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A tailored agile coaching path anchors a spirit of continuous improvement at the RSVZ

Jo Verspeet, ICT-director RSVZ

Industry: Public 


When the RSVZ decided to develop its own applications about five years ago, this was easier said than done. The endeavour involved large-scale analyses, long lead times and, inevitably, a mismatch between expectations and results. The RSVZ’s visit to the Cegeka Software Factory was an eye-opener. After following the agile coaching path, the IT team now runs as a modern, self-learning organization that constantly fine-tunes itself.

IT Director Jo Verspeet and the top management of the RSVZ were convinced that agile was necessary, but also wanted a tailored approach: ‘It was crucial for us that the implementation was conducted step by step. We knew where we wanted to go, but not exactly how, so we needed a coach. We found our coaches in Tom and Thibaut from Cegeka. They were on the same page: offering an approach tailored to our team, with the techniques that work for us, starting from our people.’

Small successes and removing the ballast

The RSVZ had some very typical problems to tackle. ‘Everyone was doing too much at the same time, lead times were huge, the quality of the delivered code was dubious and knowledge was concentrated in a few people,’ Jo explains. Due to the size of the effort, Jo and his Cegeka coaches decided to start with a low-risk, step-by-step approach. The IT pension department, which had a long-term project prepared, started off with a pilot. Two days a week, one of the agile coaches went on site, and switched from theory to practice after a few short workshops.

‘Our coaches initiated different experiments for knowledge sharing and continuous improvement, so they could quickly see what worked,’ Jo says. ‘Of course, not everything was a success. But that’s the essence of agile. Ballast is immediately thrown overboard. And we soon had the first visualized canvases and sprints. We immediately shared these first modest successes with the group. And that worked. Shortly after, other IT teams came to ask if they could also work in an agile manner.’

Another decade thanks to flexibility

Gradually, the other teams were also introduced to agile. The learnings from the growing culture of learning and experimentation were shared with the whole IT team. As Jo explains: ‘That’s how we evolved from a traditional, quite conservative hierarchy to a self-learning and open organization. This is not only about communication and processes, but also about the layout of our offices. We have also broken down a lot of physical walls between business and IT people.’

And the results? Achieved, and exceeded. ‘In certain areas, the lead time has decreased ninefold,’ Jo explains. ‘But there’s more. Now we are sometimes even ready too soon! The quality of our software has also increased in a demonstrable manner. Our people now take personal pride in delivering good work. This was a big added value from our Cegeka coaches: they understood that agile starts from people’s intrinsic motivation.’

Cegeka Agility Days 2018

"We were on the same page as our Cegeka coach: working at the pace of our team, and starting from our people’s intrinsic motivation.”


Challenge

  • Very long lead times for applications
  • Software quality had to be improved
  • Gap between expectations (business) and result (IT)
  • Knowledge concentration in a few individuals

Lessons Learned

  • Real change has to be rolled out in a step-by-step manner
  • Agile starts from people’s intrinsic motivation
  • A textbook agile implementation doesn’t work – experiment and throw the ballast overboard
  • Share small successes internally so they inspire others

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