rather than being punished, should be noted and built upon. Recognising that there is always something to improve upon will drive a problem-solving outlook across the organisation; failure is a learning opportunity.

Housing Partners

Each of our systems has been built in a cycle of consultation, development and release; our customers are asked what it is they want to see in their tools and what is most important for them to be able to carry out their job. Once we’ve built it we ask them again if it fits into their vision. This tailored approach to software in the housing sector is relatively new and something that we take great pride in being pioneers in. A key part of our offering around the systems we develop are training sessions and ongoing support when you integrate them into your work stream. In reciprocity, we take on your expertise and feedback to enhance our products. We write about the benefits of this customised approach to software as a service (SaaS) here.

Studies have found a correlation between adopting agile principles that engage your staff’s creativity and knowledge and an increase in productivity and innovation. Valuing your employees’ viewpoints and asking them to identify where your organisation is wasteful is key. Once they see that implemented ideas are garnering results it can clear the way for a natural buoyancy of more suggestions to be brought to the table from the ‘font line’ to drive your organisation forward.

“Software has eaten the world.  And as it continues to consume new and diverse industries it’s transforming the way business is done. We are all in the “software business” now, regardless of the product or service we provide, forcing us to re-examine how we structure and manage our organizations.”

 Bring Agile to the Whole Organization. HBR. 2014