Dynamic Pods – the future of work at Coca-Cola HBC

In this blog, Nataša Prodanović,Head of Lean and Agile Center of Excellence at Coca-Cola HBC, elaborates on ways to create an agile mindset and provides useful insights! She shares findings from Coca-Cola HBC’s three-year Agile roadmap and presents how the Agile Ways of Working are becoming the key enabler of their growth story.

Enjoy this blog from the HR Week conference 2021. ☺

Dynamic pods are those are small, custom teams, ranging from three to nine members, dedicated to business critical missions. They have end-to-end ownership and their work is responsive, always busy and measured for business performance. They’re accountable for performance. It’s about flexible staffing and smartly leveraging the capabilities we have.

The most volatile year in modern history was 2020. As we move forward, the rate of disruption will potentially accelerate further. The worker-employee relationship is being disrupted. Employees are reconsidering everything, from whom they want to work for, with 40% of the global workforce considering leaving their employer in the next 12 months, to the role that they expect employers to play when it comes to their purpose and values.

We can expect flexibility to continue shifting from “When are you working?” to “Where are you working from?” It’s becoming more about the location rather than time.

In a very recent global survey, only 3% of the employees who worked fully remotely during the COVID pandemic are planning to return to the office full-time

Navigating through rapidly changing requirements is a challenge that everyone is facing. It’s a natural reaction to a stressful situation by reverting to what we’re used to. But thriving in a pandemic requires a different mindset – an agile mindset that is about flexibility, adaptability, and openness. It’s about prioritising people over processes.

Why is Agile eating the world?

Jeff Sutherland, who created Scrum, defines agility as “doing twice the work in half the time”. Agile takes us from a traditional approach to a new way of doing business. It breaks large, complex issues into smaller modules in an incremental and adaptive manner. It takes us from perfect plans and avoidance of failure to rapid adaptation and failure recovery when circumstances have changed. It takes us from multitasking everything to a dedicated focus on the most valuable work that brings the biggest value, from layers of hierarchical approval to customer collaboration and approval, and from controlling power as the dominant leadership style to trust in coaching as a dominant and a primary leadership style. 

In a traditional approach, we go step by step, and only at the end we have a final product that we could test with end-users. In Agile, we go with an immediate prototype, we start testing, we start iterating and improving and throughout the process we capture the feedback. We minimise the risk of failure so that, in the end, we’re constantly seeing the value of it. It also helps us not to build very sophisticated products when all our end-users need is something simple. 

Hellenic started this journey almost three years ago. For us, Agile is not just a global trend. It’s one of the HOWs for our growth.

This is when we set up Agile 1.0. Our approach in the last two and a half years was quite simple. We started with pull versus push. We invited our countries across the Hellenic to decide if they want to pilot or not and if they wanted to define their own pace. Our approach was centralised. The common methodology, leveraging synergies between the countries and our approach, starts small – we learn from mistakes and successes, and we start scaling. 

The biggest enemy to new ways of working is not a classical traditional approach, but the bad Agile.

We run a lot of surveys with participants who are equally involved in Agile initiatives. From those surveys, we see the great appetite and enthusiasm displayed by people. They see the speed and quality of delivery driven by Agile teams being much higher, team morale and productivity significantly higher, and that learning through the retrospectives is rapidly increasing.

We learned that dedication makes a huge difference. It is about the “progress vs perfection” mindset and not trying to predict all the time and to overanalyze everything. It’s not about just training people, it’s about continuous coaching on what new behaviours are required.

Based on all those learnings, and looking to our ambition to evolve as an agile organisation, we developed an interesting concept – the dynamic pods. This is our Agile 2.0, which is scaling Agile through mission-based, self-led cross-functional teams through dynamic pods, in order to work, to further scale agility and improve the actual speed, quality, and delivery of critical missions. We identified several critical business enablers on top of Agile ways of working, which are dedication, end-to-end responsibility, and identifying what teams are, after continuous coaching and having the right capabilities within the pod.

What is a dynamic pod?

Those are small, custom teams, ranging from three to nine members, dedicated to business critical missions. They have end-to-end ownership and their work is responsive, always busy and measured for business performance. They’re accountable for performance. It’s about flexible staffing and smartly leveraging the capabilities we have.

The roles within the dynamic pods are different – there is no Line Manager of the team. The leadership is spread across roles, the Product Owners ruthlessly prioritising initiatives and deliverables, the Scrum Master owning team and ways of working, bringing magic to the team tasks – that feeling to perform and be the best of themselves, while the team fully owns their own HOW.

There are also very important roles of sponsors and different stakeholders, where a sponsor is there to remove any obstacles, provide direction, and also support career placement for talents when they finish pods. 

Not everyone is an ideal fit for a pod.

A good fit would be people high in agility and high in curiosity, who have the depth of expertise relevant to the mission. They’re also motivated by learning and experiences vs career advancement, and they’re truly highly collaborative. What we’re looking for is about culture change. Culture change is needed to turn pods into reality, starting from a leadership mindset.

What we’re trying to promote is the “If we’re failing – fail fast and learn” mindset.

We try to go to the team to ask for forgiveness, not for permission. We try to coach leaders to trust and coach their teams and to celebrate diverse thinking. At the same time, we’re trying to coach teams to let go of over-analyzing, of trying to predict everything, relying on hierarchy. Also, to let go of the “this is not my job” mindset. The results we expect in the end are a much better ability to manage change in priorities, faster time to market, reduced project risks, and increased team productivity and morale. 

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