Navigating agile transformation with Alex Badenoch

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The tactics and tools that make large-scale change possible and effective

After spearheading Telstra’s agile transformation, Alex Badenoch shares her tips for crafting change initiatives that move the needle.

While there’s no doubt that instigating large-scale change initiatives is challenging, businesses cannot afford to stick with the same tools and processes as the world around them rapidly evolves. As a former Transformation Executive at Telstra, Alex Badenoch has first-hand experience answering calls for change that are impossible to ignore.

She explains the reasoning behind Telstra’s decision to embark on an agile transformation journey, noting, “Doing what we’d always done was no longer a choice. The strategy that came together had many components, including customer experience, digitization, and portfolio management, but at the heart of it was our organization, our operating model, and how we engaged, leveraged, and deployed our people against the most important work that we had to do.”

While the concept of agile change may sound elusive to some executives, Badenoch explains why skills are a key part of the foundation for creating a concrete way to work more dynamically. In her words, “The use of agile lets you flex the application of skills and capabilities that you’ve got in the workforce to the most important work. It leads to some really great outcomes because generally, your employees become really clear on what the strategy of the business is and how they contribute to it.” 

Creating a sense of transparency is crucial to driving lasting change, which is why Badenoch points to measurement as an essential element of successful agile transformation. “Measurement was so important to us. It helped with providing clarity to us as an executive team and to the whole company. Sometimes you embark on a journey and it’s not clear what success is going to look like, so it’s a bit harder to maintain momentum,” she concludes. 

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‣Top takeaways

“If you want to shift and grow your career or acquire skills, which ones are really hot skills in the business? If I’ve got too many of one kind, how am I going to deal with that? Can I retrain people? Can I reallocate people? Do I need to reduce people? It’s this two-way process that isn’t a separate process from running a business. The deployment of skills is actually how most of us run businesses because very few things happen without the people behind them.”

“What executives should be asking themselves is are they building an organization that actually is adaptable to change and moves away from our traditional world where we resisted change and held onto the way things were until we couldn’t resist anymore and then we have these horrible transitions which are really painful. Or do you build a dynamic organization that can actually constantly adjust and evolve?”

“HR needs to be deeply involved in understanding how roles are going to change in an agile organization. The deep layer-upon-layer hierarchy disappears. So how do you actually structure roles which have much larger spans of control? What does that mean for career development? Because once upon a time there were 10 layers in the business. Now there are three layers in the business. None of that makes sense to how I grew up in my career.”

“To me, agile is completely rewiring your organizational structure. You need a different scaffold. You need a different infrastructure to hang agile off of. I watch a lot of people try to implement agile ways of working on a traditional structure and they actually haven’t got to the heart of the way you need to rewire your business to get value from agile. Org design and operating model work are absolutely at the heart and it is the underpinning platform to a successful agile implementation.”

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