8 steps for an agile banking

Structural transformations are not easy matters. The future of your bank may be agile, but switching to new management means requires full depth reflexion.

This reflexion can start with the 8 following steps:

1 Consolidate your basics

Agility is a powerful tool, when used properly. It is not to be confused with anarchy (do what you please) or the opposite (do what I say, but faster). Agile methods such as Scrum or Kanban, historically used for software development, are now being used in all kinds of businesses, such as banking:

  • Scrum is based on weeks long sprints coordinated by the Scrum Master, who ensures a team of 6 to 10 persons with no predefined roles apply the scrum methodology and values, and facilitates productivity. All members bring they know how to the table to make sure the specifications of the Product Owner are brought to life.
  • Kanban, inspired by Toyota’s production system, is a knowledge management method relying on a just on time organization. This methodology aims to reduce frictions between tasks. It is based on four core principles: start with what you are doing now, accept changes, respect roles and responsibilities, empower leadership at all levels.

All in one, the agile core values are as follows:

  • Individuals rather than processes
  • Adaptation rather than planning
  • Prototypes rather than exhaustive specifications
  • Collaboration with the end client rather than rigid contracts

2 Define your objective – and do not change what works

As powerful as it is, Agility is not a magic trick. You will need a clear objective to make it work.

Do you need to improve the time to market of a product? Do you need to get more talents where competition is scarce? Are you facing complex regulatory issues ? Is some necessary change burdened by a complex organization? Then agility might be the solution.

But when your specifications are not meant to change during a project, when you are diving in clear waters, and when feedback from your clients or stakeholders is unavailable or not exploitable, it just might not work. Bringing us to our next point:

3 Do not rush

In today’s market, change is a permanent state, and the new age of technology makes it faster every day. No one wants to be the next Kodak, Blackberry or Toy’s R Us. Being skeptical to change is now seen as a threat to a company, and it would be easy to follow the agile buzz. We might even get to an era where managers are afraid of stability!

Ask yourself the right questions: What is the core value of this new methodology? How is your entity different from ones that changed their management methods to agile ? Are their objectives comparable to yours? New trends are great occasions to rethink your business models, but taking time to analyse the present and not hesitating to bring in help are keys to avoid painful and expensive errors.

4 Experiment on small scopes – and do not fear mistakes

When your objective is clearly defined, and can be achieved through agility, start small! A proof of concept will always be of great value when reaching for the big picture. One or two funds to launch, a new regulation or the creation of a new desk are great occasions to bring agility to your bank, and to learn from victories and mistakes. In order not to fear mistakes, leverage on relatively small stakes : small experiments are always beneficial for everyone to learn, and to do better. The success of your experiment will motivate everyone, and word-of-mouth will be a great ally for a cost-effective change management.

5 Do better, not cheaper

Agility is a great mean of maximizing productivity and quality in your teams, and to bring back value in their work. Do not solely think of it as a mean to do the same thing at a lesser price, or you will lose most of your change investment’s return: employee dedication and empowerment. In the end, you might get both: improvement in quality and cost reduction, but the latter is not a thrilling objective to many.

6 Ask questions to your teams – and empower them

Feedback is at the core of agility, but questions should be asked from the starting point! Rather than telling your agile teams what to do, share the objectives with them and leave the steering wheel in their hands. Replacing tasks with objectives is a powerful mean to extract more value from your staff.

7 Think about the double organization

After the success of your first experiment, the temptation to roll agility on your whole organization will be strong. But as we said earlier, some circumstances are not meant to work well with this method, and require a more traditional, matricidal or hierarchic approach to management. You could implement silos in your organization to clarify the frontier between where, or when to be or not to be agile.

Why not have two different organizations at the same time? Some of your staff might be assigned to agile roles, some to traditional ones, and some might be useful in both : an expert could be a fully, dedicated member or product owner of a team for a limited period of time, and be assigned to a role more fitted to traditional organizational methods at some point.

Clearly having those two options in mind would maximize efficiency when a switch is required.

8 Get Help

Being agile requires strong methodology, in depth analysis of present state, and for it to fully succeed, pragmatism. Headlink, through its Agile Tribe, is always on the watch of agile best practices and methods, banking-proofed by its consistent knowledge of the industry. Do not hesitate to contact us if you want a clear and honest approach on agility.