What do business and gardening have in common?

If I showed you two seeds and asked you which one is a plant and which one is a weed the only way you would be able to tell is to plant them and see what blooms. It’s the same with ideas – some aren’t as great as you think. Some crazy ones work brilliantly.

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Experimentation is fundamental to discovery, a widely acknowledged truth. But it’s also essential to the process of refinement.

"[Agile] means being curious, learning through discovery and testing ideas with customers before building."
Scott Collary, CIO, ANZ

Back in my school days, I recall science class and how we would be asked to come up with a hypothesis and test it. It really didn’t matter whether your hypothesis was right or wrong - the main thing was to expand what we knew, to create a new hypothesis and test it. In doing so, we built and built.

It’s a very good way to do science. And as it turns out, it’s an effective way to deliver projects as well. 

Sometimes we do come up with an idea that’s not going to work or a hypothesis that ends up proven false. But that’s integral to the process, whether it’s science - or an agile way or working.

AGILE, NOT AD HOC

Agile’ is a way of working that has become synonymous with innovation. It relies on everyone involved having a shared vision and is underpinned by a strong culture where collaboration, trust and curiosity feature prominently.

At my bank, ANZ is moving rapidly to adopt more agile ways of working. This is partly motivated by the need to compete more effectively against traditional rivals and partly to be ready to respond to changes in the marketplace.

Embracing agile means thinking differently about how you work: the way you do things and the way you make decisions. It means being curious, learning through discovery and testing ideas with customers before building.

So how do businesses create a culture where curiosity and learning through discovery feature prominently?

VELOCITY

I’m a fan of the quote ‘change will never happen as slowly as it does today’.

Across all industries customer expectations have changed. What customers can see being offered through experiences like Uber or Netflix creates expectations on other businesses. Customers expect the brands they choose to get products to market faster and better than anyone else.

A culture of curiosity and a desire to understand is invaluable in business because it will be a culture that supports and embraces change.

Sun Tzu – more famous for his military insights than his green thumb – once said strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory and tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

It’s the same with ‘agile’ - it’s not just an aim unto itself, it’s a way of working helping business deliver great outcomes.

GETTING TO THE TRUTH FASTER

To encourage people to embrace an agile way of working businesses need to recognise staff who are effective collaborators; who display curiosity and creativity. What leaders want to see is a desire to explore and learn.

When a business works with an agile mindset it is able to attract employees who want to develop project delivery skills and who are attracted to truth in business (because agile gets to the truth faster). This can only be a good thing for shareholders.

At ANZ we have developed an integrated platform called ‘Banker Desktop’ which works as a shared-screen experience for customers and bankers. It’s used to facilitate and capture a needs-based conversation about customer financial situations. 

Rather than decide on the finished product before even one line of code had been written, the team at ANZ committed to a build, test, learn and build again cycle. Ideas and hypotheses are tested with customers before deciding on an end state.

Adopting that agile approach bore fruit. Feedback indicates both customers and bankers appreciate the tool because of the way it presents information sequentially and leads them through the conversation.

It pre-populates fields with stored or anticipated information which is just one of the features introduced through testing feedback making the tool an intuitive thing to use.

In terms of speed to market, ANZ made a decision to launch with limited components. Then, once again, we turned to test and learn, measuring performance and incorporating feedback.

Crucially ANZ didn’t just listen to what customers said – it observed how they used the tool and interacted with each other while doing so.

Soon, the bank will roll out more components of the tool and we’ll continue to do so, rather than waiting until it has all the modules ready and doing it all at once.

And that’s the way ANZ will keep doing it because it’s the agile way to work.

Scott Collary is CIO at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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