PLANTING TREES AND TRANSFORMING OPERATIONAL ENGINE




by Ekaterina Curry - the reader's corner


"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now" - Chinese proverb

Transformation and tree planning have some things in common. There is never a convenient time to do transformation. Work doesn’t stop so we can learn agile tools, improve our problem solving and spend a week with sticky notes doing value stream mapping. When you really need the results of transformation, you inevitably wonder why you didn’t do it a year ago, a month ago or at least a few weeks ago. And like tree planning, the second best time to do transformation is usually now.

2020 was the second best time to do transformation for many companies and teams, including my team. The global pandemic, work from home, volatile financial markets and triple work volume made it demanding. But opportunities emerged amidst the problems.

We had to find a way to manage significant unexpected work, continue transforming what we do and approach the process with empathy for each other. The puzzle pieces were clear: people, process, tools, and also courage, dreaming big and having fun along the way. This is how the pieces came together:


1. Are we running sprints or a marathon? Clearly defining and communicating what winning

looks like was foundational. Refreshing our mission, vision, and strategy gave us the

compelling “why” and the energy to do the hard work required to “win”.

2. Being in a state of readiness. We realized that tools – lean, agile, human centered design

and even the good old value stream mapping, do not equal or guarantee operational

excellence. Expertly using the tools in support of a clear strategy by team members who

are equipped with skills create the conditions to readiness. Getting things done on time,

on budget, delighting the customers and operating within the parameters of the business

during challenges, now that is a state of readiness as Joseph Paris describes in his

book.

3. Capacity is the Currency of Transformation as Marcus Daley says. Creating capacity was

more than a goal or a target, it was the only sustainable way forward in the transformation

journey. What could we stop doing? What process can be redesigned? What could quickly

be automated? We knew where we could and where we couldn’t accept delays. A flat

organization, a robust capacity model and transparency were key ingredients in gaining

capacity.

4. Do you hear me now? The old formal way of communicating with long emails and multiple

meetings was not conducive to current conditions. Speed and transparency were of the

essence. Much of our communication moved to MS Teams. Blogs and videos on intranet

pages helped connect people across the globe. We got to know each other on a personal

level – the kids, the pets, the kitchens and living rooms. Ironically, we felt more connected

and more aligned than ever.


Along the way we are learning how to better interact with continuous improvement/transformation teams. We learned to align lean projects with company and team strategy and check frequently to make sure they are still in sync. We learned that most help is needed with holistic end to end process transformation, not vertical functional transformation. We learned that our metrics should reflect outcomes and not activity. We learned to keep each other accountable for business value realized through projects. And we learned that it’s everyone’s responsibility to transform.


"And while we have a long way to go in the transformation journey, one thing is clear, the time to transform is always now."

 

Ekaterina Curry is an expert in leading and transforming large millennial teams, global operations, strategy, balancing BAU with innovation, automation through RPA, agile and lean principles, digital transformation, fixed income analysis, complex financial instruments, securitization, derivatives, and emerging markets.

Her goal is to elevate good teams to great, and great teams to best-in-class by building skills for the future, driving business value through innovation and deploying lean and agile tools.

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