Change Organizational Change

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Ole Jepsen

In scaling Agile ways of working, frameworks suggest that we “organize around value” and that we foster “organizational Agility.” Of course! This is common sense. So how do we make it common practice?

Change the way we work with organizational change.

OLD WAY: Line organization drives the change

In most companies, the line managers are in charge of how we change the line organization. In this scenario, the line organization drives the value organization.

We’ve seen numerous examples where the departments are simply renamed; for example, “Digital Solutions” in a bank becomes the “Digital Value Stream.” Very convenient and with no loss of employees or status for the Digital line manager.

This, however, is NOT organizing around value because Digital is playing one of many roles in other value streams such as Housing and Investments, but Digital is not a value stream by itself.

NEW WAY: Customer value streams driving the change

We need to turn this around so that the customer value streams drive the line organization set up.

Start by identifying our most important end-to-end customer centric value streams, and then (without thinking about the number of departments and line managers) form teams of teams around those value streams. Then, we can design the line organization as a support system around the value organization.

Now we have a value-driven organization where the individual teams of teams have clarity around the purpose of their work: to improve, love and run their value stream.

In addition, we have leaders in the line organization supporting all the people in the value organization and taking responsibility for building people’s technical competence.

Clarity + Competence = Real Empowerment

With clarity and competence in place, we have the two pillars of Intent-Based Leadership® that support how we can GIVE CONTROL to our employees, creating an environment where people feel empowered and motivated.

The quick how-to for changing how we make organizational change

  1. Identify most important end-to-end customer-centric value streams
  2. Decide on the number of teams and the competencies needed on each team to support each of the value streams
  3. Communicate to the rest of the organization and ask for feedback
  4. Ask “everyone” where in the new organization they would prefer to work, and if they have a preference for others they would like to work with (ask for a 1st and 2nd priority for both)*
  5. Put the puzzle of people, their preferences and the future organization together
  6. Implement the new organization.

Using these tips, we can organize around value and foster organizational agility, leading to reduced lead times, happier people and happier customers!

*Yes, I really mean involve your people in creating the new organization

Really..!!?? Should we ask our employees what they want to work with – and who they would prefer to work with?? Isn’t it my job as a manager to make those decisions? And what if we cannot honor the preferences people have? Isn’t it better not to ask them rather than potentially disappoint them?

These are questions we get over and over again when we’re suggesting this way of including employees in those decisions.

In our experience:

  • People almost always end up getting their 1st choice. Only a few times have we seen a few people “only” getting the 2nd choice. And we have never seen anyone not getting either their 1st or 2nd choice. Tell people in this process that you will do your best to make their top choices happen, but that you cannot guarantee it. In this way you set realistic expectations.
  • Most leaders believe they know exactly what their employees want – and most leaders get surprised when they ask their employees anyway.
  • Leadership teams who decide to involve their employees in these decisions (while it might seem a little scary at first) always find it awesome once the change is made.
  • Employees LOVE it. “It’s the first time I have ever been asked about my preferences in an org change. It’s awesome – I feel valued and listened to!” This is an actual quote from Lisa in a Danish bank – and we hear many, many similar comments.


Brain-friendly change

Minimize the pain of change and keep the focus by involving, engaging and supporting your people all along the way.