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How do we see business sustaining ‘new ways of working’ over the longer term?

Success. Sustained.

Two simple words that appear on every email signature of every employee at ADAPTOVATE.  It’s our tag line, which is at the absolute core of everything we do and say.

Simply put, how does your business sustain ‘new ways of working’ over the longer term?

In his keynote at Digital Edge last year, Doug Ross, our Partner and MD at ADAPTOVATE discussed this very topic.  (Feel free to duck over and watch the 5 minute video here.)

Doug said,“Interestingly enough, no-one knows how to do it for you. Not from the outside.  It really amazes me when people turn up and they say, “Hey I’ve got the latest methodology, or I’ve got the latest framework and we’re just going to plug it in and it’s going to work well”.

“But realistically it’s different in every company, every country,” he says.

So that’s what we will discuss in this article.  How do you sustain ‘new ways of working’ over the longer term?

To start, there are eight consistent themes.  If you aren’t prepared to do these, out of the gate, “sustained success” is going to be difficult.

However, if you get all these 8 themes on track, it’s far more likely you will be set up for sustained success in the longer term.


As Doug says in his keynote video – You need to innovate and you need to make mistakes.  You need to be able to admit you’ve got it wrong and then move on.

Mark Barber, our project lead in Melbourne believes, “The key is to have a culture of continuous improvement so that ‘ways of working’ are always evolving. We can enable this culture in many ways, such as by modelling this behaviour through leadership and encouraging experimentation through celebrating learning.”


You need to be able to have no fear, no politics.   This means yes, dare to change, but be transparent.

Steve Walton says, “Thinking and talking about what is important and then communicating objectives is key to alignment.”  He explains, “When done with transparency it can motivate people to put their energy in and collaborate. Once kick started this energy creates momentum.” (editor:  Momentum is ADAPTOVATE’s word of the year.  Read about why here)


Decentralising decision making is a key hurdle which must be overcome.  It will help move from a “new ways of working” initiative to transforming into a dynamic and lean organisation.

Steve Walton says, “Decision making must be effectively decentralised. Organisations with traditional slow and hierarchical decision making cannot move at a speed which enables teams to sustain their new momentum.”

Nathan Stickney, one of our senior consultants in Singapore, agrees, “The companies that get ‘new ways of working’ to stick put their people first.

They train them, they trust them, they empower them to make decisions and have autonomy.

When you focus on people first, they can then own the new ways, and drive the outcomes that you want the new ways of working to effect,” he says.


By this we mean – Break down silos, work in smaller teams, collaborate more.

Laura Scott, a senior consultant in Sydney “You can sustain your ‘new ways of working’ by proving value, and impact and quicker output through actually working in new agile ways under guidance from the team firstly.

Secondly, by investing in a good influential Scrum Master that the team respects.” She says.

By investing in your team to continually improve these skills through training and development. Let them live the success, then when a new project starts there will be no other way that they choose to run a project.” Laura explains.


You need to be able to work it out, and not be afraid to change the model. Be interested in making bold changes.  Dare to change.   

Chelsea Bates, our Principal in Melbourne, says “New ways of working are not about setting and forgetting or implementing once and being finished, rather it is about continuous improvement.” Here she re-enforces our dare to change theme.

“Understand what is working well and scale these learnings across the organisation to amplify the benefits. Understand what is not working as well as expected and, with the teams, determine how can we change our ways of working to improve,”


Laura Scott believes one of the most important elements is Exec buy in – if the Execs are on board and participating actively in the new ways of working it will be sustained.

Steve advises, “My advice to leaders is, to sustain the benefits of changes they have made in the way their organisation works, is to harness the momentum they have created through keeping up their end of the deal by doing three things: 1 – keep engaging and communicating what needs to be done and why 2 – be transparent and honest about their motivations and end game 3 – respect the people who work in the organisation by acknowledging their commitment and intelligence

Slawek says, “There is a significant role to play here for the leadership who set and share the aspirations and role model the desired behaviours. The goal is to make ‘new ways of working’ part of the day-to-day. Sustainable change will only happen if people experience and appreciate the benefits of it. And the benefits will come if key elements of agile are consistently and persistently applied.”

Caitilin Studdert, our principal in Sydney says, “Consistent, regular review from execs and those working in ‘new ways’ look at whether the business objectives are relevant each quarter and prioritisation is on track.”


Support must be in place long enough to embed changes.

To start with, ensure you have a group of change agents.   As Slawek Koziol explains ,“Sustaining ‘new ways of working’ over longer term is a matter of embedding them within teams. At the beginning of the journey in every organisation a group of change agents is required, be it early adopters or agile coaches within the organisation or external support – consultants and coaches.

Having an internal Centre of Expertise to promote new ways of working can deliver important change momentum and help maintain consistency of approach.”

Also, look to have coach support.  As “new ways of working” initiatives often take place within part of an organisation, teams are often left to interface with traditional groups who put pressure to deliver.

“Without coach support, teams can succumb to old behaviours and slowly synchronise away from their newfound habits, undoing recent benefits,” says Steve Walton.

THEME 8 – CONSISTENT RESTATEMENT (Repeat, repeat, repeat).

Consistent restatement and refinement of purpose and desired outcomes. Clarity of mission is essential for sustaining alignment and autonomy.

Mark Barber says, “Importantly, we can’t lose sight of the reason why we wanted to change, as once this happens the organisation can stagnate and revert.”

As Slawek says, “It is important to note that ‘new ways of working’ are not set in stone. Regular retrospective sessions make sure that ways of working are inspected and adapted.

Those incremental adaptations, though sometimes small and seemingly unimportant, allow for sustaining new, effective ways of working over a long time.”

Remember you can download the free poster, and other free resources here.

The Editor would like to thank the ADAPTOVATE contributors:

Mark Barber 
Chelsea Bates
Slawek Koziol
Laura Scott
Nathan Stickney
Caitilin Studdert
Steve Walton

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