“Redesign Stories” is a series of articles showcasing the business redesign projects we took together with 5 of our key clients. Each article takes us through the journey of innovation and agility within the organisation touching upon mindset, experience and space design. Follow the agile redesign process in the 6 inspiring stories shared in our blog.
Just like the evolution of a species does not stop once a species has taken its contemporary form, a business enterprise is constantly changing and being changed by its ecosystem. Evolution can be entirely stopped only by extinction. Therefore, businesses need to be adaptable and open to change.
This is the story of the Bulgarian division of F.Hoffmann-La Roche AG - a big multinational company, whose integral purpose is to serve medical solutions and biotechnological innovations. As a healthcare institution however, it is entangled in rigid regulatory structures and heavy administration on internal and industry levels, which ultimately slows down all processes and solutions.
And while these hierarchical structures and strong regulations are completely necessary, for the past 20 years there has been new developing working philosophy, which could lift off the burdens of the complex lengthy procedures, while simultaneously preserving and even enhancing the company’s products and services. This new development is, you guessed it, agile methodologies.
André Vasconcelos, Roche Bulgaria’s General Manager, is a big believer in the agile ways of working has come a long way to introduce this company into the future. Owing to him and his hardworking team, Roche Bulgaria is now an epitome of innovation - from services, to routine and culture.
André believes that the agile methodologies are only effective if people have the correct mindset, which however cannot be redesigned overnight. That is why, it is of paramount importance for the company culture to be carefully nourished by ideals - its building blocks - trust, transparency and not to least - open collaboration. André Vasconcelos says:
“When you implement this [agile methodologies] in a big company, you need to make sure that the start-up spirit never jeopardises the bigger structure. Finding balance between the enterprise-thinking and a start-up mindset is different than adding some instruments in a small start-up starting from scratch.”
For this reason, about an year ago, Roche Bulgaria reached out to launchlabs Sofia’s team with a clear goal in mind - mindset redesign - Roche’s team, in its entirety, needed training, but the introduction of the agile ways of working needed to be well paced and secure. André Vasconcelos adds:
“There are several ways to make a transformation - all at once or gradually, stepwise. We decided to do it stepwise to ensure a healthy transformation, minimize fear and anxiety.”
What followed was the onboarding of the whole leadership team and a decision to form two pilot teams. After the introduction training, these teams would work on real projects in collaboration with launchlabs Sofia to create a safe space for learning by experimentation, which is the foundation for mindset redesign.
Initially, the training went well and the pilot participants were confident that everything would go easy. Dimitar Dimitrov, Franchise leader of Roche Bulgaria, who took part in one of them, called these first few weeks “the Romantic period”. But then problems arose - it was all too good to be true. Some people went on to follow their job descriptions, as they deemed the whole transformation unorthodox, chaotic, even useless. Others wanted to free themselves of the tightening hierarchy, explore and find their new balance, but their curiosity was struggling against the strict professionalism of their more conservative colleagues. Friction was progressing quickly and the tension rose. Finally, the situation escalated in hard but fruitful discussions between all participants. Thankfully, they achieved consensus at the end and the situation de-escalated.
“They were struggling a bit with this new experiment, but we knew that this struggle and the dialogue around it are the healthy foundation for mindset redesign. You cannot change the ways people think and work in an organization overnight, you have to let them play and fall.” - Elina Zheleva Managing Director at launchlabs Sofia.
But apart from the open dialogue, there was another factor that greatly contributed to the agile mindset explosion - the constant promoting and assistance from the management. André Vasconcelos and the rest of the managing team played the crucial role of igniters.
Their encouragement and challenging attitude not only cultivated a culture of transparency, trust and collaboration, but also contributed to spiking interest in the whole internal community. They even designed open-doors days when the piloting teams would demonstrate some of the useful tools that had been incorporated - daily standups, working rituals and various creative solution tactics - and the respective results.
All of these dynamic shifts had an important unifying purpose - the gradual introduction of this new language and mindset into Roche Bulgaria. In this manner, teams that may already be successful in getting acquainted with the agile ways and integrating them would not be locked inside an inflexible environment.
Consequently, the next logical step was to train the whole staff. launchlabs Sofia’s team of experts stepped in again and created numerous workshops with the aim of unifying the conceptual language and systematizing the knowledge. Proletka Hristova, Country Medical Manager for Roche Bulgaria, was among her colleagues who did not participate in the piloting teams. For her, the series of trainings were an eye opener - the agile model does not need to be a “strict recipe”. Instead of trying to figure out how to implement all the instruments, one ought to find the instrument most suitable for the specific situation. When the whole team is working towards an unifying goal, the clarity and understanding of the proper instrument will come automatically.
“There is a question: “When does it stop?” - well, it does not. We do not see the ecosystem stopping from its tracks so far. There is a constant evolution, new variables are added each day - and like COVID-19 - unpredictable, they rise up all of a sudden and change the environment. We need to be adaptable and always evolve in an ever-changing ecosystem.”
Of course, as part of this ever-changing dynamic, agile methodologies, new ways of working, new hierarchies and systems may all change and even disappear in parts. We know that. But if we want to ensure that companies will be profitable and will have a positive impact on society, we all need to cultivate our learning agility.
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Written by launchlabs’ Sofia team