Local government | Transport
Auckland Transport’s COVID response created some valuable lessons in new ways of working. Diverse, multi-skilled teams rolled up their sleeves and collaborated to keep critical services running for Aucklanders. When lock-down ended and we returned to “the new normal”, a small, insightful group of leaders embarked on a journey to discover more adaptive ways of working at Auckland Transport.
This case study shares AT’s journey applying adaptive ways of working, including the approach they took and the benefits to date.
How might a large, public sector organisation become more adaptive and customer-centric using modern ways of working?
Clearer direction & focus on the key priorities and what is required to achieve these.
Increased accountability from involving the teams in planning.
Enhancing customer centricity through ways of working that put the customers front and centre.
Cross-functional collaboration leveraging the collective skills of the entire team.
A more responsive business, increasing AT’s ability to achieve its purpose.
Auckland Transport (AT) is responsible for Auckland’s transport services, from roads and footpaths to cycling, parking and public transport. It is a complex business that provides a broad set of services to a rapidly growing region. A diverse workforce is required to achieve this which brings complexity to how people work together, with a clear need for collaboration and alignment.
Like most organisations, AT had to rapidly respond to a fast-changing business environment.
“We had to react quickly, with a people first approach. Their safety, wellbeing and ability to continue as best they could was paramount.
Once we had established that, we noticed interesting patterns starting to emerge. Our team dynamics shifted. People were collaborating and adapting more, rallying together around a common goal of delivering important services– while managing the challenges of working from home. This taught us that adaptive ways of working were natural for our people and evolved organically. We wanted to continue this when we returned to “normal”. In many ways, lockdown accelerated adaptive ways of working building on the existing practices across AT.
Natasha Whiting - Executive General Manager, Culture and Transformation
When lockdown ended and everyone returned to “the new normal”, Natasha realised the crisis had highlighted opportunities for new and adaptive ways of working at Auckland Transport. AT engaged Radically to help them. Radically bought thought leadership, pragmatism and deep expertise, developed from working on some of New Zealand’s largest organisations, and customised this to fit AT’s specific needs.
When we first engaged Radically, we didn’t have a clear roadmap. What we appreciated about our partnership was they really listened to our needs as an organisation and then responded, walking alongside us in our journey.
Caroline Spencer, Head of Capability and Learning Delivery
AT launched a programme called Reshaping, designed to replicate the success experienced in solving some of their ‘gnarliest’ challenges to date. The programme launched with a strong focus on improving customer experience, increasing capability and delivering financial benefits.
The first step together was to establish a clear problem statement to guide the work:
How might a public sector organisation leverage learnings from successful cross-functional crisis management in COVID?
Radically reviewed the Reshaping programme and provided insights into the challenges and changes required to run the programme in a more adaptive way. Radically then planned out a tailored programme to upskill the delivery and leadership teams in these new ways of working.
The first phase involved exposing AT to hands-on experience using adaptive ways of working to deliver important business outcomes. Additionally, this initial stage helped uncover some organisational challenges, providing important insights that informed the next evolution of work.
The second phase involved using the lessons from the pilot to establish permanent squads focused on delivering priority business outcomes. The combined Radically-AT team ran an awareness programme to engender stakeholder support and build awareness of what was required for success.
Radically created a roadmap to create a clear, single view of what was required to bring more adaptive ways of working across the organisation, including a service model showing what services other business units could obtain from Reshaping. In parallel, AT embarked on the Jumpstart programme (see below) and hiring internal talent for key transformational roles to enable Radically to upskill and hand over as they went.
In the next steps of the Reshaping programme, Radically will upskill the new AT staff and providing ongoing light-touch support in the future.
My recommendation for any organisation going on this journey is that you absolutely need experts who have been there before.
Radically were awesome in this space. They don’t apply a strait jacket. They sense the organisation and then respond with a model for you to try together.
Susan Parkes, Head of Adaptive Practice
As Reshaping took significant leaps forward, the Culture and Transformation team (C&T) quickly recognised the relationship between culture and adaptive ways of working at Auckland Transport and that role-modelling the change was vital.
Radically reviewed the existing ways of working and identified how it was creating a higher than necessary workload and a significant amount of context-switching across the C&T team.
To solve this, Radically designed and delivered a pragmatic, hands-on programme of change.
While the initial change required a lot of effort from all involved, including learning how to work more collaboratively together, the squads made excellent progress. A key lesson was the importance of the growth mindset over specific methodologies or practices.
The final stage involved Radically upskilling and mentoring two C&T team members to support the momentum and continue the C&T team’s journey, alongside ongoing light-touch support as required.
To be able to do awesome things for our people, our team needed to work differently. Adaptive ways of working has helped us to be more transparent, prioritise the right work, make sure the customer is heard and has really connected our team.
Anthony Hall - Head of People Experience Delivery
AT had now experienced significant gains from new ways of working and wanted to find a way to expand the approach throughout the organisation and sustain this journey into the long-term.
How might we unlock potential in key people within our organisation to influence and drive a sustainable change in the way we approach work?
Radically designed the Jumpstart Programme – a capability uplift programme to create the internal knowledge required to support adaptive ways of working at Auckland Transport in the long-term. The programme ‘jumpstarted’ selected AT staff with the knowledge, skills and hands-on experience required to be an AT Delivery Coach.
The programme combined hands-on training, mentoring and a 9-week practicum, working on real projects across different areas of AT, supported by the Radically team.
As a result, Jumpstarters developed important, real-world skills and experience that will serve AT in the long term, in addition to leading industry accreditations such as Agile Facilitation, Agile Coaching and Professional Scrum Master.
Finally, Radically arranged site visits to other Auckland businesses to provide Jumpstarters with the opportunity to share key lessons and experiences.
The Jumpstart team are now continuing the journey, sustaining AT’s impressive progress, built upon a strong foundation.
When reflecting on the change, AT can see the following benefits.
Clearer direction & focus – the AT teams using adaptive ways of working have increased focus and clarity on the key priorities and what is required to achieve these. Techniques like Big Room Planning and visual management have helped prioritize a large volume of work and provide a sharp focus on what is important, why it is important, and what work each team need to achieve to be successful.
Increased accountability – with increased direction and focus, business owners have been able to share the outcomes they seek and leave the teams to determine how to achieve this. By collaborating on outcomes and involving the teams in planning, engagement and accountability have increased. The teams know what they are accountable for and who needs to do what.
Customer centricity – by freeing the teams to determine how to deliver the outcomes, business owners have had more time to focus on what is truly important to customers. Freeing business owners up to achieve this has been a major win for AT and is something they look to extend further.
Cross-functional collaboration – with more traditional ways of working, individuals tended to focus on doing their bit and worked tended to progress in a sequential manner. With the new ways of working, cross-functional teams swarm around business problems, leveraging the collective skills of the entire team. The result is better quality solutions and better business outcomes – and a more engaged team.
A more responsive organisation– the new ways of working have been designed and customised to help AT be more responsive in a rapidly changing world. By replicating the success achieved so far into other areas of the business, AT is becoming a more responsive organisation, increasing its ability to achieve its purpose – easy journeys and connecting people & communities.
Auckland Transport’s adaptive ways of working journey continues into the future, built upon a strong foundation and an investment in developing internal talent. As the AT team grow in confidence in their ability to sustain this journey, Radically’s role is has moved to one of support and ongoing advice on this important business initiative.
I am really excited about what adaptive ways of working means for AT. Without this, we can’t transform the experience we provide every day for our customers, stakeholders, communities and most importantly our people.
Natasha Whiting - Executive General Manager, Culture and Transformation