Working with agile principles for continuous progress at Novozymes

Customers in the B2B segment increasingly expect access to a seamless digital buyer experience, and Novozymes wanted to enable a great ordering experience supported by digital solutions, AI and data. They choose to work with agile principles throughout their transformation to keep stakeholders motivated.

By Mettee Miersen & Morten Just Blangsted

A transformation on a scale like in Novozymes can be hard for everybody involved, and it is critical to keep people motivated to maintain momentum. One way to keep motivation up and create engagement is to show constant progress instead of asking everyone to work towards some distant goal in the far future.

“We were in some ways building the road as we were driving it. If we had stuck rigidly to our original plan, we would not have succeeded. By working with an agile approach, we learnt along the way and constantly adapted our course to our new learnings. We got smarter and continuously gained more data insights that we leveraged in our next steps,” explains Peter Grier. (Read the full story of Novozymes’ digital tranformation here).

Previously, the approach would have been top-down deadlines, priorities and schedules. And there was a history of launching too many initiatives simultaneously and too many of them running out of steam along the way.

By working with agile principles in their approach, Novozymes was indeed able to keep stakeholders motivated. The supply chain organisation now openly discusses priorities and understands the value of taking small, but effective steps. There is more respect for the individual employee’s workload, expertise and time

Cross-functional teams deliver value independently – from idea to execution

Novozymes’ Order-2-Cash Development Office defined a roadmap with five iterations. The roadmap was designed to offer results on a continuous basis and Novozymes also defined a number of initiatives or so-called epics that could be seen as sub-elements of the overall transformation. A backlog of the most important epics was created – the epics that were critical in moving Novozymes closer to their vision. These epics were subsequently prioritised, and cross-functional teams started working in so-called programme increments or PIs of three months.

For each start of a new PI, the teams planned which epics they would work on for the following three months. The teams reviewed the epics’ contribution to the overall objectives and broke them down into detailed tasks.

It motivated the teams that they were independently responsible for creating results with their own epics and that they could see the constant progress. During the PI, the teams held reviews where stakeholders from across the organisation participated to see what they were doing and to offer feedback and learning.

Celebrate small wins as motivation

After each three-month PI, all teams would showcase what they had been able to achieve. These get-togethers were virtual and with global participation of stakeholders from Australia, China, India, Malaysia, Denmark, France, US, Mexico and Brazil to name a few. Stakeholders were from all levels of the organisation. The events were also used to celebrate results and achievements.

In other words: Plan – Execute – Celebrate – Repeat!

After each PI, the roadmap would be reviewed to see if any course corrections were needed. The scope of the roadmap was for 15 months but the teams only committed to the priorities for the following three months. This way, there was room for course corrections as the teams identified new challenges and opportunities along the way and priorities changed.

Read the full story of Novozymes’ digital tranformation here.

Agile terminology (1)

  • Backlog: An ordered list of items to be worked on by one or more teams, and which thus allows requirements to be satisfied in a timely and effective manner.
  • Epic: A user story or requirement which aggregates multiple other such items in a way which gives them coherence.
  • Fail Early: The elimination of future waste by calling a halt to an initiative which has failed to demonstrate empirical value, and before any further waste is allowed to accumulate.
  • Programme increment: A usable implementation of an emergent product [or programme] which is made available at a certain point in time. In Scrum, product increments are held to be cumulative, such that the latest increment will incorporate the value of all prior increments.
  • Scrum: A huddle of team members who have assembled temporarily in order to collaborate and solve a problem, or to otherwise reach a joint agreement (e.g. a Daily Scrum). The Scrum Framework is an agile development  approach based on this technique, and which is used for building complex products.
  • Sprint: A time-box of no more than one calendar month during which a Scrum Team will frame a Sprint Goal, and satisfy that goal by delivering a product increment of release quality. Sprints occur on a regular cadence and permit the inspection and adaptation of progress.

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Want to learn more? If you would like to learn more about working with agile principles, please reach out to Subject Matter Director Mette Miersen at [email protected] or Partner Morten Just Blangsted at [email protected].