Embracing an agile mindset to foster a culture of openness, collaboration, and autonomy
Discover how Adaptavist is helping Engagement Analytics leader, Solutionpath, adopt an agile mindset to deliver greater value to customers
Founded in 2013, Solutionpath is a leader in the emerging field of engagement analytics. Born out of a desire to help every student realise their potential, it uses its pioneering algorithmic-driven technology to tackle some of the key challenges facing the academic community today.
Working in close partnership with progressive academic institutions, the company is on a mission to put the individual at the heart of every learning experience, leveraging data science to help students, academics, and their institutions to thrive.
Over 20 of the UK’s leading educational institutions are now benefiting from Solutionpath’s flagship platform, StREAM (Student Retention Engagement Attainment Monitoring) to streamline engagement, increase transparency, and drive effective interventions between students and their staff.
- Industry: Education Technology
- Target: Action-driven framework to improve agility
Requirements at a glance
- Action-driven framework to improve collaboration and organisational agility
- Practices to foster an agile mindset across the organisation
- Identification and removal of friction and bottlenecks to speed up execution
- A strategy to streamline processes and improve the customer experience
- Coaching to inspire openness, autonomy, and new ways of working
A growing need for speed
Since it was founded eight years ago, Solutionpath has established itself as an innovative leader in the rapidly growing field of engagement analytics. And, whilst it continued to grow steadily and expand its customer base over this time, the rapid rate of change it was experiencing started to affect its ability to scale up. The company needed to explore new ways of working to speed up execution.
“... when you are breaking into a complex new area like we are, the pace of change can feel frenetic at times. As a leader this calls for a more hands-on approach, but, as you continue to scale up you need to empower the team around you to respond quickly with confidence," says Richard Gascoigne, CEO of Solutionpath.
Building autonomous and collaborative teams
To scale and grow the business effectively, Richard’s top priority was improving engagement and collaboration across the organisation. In short, he realised what had made Solutionpath successful in the beginning was not what would take it forward into the future - it was time for a new game plan.
“...a lack of autonomy was starting to have an impact on morale, creativity, and ultimately the team’s ability to deliver,” explains Richard
For Richard, the conflict lay in balancing the need for the business to adhere to international standards and governance that required a more programmatic approach (traditional waterfall) with giving people the freedom to work autonomously and make independent decisions (agile mindset).
Focusing on what’s right, not who’s right
As CEO, Richard is also acutely aware that the loudest or most ‘senior’ voice in any organisation has a tendency to be heard first. And as a leader, he had started to notice team conversations and discussions had become more cautious and guarded across Solutionpath. He wanted to address this issue in a sensitive way to foster a more open environment where all perspectives are welcome and everyone’s voice is heard.
Results at a glance
- 70% backlog reduction of customer service and onboarding tickets
- Dramatic improvement in team dynamics and engagement
- A new approach to problem-solving inviting honesty and openness
- Commitment to improve autonomy and eliminate bureaucracy
- Happier team and happier customers!
For Richard, the trigger for action came in the form of the webinar, Developing an agile mindset, presented by John Turley, a Digital Transformation expert at Adaptavist. The session spoke to the importance of embracing an agile mindset to create new value for customers, which resonated strongly with Richard and reflected a lot of Solutionpath’s own ambitions.
Uncovering improvements together
To get things started, Solutionpath invited Adaptavist to run a series of ‘virtual’ agile mentoring sessions with the team. The aim of the sessions was to explore some of the issues they were experiencing and identify tangible ways to improve communication and collaboration.
For Solutionpath the sessions were never going to be a silver bullet for change, but instead the start of their transformation journey, “...the mentoring sessions with Adaptavist offered a perfect opportunity to align the team around common goals, and identify collectively what we needed to do to become a more cross-functional and autonomous organisation,” explains Richard.
Adaptavist kicked off the mentoring sessions by conducting in-depth research on the organisational challenges Solutionpath were experiencing, mapping social networks (through organisational network analysis), and collecting data about motivational triggers (control and autonomy) to highlight how teams were interacting and engaging together.
Understanding what customers value
Next Adaptavist worked with the Solutionpath team to complete a value stream mapping exercise, where they jointly explored how value was currently being delivered to customers and the pain points they were experiencing. It became clear that the customer onboarding process was one area that could be improved.
"Rather than discuss it as one large group, we divided up the wider team into small breakout sessions to yield better results, we then brought the group back together to compare and contrast everyone’s perception of the current process and collectively find a path forward,” explains Jon Kern, Agile Transformation Consultant, Adaptavist.
Reimagining the customer experience
Now that the Solutionpath team had examined its customer onboarding process in detail, they were asked by Adaptavist to imagine their dream version of it. To set aside any existing playbooks and abandon any preconceived ideas about how things should be done. The team’s thoughts were then used to map out a new and more streamlined process that everyone - including the customer - would feel positive about.
The engagement with Adaptavist has enabled Solutionpath to cut through some of the inherent complexity they were facing and align the organisation around a common set of terms and language - making communication and collaboration easier.
For Solutionpath, working with Adaptavist was never about seeking a blueprint to run an agile workshop. Instead, it was about recognising the new direction of travel the organisation needed to take and simultaneously giving the team strategies to solve everyday challenges.
“Autonomous, self-organising teams have more opportunities to engage in joyous, meaningful work. This is the journey we are privileged to accompany our friends at Solutionpath on, helping them develop the skills, tools, and mindset they need to forge ahead into the future,” explains John Turley, Digital Transformation Consultant at Adaptavist.
Starting a conversation the right way
“...as a leader you have a box of tools at your disposal to help you deal with different situations. But for me there was a tendency to reach for the same adjustable spanner (or wrench) every time because it's that one tool that does everything, right? Through our work with Adaptavist I realised the importance of choosing the right tool to help nudge people to think in new and different ways..” explains Richard.
“...at Solutionpath many of us are close friends as well as colleagues, so inevitably there’s a sensitivity that comes with having challenging conversations or meetings with those people. Our work with Adaptavist has helped us start difficult conversations in a way that puts people at ease and focuses on problem-solving rather than apportioning blame” adds Richard.
Giving everyone an equal voice
No matter where you belong within the complex matrix that makes up Solutionpath, Richard believes everyone should have an equal voice and be able to make an equal contribution.
“...the workshop exercises made people think differently about how they were coming into conversations, from assuming they know the answer to opening it up for discussion. We are also starting to see the emergence of independent thinking and autonomy across the organisation. Individual contributors are making a much broader contribution outside of their functions. For example, we have some of our sales team contributing to discussions around technology and vice versa. We are seeing a positive ripple effect of change coming off the back of the workshops,” explains Richard
"...Adaptavist helped us take a step back to understand how our organisation operates, where our key channels of communication and knowledge hubs are, etc. which has really helped me focus on the areas I need to support differently... creating a more autonomous team structure was quite a simple change for us to make, but one that was only made possible through their discovery work...”"
Breaking through the backlog
Before they engaged with Adaptavist, the team at Solutionpath were facing an endless stream of work - in the form of service tickets. By streamlining their processes and changing up the dynamic of their teams, they have managed to turn this workload into something infinitely more manageable.
Following their engagement with Adaptavist, Solutionpath has seen a 70% decrease in their backlog of customer tickets
Solutionpath’s customers have also started to notice a change, “...it’s still early days, but we’re starting to see some really positive feedback coming through from our customers on how our teams are working to resolve issues, and alongside this, we're managing to increase our velocity in places not possible before,” shares Sophia Sulaman, Head of Product at Solutionpath.
“...previously it felt like we were dragging stones, but now we've got the wind behind us. We’re a small organisation with so many great ideas so our focus is now on using the extra velocity we have gained to turn those ideas into action,” adds Richard.
The new team dynamic fostered through the workshops is something that continues to evolve at Solutionpath. In a relatively short period of time, the team is showing confidence to make bolder decisions and work more autonomously. Giving people shared goals and specific problems to focus on resolving together as one team has changed the flow and dynamic across the organisation.
“...of course, the immediate effect of our work with Adaptavist will tail off over time. But this is not a one-off exercise for us, it’s an iterative and continuous journey. We will continue to reflect on where we've got to, what it has enabled us to achieve for our team and our customers, and where we need to focus next,” says Richard.
The journey of change continues
For Solutionpath the ability to work in partnership with Adaptavist and rely on the team’s expert advice and coaching throughout the whole process was invaluable, “...I cannot speak highly enough about the engagement, being able to have direct and honest conversations with Adaptavist’s transformation experts, John Turley and Jon Kern, made a huge difference. Their guidance and expertise helped us to take a step back and really examine the areas of our business we needed to improve…” says Richard.
"I'm thrilled to have been involved in the engagement with Adaptavist as well as the wider scope of work that has developed as a result of it. There’s no doubt it is having a material impact across our organisation and continues to do so. And it has certainly made a huge difference to me as an individual and a leader."