There is a well-established aphorism that the only constant in life is change. (Heraclitus, if anyone has trivia night coming up.)  

When Button helps our clients develop new programs, design new business processes, or software systems, we know that the “people” aspect is equally (if not more) important than the eventual technology solution. 

Some of our clients are fortunate enough to have an established team of leaders and employees who have been there for years. They know their jobs in and out. And they are subject-matter experts in their fields. 

But sometimes, they are also so entrenched in the way that things have been done forever that they rarely look up to check in on industry innovation or competitor behaviour. Or they are high-performing economists, analysts, or experts, but might have trouble adopting new technology and ways of working. Or they need to scale their team to meet a growing market opportunity and need to adapt to a new operating environment. 

The core belief that always drives our client reinvention work is that their teams’ tenure and years of industry knowledge are fundamental to their new direction forward. 

It’s important to integrate these loyal, committed and smart assets (and the awesome cultures they helped build) into future-proofing their ability to keep building their business. But it’s also vital to help them understand some of the rationale in a new direction. 

The mix of proposed new skills, legacy expertise and current context is fundamental to making sure your existing, tenured team is brought along in product and process development.  

Remember: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  

But enough clichés! Here are Button’s four key considerations when tackling the human side of digital projects within your organization.


1. How do team roles fit into the new environment 

Change is often scary to long-tenured team members, especially when it impacts their role, accountability or workload. 

Work with them to define their exact responsibilities in a single, transformational project that’s key to the new direction. 

Doing so will not be overwhelming and can be broken down into manageable targets and deliverables.

Talk about career development or progression that demonstrates that each team member is vital to the new structure and its direction, thereby empowering them to own the new reality and not feel like they’re part of a disposable old way.

Engage in team culture exercises and training for new ways of working. A recent example demonstrating the power of doing so was when Button engaged a team with several 30-year employees in Agile 101 training. Despite expected initial apprehension, the exercise strengthened their culture by providing a common frame of reference for the whole team to collaborate around during a time of company upheaval.


2. Build your service delivery blueprint with your team 

We often begin our client engagements by building a “service delivery blueprint” or roadmap. We start by interviewing long-standing team members as a way to learn the nuances behind how they do their jobs. After all, they are the experts. Doing so allows us to document their input and map their pain points, before plugging those insights into future features and functionality planning.

Besides being a wonderful way to bust a bunch of preconceptions that we show up with, this step avoids having long-standing team members try to rush ahead and solve for a future delivery of something they think is necessary for their company’s future (and their job security). It’s about defining the problem correctly. If you jump to solutions without the necessary reflection, you’ll often have people tell you that “they want what they had before,” or find out that they’re tied to one way of doing things that may not be scalable across the team, which will only keep a lid on potential growth.

Having teams map out existing processes also creates an artefact of what has limited potential in the past, and allows everyone to review existing processes in need of change as often as needed. It also helps existing team members feel heard and included in modernization initiatives by recording what was agreed to collaboratively. It doesn’t put people in a position where they are being asked to “solution” a problem before all the evidence and points of view have been considered. 


3. Have the team help organize potential features by business value 

An effective way for Button to both understand our clients’ business and make the reinvention engagement interactive and collaborative is to run creative exercises whereby team members sort themselves by the business value they deliver currently and in the future structure. 

Making this kind of service map helps you identify features that can then be prioritized by business value and/or impact employees deliver. This step is incredibly important because you never want a team to feel limited in what they can propose. The sky's the limit, especially when dreaming big in a planning exercise.

But you do want to consider the “80/20 rule” or “Pareto Principle” that posits that 80% of a new system’s value will likely come from 20% of the features proposed. Involving your team, including long-standing members, in the prioritization process ensures they feel like they have a voice and are included in the solution. If one person thinks a feature is really important, this step provides a safe space and constructive process for them to discuss with the team and work through how it might be implemented or prioritized in the longer queue. 


4. Have your experienced team members help track risks

Sometimes the most risk-averse, conservative, long-standing members of your team are the biggest asset in managing risk. Change is often good, but if implemented too fast can be harmful. Some modernization projects take time, especially if your company works in a regulated environment and/or with classified or sensitive info. Even then, a methodical, inclusive process ensures you never discount the human factor. When dealing with a pivot to a new business process in a sensitive environment, measure what matters, and feed your team’s input back. Make sure all of the existing risk mitigations are not lost. Track them with your team, emphasizing accountability from the bottom up. Pushing empowerment to the most junior employees will help ensure that they’re all-in as they rise up the ranks in your new, better-positioned rocket ship!

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We love to have conversations with decision makers, technology leaders, and product managers from government and industry. If that sounds like you, and you have a digital project you’d like to let us know about, please fill out our contact form.

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Alec Wenzowski

President & Founder

Dave Brookfield

Sales & Business Development lead

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