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Agile and dedicated - Group Marketing’s new service model​

Business Agility Australia 2019

Universities are fast becoming the new arena for digital disruption and adoption of agile ways of working. Macquarie University's Group Marketing department is one such example of the adoption of business agility within a heavily regulated education sector in Australia.

How did we go about "creating the art of the possible" in an educational institution which was going through multiple waves of change management? What did we do differently? And why do we feel that this story is unique and inspiring? We believe our story gives an insider's perspective to adopting agile as a new operating model in a business unit which is traditionally seen as an shared services function and not as a strategic competitive advantage within a university business model.

How did we go about improving not only our customer experience but also our employee experience? Taking a unique not a paint- by-numbers approach, we designed our own Agile framework and operating model. Adopting Agile principles - not rules and being focused on solving the impediments and blockers with fast feedback loops, we were able to demonstrate that (a) we were serious about making a change and (b) we were able to lead a rapid transformation engagement over 6 weeks to move to a new way of working.

We moved from a traditional heavy middle management organisational structure to autonomous cross-functional teams of experts aligned with the business. We learnt that Agile was not rocket science and that we were able to demystify Agile demonstrating that it was a natural way of working together as humans. Learning from each other and changing from individual expert contributors to becoming a team of experts who were able to ask deeper questions and engage more effectively with our stakeholders.

We learnt that we had to lead by example. And so, all Group Marketing executives underwent the training and adopted the Agile model in our day-to-day operations. We started slow with physical Kanban boards for Squads and Chapters inviting stakeholders for the showcase and planning sessions where they saw items in Blocked and Parking Lot demonstrating the impact that this way of working had. As a result, stakeholders started to become innovative and come up with ideas, engaging with the teams up front in an advisory capacity.

We learnt that people are amazing and we need to focus on changing inefficiencies in the organisation's operating model. Going back to principles and creating a space for learning, our teams started to come up with their own innovative ideas. We learnt that we had to go all-in and bring everyone along the journey. Finally, agile is about people and values (not rules) and that people have a natural passion to work this way. Rather than making the existing organisational practices work in a standard "agile" framework, we were successful in changing the culture and mindset of the organisation to adopting agility.

End result, we have become a much more agile business unit being able to respond faster to market needs and customer requirements, improving the internal culture and better customer experience.