It wasn’t always going to be this way… Looking back on the journey of Aginic, it turns out that a coffee-fuelled workshop in November 2018 transformed our business in ways that we couldn’t have foreseen. That moment, and the ideas we unlocked, helped evolve our business on a totally different path. For me personally, it has led to an exciting, (sometimes) crazy, and always interesting journey.
Our founders, Brett and Marty, originally envisioned a group of Aginic companies, each with a separate identity and direction. Working closely together but also forging their own path. The ‘stable’ of companies included:
AginicX: a software engineering business that created impactful applications, primarily for the Education and Health sectors, founded by Dale Freya.
AginicDC: a Sydney and ACT focused sister company of our core analytics business, founded by David Hodges.
AginicDS: a consultancy helping organisations use Agile, Lean and Design to work more effectively, founded by James Hayes.
Aginic: the original analytics business where it all started in 2014, transforming data into elegant insights. Founded by Brett Thebault and Marty Conneely and supported brilliantly by fellow Director Rob Mackay.
Looking back now, a merger seems obvious. But, at the time, we had guided four successful businesses into the market, each with their own incredibly talented team and a list of happy clients. The trajectory seemed clear, we should continue growing each business, focusing on its unique strengths. We worked together often, we shared ideas and we helped each other out. But we were separate and sometimes our paths might diverge.
Prior to the pivotal workshop, we’d undertaken a mammoth feedback gathering exercise across the teams in all four businesses. We’d asked for honesty on what wasn’t working and ideas on what we could do better. We ended up with over 1000 sticky notes, each with problems, suggestions and solutions that needed to be evaluated.
Anyone who knows me would know that I love to get my facilitation hat on. Taking on the challenge of evaluating, grouping and answering one thousand feedback points excited my inner (often outer) nerd and we got to work over two days to honour the effort that had gone into the feedback. In the room we had the founding Directors of each business and our chairman, Ian Rodin.
As it turns out, the genesis of the idea came when the Directors started discussing our plans for the future. It was clear that paths were intertwined, depending on each other for success. I honestly don’t remember who came up with it, but a kernel of an idea started to form. What if we combined into one business?
Our epiphany was: our strengths are magnified when working together! Successful projects are collaborative. Our clients love a seamless engagement with a single end-to-end team. Our team loves the chance to work with people from different backgrounds to solve a variety of problems. And there were clear synergies between our different ways of working; agile, design thinking, dev-ops, and our ever present focus on delivering business value.
We explored the feedback and one of the biggest areas of focus was on making sure we had exciting, interesting and fulfilling growth pathways for our people. Again, this seemed to need a common core of leadership skill and a common underpinning set of values. We started whiteboarding what an ‘Aginic Family’ business might look like and quickly hit upon a ‘chapter’ based system where our core crafts of Analytics, Delivery, Design and Engineering could be supported with a common framework recognising levels of skill.
This all felt very exciting. Even coming up with this rough framework showed how well we worked together. Everyone could be honest, challenge each other but also be respectful of each others’ unique perspectives and input. However, our biggest epiphany was yet to come…
The moment that really changed our fortunes came when we acknowledged one important truth. We didn’t have all the answers. We needed help turning this into a reality. To solve this challenge we chose to empower our people, creating a cross-functional ‘way of working’ guild that would take on the challenge of operationalising our new ‘Aginic Family’ operating model and way of working.
The way of working guild smashed it out of the park. They took our draft ideas, initial thinking and success metrics to create a squad-based delivery model that has powered the success of Aginic ever since. They designed pilot groups, measured success and took on learnings that evolved an approach which we are still improving but is very much our own.
Two years later, our single Aginic business has more than doubled in size. We’ve been able to provide better value to our clients and make a real impact to a number of fantastic organisations. Of course, we keep learning and improving. The model will continue to evolve, change and improve – including a revamped chapter system (coming soon) and new perspectives on our capabilities (Project Soul).
Being part of this journey has been the proudest experience of my career and I can’t wait to see the new ways in which it evolves in the years ahead.
Get in touch with James Hayes
James is an experienced agile coach and delivery manager with an impressive track record of helping teams and organisations across the world find pragmatic ways of improving the way they deliver for their customers. James is able to help people quickly make improvements in a fail safe way and keep the momentum of change up over the long term.Get in touch