How to rapidly divert and re-deploy teams to changing priorities without losing momentum

With the huge change organisations are experiencing moving to remote ways of working, one of the key challenges facing many Executives in the current VUCA world, is how to ensure minimal disruption to productivity and delivery at a time when they need to pivot and adapt to changing prioritises or even reinvent their business and operating models. Re-deploying, and diverting teams to new priorities and bringing in new people has the potential to be a major disruption.

The critical decisions executives are having to make at the moment have real  human impacts. They are deciding which work is now the priority, which work has to be paused and may mean whole teams of teams need to be re-deployed  to new areas, given more work  or re-distribute their current work to other teams to adapt to capacity. There may even be new people to on-board quickly to meet a demand that didn’t even exist 2 weeks ago.

5 key actions for executives to divert and re-deploy teams to changing priorities

Over the past few weeks we have worked with many executives facing many if not all of these challenges. These programs included call centre teams, huge delivery teams across organisations as well as other smaller business that had to make hard decisions on what work to pause and how to set up a whole new business line of telehealth in a matter of 48 hours to ensure business survival.

  1. Assess capacity  – understand how much team capacity is needed to deliver all the new and existing work in the backlog to meet the deadlines and objectives for the business. Make work schedules and deadlines transparent and clear. Understand any impediments to capacity for the teams and mange and resolve these issues quickly.
  2. Identify capability and skills gaps – Once capacity constraints are understood, look at what skills are needed to fill these gaps , assess current team capability and look at re-training and re-skilling existing team members to be able to develop these skills. One of the main practices in agile teams is pairing to ensure rapid knowledge transfer and encourage learning by doing. Remote training and online learning would supplement this on the job up-skilling. If required, supplement the team with new people with those skills  however be aware that any change in team composition may have a temporary change in performance. Support the team to re-form as a group and get back to performing as a cohesive team.
  3. Communicate the change – Ensure that there is clear and concise communication to all affected people in the teams/programs.  Articulate the changes and make decisions viable regarding work/projects being paused, which new work is coming in and why,  and the relative priority order of the work.  Ensure allocation of work to teams is transparent and clearly communicated by leadership and that the communications is provided across multiple channels. It is import to also include information on where teams can go for help and support.
  4. Re-deploy or Divert team to new work –  Once capacity and priority of projects/work has been established and communicated, work with teams to redeploy to new areas or divert to new work quickly. Ensure there is an induction and on boarding process to help guide the teams in a new area or a subject matter expert to brief them on the new products and or users they are supporting.
  5. On board new people – If this is a new initiative and more people are needed in addition to your current staff, then you may need to bring on people at a time when your existing on boarding process is no longer valid. Streamline processes to be conducive to remote ways of working and work out what they need to get started quickly.

How do I quickly set up brand new team/s?

On-boarding new people and forming teams rapidly is challenging however the principles of setting up teams kicking off their first sprint remains the same. We are currently working with executives facing this scenario where they are needing to on-board 1500+ call centre staff to meet the demand of calls about changes as a result of COVID. We always go back to first principles and starting with the basics:

  • Develop a team blueprint for team composition
  • Understand what mix of skills and capabilities  needed in the team
  • Understand how many teams – Are they cross functional teams? Are they feature teams or component teams?
  • Determine pattern for how will team membership be selected
  • Empower people to be part of the team formation and promote self-organisation into teams through squadification.
  • Understand who will be in key roles such as Scrum master and Product Owner?
  • Work with the team to ensure they have a product backlog with enough refined work to get started
  • Ensure new teams and their members have a support person to help them through on-boarding, induction and training.

Once we have an outline of what is needed, when and how, then the focus turns to just enough training to give an overview to get started and support them to learn on the job.

Kick off is critical. Ensure teams have a team charter (ways of working), infographics and checklists to help prompt them on scrum events and principles, as well as knowing where to go to for support and what training and coaching is available to them. Most teams can be up and running and sprinting within a few days, even remote ones.

Human factors of change

Its important to remember the human factors in change at such a dramatic scale as we are experiencing now. The decision to redeploy or divert teams to new work or stand down whole teams has real impacts on people,  their working lives and mental health including:

  • Reduction in team capacity to deliver as many existing team members may now have dual carer responsibilities and/or increased unplanned leave due to WFH
  • Teams overburdened with new work on top of their existing committed delivery work and deadlines
  • Change fatigue and team members working at an unsustainable pace
  • Potential for team performance and productivity to decrease when team members are diverted or redeployed to other teams/areas
  • Not enough people available to take on new work resulting from COVID 19 change in priorities

Agility and resilience are key and working with executives to ensure people are the focus and that they are supported through this change will ultimately help and organisation prevail and minimise disruption to delivery. momentum.

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