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Agile Power Team Russia. We do the company more flexible

09/04/2020

A year ago in our company the team of agile-enthusiasts Agile Power Team ("APT") appeared. Four colleagues have gathered to carry out Agile Transformation in the company and to make not only production, but also business functions agile. They faced many challenges: how to work well together as a team, how to understand – who is responsible for what, how to make it clear for themselves – what Agile Transformation is and how it can be brought to life. The sponsor of the team and in general of Agile-initiative in five GPN countries (Russia, Slovakia, Hungary, India and Malaysia) Igor Tchoupalov supported colleagues and together with them created vision of the company agilization. What has turned out from this in 12 months, read in the interview with members of Agile Power Team Russia Irina Kasimova, Ekaterina Aksenova, Svetlana Bolsunovskaya and the sponsor of initiative Igor Tchoupalov.

- Colleagues, how did the idea to create APT appear?

Igor: APT has been invented by the German colleagues. They viewed that the team would consist of four fixed roles and drive Agile Transformation in the company making it faster, more adaptable to changes and customer-oriented. We were part of this program.

- How did you define the team targets at the initial stage?

Katya: I have joined the team, as I was Outward Mindset Enabler. I did not know anything about agile at that time. Therefore, everything that happened at the beginning was unclear. It was an unstable period, but we have coped.

Ira: I will agree. On the start, we have been a little defocused. Good solution was that we have initially put emphasis on trainings and self-education. It was our first step on the way to stabilization of the team.

Igor: in spite of the fact that APT is the international initiative, we had no instructions fr om the top, and we needed to create Agile Transformation vision ourselves. Considering that we are well-developed fr om the point of view of agile in production and colleagues have been working in agile mode, including SCRUM, Kanban and SAFe, for a long time, we with Power-team have defined that we will be focusing on agilization of work between different divisions, management team and support functions G&A.

- How do you set your targets now?

Katya: We have objectives and key results ("OKR"). Together with Agile Hub, which from Global PoP Network supervises our work, we define objectives for a year and for every quarter. Now it occurs in more structured way, than earlier. There was full freedom before.

- What has helped to move forward the team at the first stage?

Ira: Trainings helped enormously. Thanks to internal trainings, understanding the way of interaction with the international teams, we could stabilize process and focused on roles distribution in our team. In addition, it has helped us to organize our work. We began to work in sprints in automatic tool to track tasks and to keep track of the statuses, and, in principle, to ensure transparency of the process.

Katya: For me joining of agile-experts became an important step in development of the team. Quality of our work improved a lot. Sveta Bolsunovskaya, Zhenya Kalabin have made big contribution.

- Sveta, now a question to you. How have you joined APT?

Sveta: Until forming of the general OKR for 2020, my participation in the team was occasional: as Agile Coach, I consulted and trained colleagues. Then after New Year, I began to participate not only in trainings, but also in tasks execution. An important moment for me was when I have understood, either I participate in this team on an equal basis with all, or it is pointless. When I have told myself that I after all am a member of the team, not a person who joins occasionally, full-scale story in APT started for me.



- What was your first success as a team?

Katya: I would call our first success the project on agilization of the Management Board, which included transfer of all operational decisions from the Board of Directors to operational platforms. They have been created in the different directions: Facility, IT, Communications, Security, Training & Development, HR. Participants from business are enabled to take decisions and are represented at each platform. This is such space wh ere colleagues can interact and bring tasks for backlog. Management Board is focused on strategic decisions and does not deal with such issues as, for example, equipment of the offices.

Ira: together with this big project, I would like to mention creation of the information Check-in platform, which takes place in flexible online format. This is 15-minutes meeting wh ere our 5 "heads" share with managers company news in very convenient mode. In addition, a video of this meeting is made, which is very convenient if it is impossible to join and listen. About 90 people participate in meeting. Not once, we have received positive feedback on this meeting since colleagues like the format. During lockdown, it became super comfortable and super useful.

Katya: and, in principle, Management Board became transparent. Almost everything that is discussed and decided at the Management Board comes to Check-ins.

- Why is Board's transparency important? What is the advantage of the platforms?

Igor: it is important for acceleration of decision-making, increase in efficiency of meetings, increase in employees and middle managers involvement into preparation of solutions, and, ideally, their acceptance. Platforms are necessary so that decisions are made at lower level and it would not be necessary to obtain approvals 10 times.

Now we discuss issues much more effectively and we make better decisions. Especially in the period of pandemic, we made decisions quickly enough. If we worked as last year, such effect would not be possible. I consider it as success! I like the concept of platforms because employees are more informed and involved. Many questions do not reach Management Board, which was the purpose of their creation. On the one hand, perhaps I would have to worry that I do not know something; on the other hand, I am confident in this format.

- Colleagues, what was the most difficult for you as a team?

Sveta: I can tell what was the most difficult for me: to impose my picture in the head as it has to be, on how we can make it. Target picture what agile is, how the organization should look like and how we should act is clear to all, but when you get to question what you specifically can do to improve the situation, you face difficulties.

- How have you resolved this question for yourself?

Sveta: by compromise. I have come to the fact that I cannot do everything at once. I for myself recognize that I will not be able to make something at all! There is acceptance of the fact that we do not try to reach the ideal picture at once: it is necessary to move gradually and to acknowledge the progress. It is necessary to be able to recognize that what we do – is an experiment; it can be effective or even negative. Understanding of it is a way to becoming agile internally.

- What did you manage to reach as a team?

Sveta: First, we managed to become self-motivated and organized as a team and to move forward not because someone has told us but because we want it ourselves. Secondly, we managed to tell ourselves that we want to bring real benefit, notable in G&A divisions, and we are ready to support and to consult colleagues in their daily work. This means that we walk the talk now.

- What benefits do you want to bring?

Katya: we have already begun to heat ice towards Customer Centricity to stimulate efficient collaboration of business and G&A functions. We need to continue to work in this direction, using agile-tools.

- What are you current targets and tasks?

Sveta: it is a difficult question. We have a lot of plans and wishes and there is not enough time. We participate in Agile Power Team additionally to our main work. If it is specific about the target – to promote that management studied and learned more about agile approaches, to continue to support the system with operational platforms and the Management Board, to increase expertise of self-organization and distributed decision-making.

- Igor, to what extent are these ideas already implemented?

We are on the way now. We have told "a" that we want that managers and G&A colleagues trained. We have told that we would like to change way of working in the company and to add more involvement of managers. For this purpose, Power Team has helped to create the system, which works up to 70%. Platforms started working. In this regard, the result looks not bad. We have trained many people, including with the help of external consultants, and now people already know about agile. It is possible to tell, since when I became the sponsor of this initiative, I also knew little. Now I feel more or less confident. Now the company functions in a different way. I feel changes at the level of managers of the second level – psychologically they feel more comfortable, as it seems to me.

Generally, we have done much, but there are new tasks. Therefore, the team’s backlog is quite long.

- You have mentioned that you became confident in implementing agile. How has the agilization of the company influenced you personally?

I like most to work in the team; I receive positive energy fr om it. I personally like the agile principles since they are about team and people wh ere the team decides who takes what role undertakes, decides how to bring more benefit to the customer in the following iteration, continuously studies and becomes constantly better through iterative approach, does Retrospective. It is close to other practices, which I studied at MBA. Especially I like about agile that it about experimenting.

And personally about me… At least, I began to use Trello in private life and rather often, it helps me with my productivity – I forget little. I also experiment together with – I draw to them Kanban-boards so that that they do not forget to clean up the apartment, brush teeth and so on (laughs).

- What would you wish APT and the company from the point of view of agilization?

I would like that all of us worked agile and talked in one agility language. That we were really learning organization and found ways to change not only in Russia, but also helped the company to be quicker globally. I would like that business and support functions synchronously worked for delivery of the maximum value for our customers, that our software was of good quality and with features from which the client would receive WoW-effect, that we did it quicker, than earlier and with pleasure.