The nexus of agility, dynamic solutions, and shared playlists

16th June 2020

The nexus of agility, dynamic solutions, and shared playlists

While there’s loads of talk about recasting organisations and how people work, we’ve been reflecting on the many blessings we hold dear as an independent creative and problem solving hot-house. While we’re far from perfect, what we’ve learned over the past few months (almost wrote weeks!), is that much of what we took for granted in our ways of working are exactly what other organisations – large and small – are now aspiring to achieve as they think about how they’ll transform for the future.

We love McKinsey’s five trademarks of agile organisations as a checkpoint on how we’re going and what opportunities remain for us to get stronger and better.

We’ve always run a highly dynamic work environment with a tight network of individuals who thrive on fast processes, rapid learning and constant decision cycles all of which are fuelled by a common purpose that co-creates value for all stakeholders. Day-to-day we’re refining, alongside a little light-level complaining, how our processes could work harder yet on reflection, we’re in a pretty good position.

The North Star has long been an analogy in the world of business. We orbit around our Nick DNA as a business to help our whole team seize opportunity within our guardrails. That said it’s a hard thing to really articulate. It just is. And you either get it or you don’t.

What is clear is how central our Nickisms are: just three simple statements that sum up our actions with each other, our clients, and our partners.

  1. Always be genuine, gracious and grateful
  2. Make sure to be kind and always deliver
  3. Aim to make someone’s day, every day and take the time to have a little fun along the way

And in these times they’ve been ever more important: in how we help our team work through the unpalatable, how we keep close to our customers when they too are navigating new waters, and how we continue to seek out new and exciting partnerships so that we are out the blocks faster than a speeding ticket.

While you won’t find an org structure anywhere near our business, we do have a web of empowered individuals and teams that form quite naturally, not just within NDT but with our strong alliance of specialist friends who partner us. Our structure is flat, yet we’re clear on our responsibilities and there’s nowhere to hide.

We rely on standardised practices (we even use the word process!) but we move fast and favour rapid decision-making cycles. Because it’s all about performance for our customers (not about working a hierarchy) or making sure your ‘butt is covered’ before you can take the next step. Key to this, is accepting and embracing that we’re all learning every day (that’s a euphemism for the obvious stuff ups that occur along the way).

Our roles flex and adapt (we think the literature calls it role mobility). Just because you’re in Account Service doesn’t mean you don’t have creative input (even though the Creative team cringes). In fact we have people who work across both departments. If there’s a gap, we talk about who can step in internally and fill it. And if you’ve got a skill that’s a bit dormant we find a way to leverage that for our customers benefit.

And we’re embracing the evolving role of technology, meeting with our customers in the halls of Zoom rooms and techno-fying our products and approaches so we don’t slow down their plans (although we know we’ve got a long way to go).

So here’s to the killer five: 1) North Star; 2) network of empowered teams; 3) rapid decisions and learning; 4) dynamic people; and 5) enabling technology.

We know though, as fancy as you want to get about changing your work practices to take on all of what the future holds, there are still some fundamental tried-and-tested Nick practices that are not to be sniffed at:

  • Treat every job as important
  • Deliver a bit more than ‘the brief’
  • Find a solution – really crack the problem
  • Always get back to people when you say you’re going to
  • Collaborate on everything from costs to creative
  • Laugh at someone’s joke (even if it isn’t funny)
  • Lend a hand if someone’s struggling
  • Meet the deadline
  • Call out awesomeness consistently
  • Fearlessly add songs to the office playlist and critique others’ choices (except Harry Styles)
  • Eat the cake when someone bakes

– Kellie Penridge, Head of Client Service