For more than two years, on and off, we have been guiding the people of ComAp through the Agile Transformation. We would like to introduce it to you from different perspectives. That’s why we decided to create a series of articles in which we interview one key person involved in this transformation at a time.
If you’d like to learn a little more about ComAp or want to get a balcony view of the entire transformation before reading, visit the summary first.
The main driver of the ComAp change on our side was Honza Krchňák, who interviewed HR business partner Blanka Chladová.
Blanka, why did you decide to involve external agile consultants?
We wanted to sort out our (R&D) relationship and communication with Marketing, meaning our Product Managers. How to intensify the relationship, understand each other more, to think about things together. And maybe even bring up ideas and changes for improvements that we had previously identified again.
We needed some really unbiased facilitators who had experience in dealing with these things. And I think that the need for an external unbiased person is really important. Because it was always one of us taking that facilitator role and projecting our personal needs and expectations.
How did the collaboration between R&D and Product Management work at that time?
We used to send emails to each other and put all the people around in copy. There wasn’t that kind of intense and regular communication in the sense of saying things, asking questions, and solving things together. Marketing typed up some requirements, came up with some assumptions, and just handed it to us in some nicely wrapped package with a bow tie – now you just do it.
Why was this approach inadequate?
Because it resulted in incomplete, unclear assignments or illusory assignments without expertise. Or it was dependent on the expertise of someone we didn’t want or couldn’t involve. That is – processes and procedures were not clarified, who should go to whom, why they should talk to each other, etc. Or rather, they were clarified and described on paper, but in practice, it was not happening. In the year and a bit that we’ve been working with you, we are significantly further along. There is definitely more communication and trust between departments is increasing.
How did the whole collaboration start?
We started with Lean and Agile games. Our people experienced the lessons in those and gradually carried that further into their teams. This created a further need within each team to try something similar. This was further iterated in specific Tribes with people involved in specific projects and products.
Next, we held a workshop on “How to Facilitate Better” – how to manage, listen and motivate discussion in general. That was very well done, people praised that a lot. This opened up the possibility for people to think about things differently. This hands-on role-playing right in the workshop just teaches them a lot about teamwork.
How do you evaluate our involvement in the project – hands-on mentoring of the team?
We have chosen a pilot project and we are testing whether the agile way of management will work for us. The question is whether we chose the right project because the guys were working on something else in parallel and couldn’t fully commit to the change. That’s why the measurements for comparing the old and new way of working didn’t quite work as we had hoped. But overall, it’s good that the guys tried and learned specific things and procedures and this management process is beneficial for us.
And I like the fact that you have the drive. That’s what I think we need, that energy and that cheerleader. It’s helped me tremendously too because usually, I’m the one in that tough role, trying to kind of like cheer it up, so that’s great for me.
What has working with RainFellows brought you?
The teams are more compact now really – the Product guys are more a part of the Tribes now, which before was just on the paper. So product managers are able to explain and defend things more upwards as well. They’re preparing things together with the R&D project guys, which is just great. These people in the Tribe are forming – and I hope will continue to form – a kind of community that takes responsibility and pulls projects in the same direction.
How would you evaluate the cooperation from the perspective of your role (R&D HR Business Partner)?
I would give it a 7 out of 10 – firstly it’s my favorite number and secondly, there is room for some mutual improvement. I guess the biggest thing is that we just do something, it gets done and we move on, we don’t stop, and we don’t enjoy it. But that’s mostly on us.
There’s no doubt that those guys are learning to be more open and to engage better in discussion and in communication. They’re healthily more confident and not afraid to just say things out loud, which is super beneficial and important. And not only in the implementation of the project but in all other areas and audiences.
What’s next for you?
I’m convinced that we’re in for a big restructuring – redefining positions, redefining roles, redefining processes. We have started to work together, we have started to openly communicate things that bother us on one side and the other. This leads to more and more discoveries of dysfunctional parts and suggestions on how to fix them or make them more efficient. Simply how to change the model we had – it was useful for some time, some processes, some number of people, market requirements – but it no longer suits us.
That said, we are thinking, for example, of creating an architect position to ensure that we address similar requirements in a similar way. And that we think about them in a timely manner. We’re also thinking about how to get more involved and a more defined Product Owner position. We still don’t know who should be the right person to lead the Tribes. Maybe the positions and roles will be named the same, but maybe the people who were in Marketing yesterday will be on the R&D side tomorrow. And maybe somewhere the other way around.
Who is Blanka Chladová?
Blanka Chladová has years of experience in Training and Development with several years of experience as a trainer. Finally, she found herself in the position of R&D HR business partner in the field of Industrial automation – ComAp. Her strengths include negotiation, coaching, assessment, management, and performance management.