In this section, we will discuss the different phases of Intelligent Swarming adoption. Organizations that are already familiar with KCS will recognize the set-up with an initial assessment, Planning and Design sessions, and Phases with one or more waves.
Introducing Intelligent Swarming is not just the adoption of a new process - it’s a whole new way of working and requires a different culture. Moving towards a collaborative culture can be difficult, especially if the current corporate culture is very competitive and teams work in “silos.” A change management method (such as ADKAR or Kotter) can be helpful to facilitate the changes and new way of working.
Before starting any Intelligent Swarming adoption, an Executive Sponsor needs to support the initiative. Intelligent Swarming often means involving various departments for collaboration (departments that likely aren’t under the responsibility of the same executive) so it’s important to have a sponsor who has organization-wide influence. Some of the responsibilities of the Executive Sponsor are: support the adoption by allocating budget and resources, take accountability for the results, and act as an Intelligent Swarming advocate for the organization. The Executive Sponsor will not be involved in the design session or daily practice, but will be regularly updated and consulted.
Globally, the phases of Intelligent Swarming adoption are:
- Initial Qualification
- Organizational Analysis
- Adoption Planning and Design
- Organization roll-out and ongoing support
Phases of Intelligent Swarming Adoption
Phase 1 - Initial Qualification
In this phase, we determine if Intelligent Swarming makes sense for the organization. Intelligent Swarming is not suitable for every organization, so we want to collect initial information and data to gain an understanding of high-level attributes and characteristics of the organization. See Is it Right For You? for a list things to consider.
Phase 2 - Organizational Analysis
If the conclusion of the initial qualification is that Intelligent Swarming does make sense for the organization, a more detailed organizational analysis will be carried out. The information collected in this phase will provide a solid basis for the adoption planning and design sessions of Phase 3. Through interviews and a questionnaire, information about the organizational structure, collaboration culture, processes, and tools is collected. This will help to determine the best approach for Intelligent Swarming adoption as well as identify which collaboration group(s) should participate in the design session and the pilot. Interviews will be done with both managers and knowledge workers, as well as members from any other group with which we want to collaborate (for example, Engineering or Product Development).
Part of the questionnaire is a collaboration health survey. We want to get a better understanding of how collaborative the current culture is. How open are employees? Are they willing to share and help each other? If there is a culture based on competition and blaming, team members are more likely to hoard information and distrust each other.
An Organizational Network Analysis (ONA, sometimes called a Social Network Analysis or SNA) can be part of the collaboration health survey. An ONA gives insight as to who collaborates with whom.
In this phase, we decide which collaboration group will be the most logical early adopters of Intelligent Swarming. This group will participate in the Planning and Design session in Phase 3, and is selected based on their potential to benefit from the new process and their capacity for change. The ONA can be used to select the collaboration group.
Finally, baseline measurement data is collected, if available. This data is used in later phases to measure success of the new initiative.
Phase 3 - Adoption Planning and Design
In the Organizational Analysis phase, we identified a collaboration team to participate in the Planning and Design workshop. Over the course of a few days, this design team will create draft designs of the Intelligent Swarming process, People Profiles, and collaboration options in the tools available to support the process.
It is important to get the right people involved in the adoption planning and design. The workshop should have representatives from all stakeholders: the support team, management, and any additional collaboration groups. So, if the support team collaborates most with the Product team, Engineering, or Sales, then people from those teams should be in the design session. Preferably, those people should have a level of influence on their own team to be able to “sell” the new process.
During the first part of the workshop (1 day), the participants will get a good understanding of what Intelligent Swarming is. The remainder of the workshop (3-4 days) is dedicated to designing first versions of the following deliverables:
- Collaboration process
- People Profiles
- Technology capabilities
- Measurement framework
- Adoption roadmap
- Communications plan
- Training plan
- Reputation and recognition system
Designing the collaboration process. This is the process of finding the right person / people to collaborate, based on intelligent matching of the profiles. Knowledge workers design this process and determine what triggers the collaboration: how will the knowledge worker search for help or get help offered by an expert? The process can be tested with the seven scenarios that are described in the Process section. For the pilot, the team can start with a manual process and profiles created in a spreadsheet. This manual experience will help to define requirements to update the technology at a later stage.
Creation of People Profiles. An overview of the capabilities present in the support team. Read the People Profiles section for more details on what comprises these profiles. These are easy to make complicated! Start simple and update when there is more experience on what is needed for intelligent matching.
Technology capabilities. Review of the technology currently used for collaboration. Are the capabilities of these tools sufficient for Intelligent Swarming, or do we need other capabilities? Some examples of capabilities are: ability to show all relevant incidents, ability to request help, ability to offer unsolicited help, and visibility to others’ availability. More capabilities can be found in the Tools and Integration section. While technology is required, we again recommend starting simply and updating after gaining some experience with the process.
Measurement framework. What are we going to measure during the pilot to show progress? How do we assess people’s contribution to the collaboration process? How can we assess the health of the collaboration? How can we assess productivity in the swarming model? In the Measures section, you can find more information on determining the right measures. Data collected in the Organizational Analysis phase serves as a baseline. When other measures are added to the framework, baseline data should be collected for these new measures before the start of the pilot (Phase 4).
Adoption roadmap. Planning for the pilot or adoption waves. We highly recommend introducing Intelligent Swarming to a smaller group that will act as the pilot (or Wave 1), rather than trying to roll out to an entire organization at once. A group of 25-50 people is a good size for the Wave 1 team; members of this group are ideally part of the Design session. Building an adoption roadmap includes identifying what the next Waves look like: who should implement next, and when?
Communications plan. Describes the audiences, key messages for each audience, how the audiences will be reached (medium), and a communication timeline.
Training plan. Outlines who needs training, the topics, and when this will be done. Think about training of knowledge workers, managers, and others who need to know about the Intelligent Swarming initiative and didn't participate in the Planning and Design session.
Reputation model and system. If there is already an incentive system in place at the organization, the new reputation and recognition system should be aligned. If there is no such system, the discussion will be how to recognize collaboration. The team manager or team lead is the owner of this deliverable.
The emphasis in this phase is on creating deliverables that are sufficient to get started with Intelligent Swarming. None of the deliverables will be perfect or fully-baked. During the pilot and later phases, deliverables will be updated as we learn more.
Phase 4 - Pilot
The goal of the pilot is to test the Intelligent Swarming process, People Profiles, measurements, and reporting. To really test the process, it is important to have a variety of functions and locations involved in the pilot. For example, in a support organization, levels 1, 2 and 3 would participate in the pilot. Ideally, we would have development participate in the pilot as well. However, is not always an option. The duration of the pilot phase is typically 12 weeks.
Before the pilot starts, there are still some activities that need to be done, which were prepared in Phase 3. It is important that all pilot participants are being trained in the new way of working, especially if they didn’t participate in the Planning and Design workshop. Also, all the pilot participants need to have their People Profile built, using the template that was created in Phase 3.
Measuring progress. In Phase 3, a measurement framework was created. During the pilot, data will be collected for these measures in order to measure progress.
End of the pilot. While the typical pilot runs for about 12 weeks, the pilot should not be time bound, but rather based on getting enough collaboration activity to really test the process and the People Profiles. Setting some minimum threshold for executing on the 7 scenarios that were used to define the processes and a minimum number of people who have used the new processes makes for good exit criteria for the pilot. When enough experience with enough people involved has been achieved, a review or retrospective process should be done by the design team to identify improvements to the processes and the People Profiles. This is also when we capture functionality and tool integration requirements.
In reality, the pilot doesn't "end": the people involved in the pilot don't stop collaborating. But it is important to reflect on the experience of the pilot and identify improvements that will reduce the manual activities and enable Intelligent Swarming to scale across the organization.
Phase 5 - Organizational Roll-out and Ongoing Support
When the pilot phase is completed successfully, Intelligent Swarming can be rolled out to the rest of the support organization. This is a good time to check in on the adoption roadmap created in the Planning and Design Session. Do the Waves we designated there (adopting by geo, for instance) still make sense?
Organizations that have more experience with Intelligent Swarming typically feel the need to extend the collaboration outside the support department. This helps to engage a broader group and break down organizational silos.
Management training. It is important that managers of collaboration teams have a good understanding of Intelligent Swarming, the collaboration process, and how this may affect their teams. Especially when collaboration happens between traditionally siloed organizations, it is essential to get buy-in from the managers of other teams. One way to get managers up to date about swarming is to offer them a short training.
Continuous improvement. The swarming process, technology, People Profiles, and reputation model need to be updated as necessary. If the People Profiles aren’t created in an automatic way, there needs to be a procedure in place to keep the profiles current. The annual performance review could be a moment to review the profile and update it, with input from peers.
Organizational success. Intelligent Swarming and collaboration extends beyond the support organization. Some of the critical success factors are:
- Creating a culture of collaboration and equality
- Alignment to the company's compelling purpose, mission, and values
- New indicators of organization health and value creation
- Transformation of the role of the manager: 1st and 2nd line managers will become coaches