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Though the advantages of Agile are well known, most organizations lack a firm grasp on the nuances of Agile ways of working. For businesses to successfully move to Agile, their executives need to understand the challenges of scaling up and integrating agile, lightweight methods with complex industrial processes in corporate environments. Australia-based Zen Ex Machina (ZXM) is fast becoming the Agile consultancy that executives turn to, to help them execute their vision for scaled agile transformations in complex environments. “Three main risks put executives’ Agile vision in jeopardy: cultural clash, poor leadership support, and experience,” says Matthew Hodgson, CEO and Executive Agile Coach of Zen Ex Machina. For a decade now, ZXM has been effectively addressing these issues by using approaches embedded in organizational change and organizational psychology.
In Agile consulting, ZXM’s experience spans training, certification, and coaching in a wide variety of Agile frameworks, and includes mentoring to help executives, leaders, and teams implement Agile on-the-job. “Our customer engagement starts with a simple, pragmatic approach to supporting executives through owning cultural and organizational change,” says Hodgson. ZXM uses experience gained from previous successful and challenged organizations to mentor executives on understanding their culture and the barriers or resistance to new ways of working. Leaders and managers are critical enablers in helping their organization be successful, yet their role in an Agile environment can be entirely different from what they did before.
For ZXM, they are not locked into any framework as understanding the client’s problem and culture comes first before bringing solutions like SAFe, Nexus, Scrum at Scale, or even Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) to the table. Everyone from ZXM’s CEO to their team-level coaches has been a part of Agile teams, including large complex programs. “We openly share this knowledge and experience with our clients. This helps them understand the struggles of others and how we’ve supported them to transform,” Hodgson adds. What makes ZXM successful is this deep experience coupled with an attention to culture, and support of leaders, to reduce the critical risks to agile transformations.
On the road to becoming the “go-to” Agile consultancy, ZXM has garnered an impressive clientele like Nestlé, eBay, and Origin Energy, as well as large government agency programs such as the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, the Clean Energy Regulator, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Marriage Law Survey and the Australian Census. In a memorable customer instance, Hodgson recalls the pivotal role they played in helping Nestlé apply Agile and Lean approaches to accelerate their product development in the food and beverage value stream. ZXM worked closely with Nestlé’s executive to coach their first cross-functional team, helping them understand their critical role in the company’s Agile transformation. What followed was ZXM’s enterprise Agile coaches mentoring these leaders on solving complex problems using techniques like Toyota Kata, Lean, and Scrum. Nestlé found that this collaborative way of working helped them to remove their traditional silos and enhanced transparency. They were able to make faster, just-in-time decisions, collectively remove waste from product development, and reduce lead time from months to weeks.
The success of ZXM speaks volumes of its potential with the company doubling in size in the last year and expanding to the Asia-Pacific and the Southern U.S. They are also extending their Agile consulting and coaching services to the food and beverage industry, energy, and superannuation verticals. As the future beckons, ZXM is leveraging its already extensive non-software agile experiences into Business Agility to support large value streams in rapidly responding to change by using Agile and Lean frameworks with evidence-based management.