This week, I had Vanesa Tejada in our Agile Alliance series of interviews with Latin American Agile Luminaries.
Vanesa is originally from Madrid, Spain but moved to Chile a couple of years ago to lead an Agile transformation for LATAM Airlines. Before moving to Chile, Vanesa has been a long-time active contributor to the Agile Spain community.
She also emphasized that having a transformation team, instead of just one enthusiast, is essential. This team will have the challenge to trigger the transformation and, more importantly, create a continuous improvement culture that the whole organization would live and breathe all the time.
Vanesa observed that Agile principles also have to scale but remain firm as they’ll be the foundation around which people will experiment with practices, processes, and tools. Constantly learning from customers, effective product development, and collaboration were three principles that LATAM Airlines already had built-in in their DNA — connecting those principles with Agile was not too far stretched and greatly contributed to created alignment.
Vanesa pointed out that management positions that were created for helping teams to coordinate their work would need to be de-escalated, as teams will become more autonomous and will coordinate on their own. Management in her view is more for enabling teams’ work without directly managing them. Furthermore, existing structures that delay time to market for products would need to be de-escalated.
She also commented that in LATAM Airlines, instead of firing employees it worked better to reassign them to positions where they could better contribute. A previous step for this has been to clarify roles with employees, so they can have more insight about where they could do more for the organization. Retraining employees has also been a key component of this effort.
LATAM Airlines realized that its internal complexity greatly impacted product development and services — that solving a problem was actually easier but became complex because of bureaucracy, the company’s size, and processes. That was one of the key drivers for executives to get interested in Agile, Vanesa said.
Vanesa also observed that the key performance indicators of LATAM Airlines are showing good progress and that is building more and more credibility for the Agile transformation. She also noticed that a change in vocabulary also occurred as Agile terminology and concepts are being used across the board.
Lastly, Vanesa offered three pieces of advice when someone wants to tackle an Agile transformation at a large scale:
- Have a clear purpose that enables you to stay focused
- Have full support and involvement from top executives
- Have a fully dedicated team working on the transformation effort