Jodi Viniello, Chief Innovation and Transformation Officer at Embrace Home Loans, talks through her career journey and how it has enabled her to help scale transformations at a variety of different enterprises. She is also joined by Michael Pullen and Dan Bouchard, two of LeapFrog Systems' own Froggers.
Lisette : 0:01
Welcome to Digital Froggers, a podcast brought to you by LeapFrog Systems. I'm Lisette Diamant, LeapFrog Systems' Digital Brand Manager, and I'll be your host. Today I'm really thrilled to bring into the podcast studio here at LeapFrog Systems, Jodi Viniello, and she is Chief Innovation and Transformation Officer over at Embrace Home Loans. She brings a wealth of transformational experience across different industries. And she'll be joining us with Michael Pullen, who is our Digital Transformation Lead at Leapfrog Systems alongside Dan Bouchard, one of our Agile Player/Coaches at another client engagement. So thrilled to have you all here in the room.
Good to be here.
Thanks for having me.
Lisette : 0:44
Yes! So there's transformations that are done at scale. There's transformations that are done across different industries and maybe even versing the conversation more around an approach. So how do you get started in a transformation journey at a large company? And how do you get the evolution and the momentum to get started in a culture that sometimes doesn't always embrace that?
So my three experiences with Agile Transformation have been completely different. To be honest, as to how I got started, one was on a burning platform where we had a large client opportunity to make $100 million which is a big incentive. The 2nd was more of given an opportunity by senior leader to say," go try something" and see what happens - kind of test and learn approach. And the current engagement that I'm on is more focused on - let's make a big change, but with some embedded challenges. So really trying to understand what those challenges are and not move too fast. So I think it really depends on the organizational structure, the culture of the organization and what your burning platform may be at the time.
I think the example you mentions that big versus small, but it's also what problem you're trying to solve. Agile Transformation means a totally different thing for many different people. So it it might be that the organization already has something like a grassroots agile teams going on already. And how do we get them to all be working together towards fixing a problem? Or they could be completely fresh and the organization has found a problem and we want to solve it with Agile.
Sure, yeah, one thing I found and I know this sounds a little bit silly, but I found the hamburger approach, right. So you've got to kind of start from the bottom and then start from the top, and then you kind of bring it all together and smush it down a little bit. And it really works because while you're having success in the grassroots level, the executives start to see the momentum and are like: "okay, what's going on over there? I want to do more of that because we're getting results". And then as you educate them on Agile, it ends up kind of spreading within the organization. And you really have an opportunity to remove some of the layers and and really drive a true change within the organization in the culture.
I think it's so key to get that bottom layer, the ones that are doing the doing, the change is doing the work to really buy in. And if you don't, then if you just have management telling them what to dio, you're not gonna have the effect that a lot of people are looking for.
And a big opportunity I think is education.
One of the things we find that is a challenge for the companies that we go into is they've taken time to get their teams performing just as a team by themselves. Then the challenge becomes, how do the teams interact with each other? How do they resolve their own problems versus going into management and having management decide everything for them? The other part of the challenges in those organizations many times their hierarchical organizations that are trying to take on this idea of being more Agile in their mindset. And for many managers, the reason why they succeeded was because they were able to drive things inside their organization. But if you're gonna have your teams take on the accountability that they need to have in order to do the work and for them to understand the customer and the business and the technology that they're driving forward, the managers need to stop focusing on the team. And they need to turn around and focus on removing the impediments being that servant leader, being able to get things out of the way so the team can perform. And that tends to be a very difficult thing for many middle managers. They don't know where their place is in the organization anymore and it causes a bit of concern for them when you come in and start changing things around. And so I think that it would be really interesting to hear at some of the larger places how that has happened when you talk about working from the top and working from the bottom. And so how do you handle that situation?
Yeah, so it is very interesting - and at one of the large regional banks that I worked at we had a big challenge. And the CEO at the time asked us to come in and change the operating model from waterfall model to a scrum model. And in doing so, we were able to actually increase our velocity by double. (Wow.) And we were also able to take a project that had struggled for a few years and implemented within a couple of months. It was really taking more of a minimum viable product approach, getting buy-in from the executives, and driving the change. And we took about 20 people off of the project initially and then another 20 people off after that. So we went from a team of over 55 down to about, I want to say about like 13...14.
That one team was 55 people! And managing the communication between all that. That sounds like fun!
A lot of middle management, lot of senior executives in working meetings. And by removing some of those layers, the team was actually able to go significantly faster. So it was really a way to get buy-in. And when I talked about that kind of hamburger approach, getting that grassroots success, having executives start to understand the cultural change that can impact the organization and then allowing you the freedom to kind of drive it. But getting them to that servant leadership approaches a challenge.
It's a huge learning opportunity. And organizations really need to look at how they do promotions. A lot of times I've worked with software developers who they, the senior software developers and just the way the organization structured for them to get a promotion. They're going to be an Engineering Manager and that's going to need be more of a people person, but they don't necessarily want to do that. They still want to write code. They still want to develop things. So having the organization be in place to say, let's make it a Senior Software Developer 5 or 6 or just at a title in there if they really need a title or just whatever incentivizes them. But keep those people are doing the things that they want to do and get the people that want to manage into those positions that can manage and be a servant leader.
Lisette : 7:31
I think too of the of the hamburger analogy you gave - being so visual I am I really like that and, you know, noticing that you may need to add the lettuce or remove the lettuce or add the tomato or remove as needed. But at every organizational structure, there's different challenges and knowing that you need to adapt.
Dan started leading into this. There's one aspect, which is the organization itself. And then there are these areas that are we call them functional groups that are outside of the organization around human resources and finance that when you're trying to change from being a program or project-managed world into an area where you're dealing with products and teams, they're structured in a way that makes that process very difficult and especially if you're an executive looking for money in order to get your product moving forward with the right team and your people are specialized and they can't share the work. And they can't work together in that fashion. Having HR understand how to go hire people like we've described before as T-shaped somebody who has a deep experience in something in a broad interest in other other areas that they can, they can grow and do more on the team than just their one specialization, as well as finance - understanding: How do they change the way they do their projections and do their analysis for the work that's in front of them? Because it's much more of a portfolio look than it is the application of a program over a year or several months or something like that. So I was wondering if you had encountered having to deal with that and what you what you did if you teach them a different way of thinking, or did you have somebody who specialized in that help you? How did you handle that situation?
In educating executives on what it takes to move to a truly Agile organization, we kind of broke it down into different areas, so HR was one and and how you conduct performance. But Finance was a big one, what when I was in a large financial institution, because everything was driven off of a business case. And when you really want to move the whole organization to a different way of working, you need to fund teams and allow those teams to stay together, allow those teams to determine the direction which is very challenging to do so again, I found starting small and showing success and then building upon that was the best way to do so. I'm not gonna say it's easy, but we were successful in funding some digital teams, but kind of setting the vision in the roadmap for two years as to what the team wanted to accomplish. Knowing that it might change along the way and funding that vision and that team, instead of just funding a specific business case for one outcome or one deliverable it was was multiple deliverables over a longer period of time. But it is challenging, and it's very hard to move the organization. I would say I was very lucky by showing some success in different areas. The executive group trusted me to take a chance on doing something different, but it ended up working very well cause they're making massive transformation in their consumer banking space.
Lisette : 11:01
Thank you so much duty for coming in today. It's been wonderful having your wealth of knowledge about the transformational space. Michael Pullen, your wealth of knowledge in Design Thinking and Dan always all about Agile. So thank you all for coming in today. It's been great sharing this narrative and looking forward to more to come.
Thank you very much Lisette for putting this together and thank you very much, Jodi, for joining us today.
This conversation has been great.
Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. I'm excited about what the future holds for my company, and I appreciate the partnership with LeapFrog and helping us in that journey.
Lisette : 11:36
Awesome. Thank you all. And looking forward to the next episode of Digital Froggers. Digital Froggers is a podcast brought to you by LeapFrog Systems produced by Taylor Hawkins. The music you heard was Do Ba Do by Otis Galloway.