A successful agile transformation driven by a People and Culture Team

In February 2016, we were engaged by the People & Culture (P&C) team at Vicinity Centres (VCX): not to drive an enterprise-wide program, but to simply help them roll out agile ways of working for the P&C team. Instead, agile was introduced across the organisation, resulting in a remarkable company-wide transformation and perhaps demonstrating a new way of approaching organisational change.

Vicinity Centres is a leader in retail asset management and was created in June 2015 through the merger of two of Australia’s major retail property groups. Home to approximately 1300 employees, Vicinity is a top 50 ASX listed company and owns close to $15 billion in retail assets while managing some $24.5 billion in additional assets across more than 80 shopping centres throughout Australia. Some of their shopping centres include iconic brands like Chadstone, Emporium, Chatswood Chase Sydney and DFO.

Our partnership with Vicinity was formed in 2016 and began with the P&C team. Since then, we have come to work with nearly all the teams in the organisation, supporting a large number of cross-functional initiatives and advising on strategic matters. This supports our view that to truly achieve organisational agility, an organisation needs not only to transform the way teams work (ways of working), but also the way the organisation looks at their portfolio management (lean portfolio management) and the way strategic decisions are made (organisational agility).

What are the results so far?

  • Improvement in communication and collaboration

The first noticeable result from our work with individual teams was an improvement in communication and collaboration. An early survey revealed that of the teams who were introduced to our agile ways of working 100% of the people agreed communication had improved, while 92% agreed collaboration had improved.

  • Improvement in employee engagement

Changes to the team's ways of working, along with other key initiatives driven by P&C, yielded a significant improvement in the Employee Engagement Survey results; which went up 5 points overall in the first year and as high as 33 points in some of the individual teams. It is important to note that the company had just been through a merger, which would typically be expected to drive employee engagement scores down.

“We know Vicinity is a great place to work and we’re focused on continually improving our employee engagement because we know if our teams are enthusiastic, engaged and committed we can achieve our purpose to enrich community experiences.”
- Grant Kelley, Vicinity CEO & Managing Director

  • Improvement in employer brand and Employee Value Proposition

A more engaged workforce helps drive a stronger Employer Brand, and reinforces the Employee Value Proposition; making it easier to retain and attract the right people for the organisation.

  • Improvement in the business

From an uncertain post-merger environment to the highest ranked workplace in Australia and ranked 19th overall ('World's Best Employers' - Forbes, 2018), Vicinity has strengthened it's ability to amplify opportunity and respond quickly to disruption impacting the retail sector worldwide. With more engaged people, empowered teams and extensive cross-functional collaboration, Vicinity can get on with successfully running and growing the business.

What have been the keys to this success?

  • A bottom-up approach

While we had the support of the senior leaders to undertake the work, it was never a top-down initiative. Participation for teams was optional, with teams choosing to work with us on timelines that were suitable for them, and we followed this pull approach throughout the journey. This made it a safe environment for teams and leaders, allowed for powerful organic growth.

  • A tailored approach for every team

We did not implement frameworks or large-scale methodologies. Instead, the focus was on introducing agile mindsets and principles across the business and then teaching and applying different tools, practices and solutions for every team or initiative depending on their needs. This customised approach has helped create an environment of empowered leaders and teams that evolve and improve their agile practices to their own beat.

  • A customer-led transformation

The final key was to enable Vicinity to lead the transformation, not us, the consultancy. While we might know what true agility looks like for other organisations, we don't believe in shoehorning a company into an approach they are not comfortable with. We feel strongly that our role is to show the client what is possible and let them tell us what feels right. We then work together to achieve it.

The agility journey at Vicinity Centres continues and should remain continuous. They now find themselves in a much stronger, more agile position than they were in 2016. The company has survived a major merger, creating a strong and attractive employee value proposition and is now better positioned to reimagine and reinvent the way we experience retail in this country.

Written by
Eduardo Nofuentes
Founder @ The Agile Eleven

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