Introducing Intelligent Swarming into a company and organization is not just a combination of new processes, metrics, and tools - it’s a new way of working and requires attention to team culture. Like the KCS Adoption model, Intelligent Swarming is a 'change initiative' and is organized as a journey with assessment, planning and design sessions, and phases with one or more waves. Like any operating model, you are never done implementing, enhancing, or improving Intelligent Swarming. Moving towards a collaborative culture can be difficult, especially if the current state is one of competition working 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. The Executive Sponsor will not be involved in the design session or daily practice, but will be regularly updated and consulted.
Some of the responsibilities of the Executive Sponsor are:
- Support the adoption by allocating budget and resources
- Take accountability for the results
- Act as an Intelligent Swarming advocate for the organization
Globally, the phases of Intelligent Swarming adoption are:
- Initial Qualification
- Organizational Analysis
- Adoption Planning and Design
- Organization rollout and ongoing support
The "start small, create some excitement, and then invite others to join" concept suggests starting with a small group (we call it a wave or pilot) of knowledge workers and creating some success and internal referenceability, which in turn generates curiosity and interest from others to get involved. This creates an environment that draws or invites people into the process. Unlike many technology implementations that impose change on people (and which inevitably create resistance), Intelligent Swarming adoption is designed to create interest across the organization.
Creating an environment where people see value in Intelligent Swarming and want to learn the practices is key for a healthy and sustainable collaborative organization that will evolve over time and continue to produce value.
The foundation for a successful adoption includes the creation of people & work profiles, a common classification model, success measures, collaboration process, and process for people and work visibility. These critical foundation elements are developed during the design session, which we will discuss later.
Phases of Intelligent Swarming Adoption
Phase 1 - Initial Qualification
Before jumping into an adoption plan, determining whether the organization is ready for the changes that Intelligent Swarming brings can save a lot of time and energy. While the principles and core concepts of Intelligent Swarming can benefit any organization, the realized benefits vary depending on the environment
To define the impact this change may have, collecting an initial set of information and data will help sponsors understand:
- the high-level attributes and characteristics of the organization
- how people are currently recognized and measured
- foundational changes needed before starting (improving a collaborative culture)
See Is Intelligent Swarming Right For You? for a list things to consider.
Phase 2 - Organizational Analysis
If you conclude in Phase 1 that Intelligent Swarming is a good fit for the organization, carry out a more detailed organizational analysis. The information collected in this phase will provide a solid basis for the adoption planning and design sessions of Phase 3. Through interviews and questionnaires, collect information about the organizational structure, collaboration culture, processes, and tools. This will help 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. Interview 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).
It is extremely helpful to run a collaboration health survey to gain 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, are team members 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 to give insight as to who collaborates with whom.
In this phase, decide which collaboration group will be the most logical early adopters of Intelligent Swarming. This group, selected based on their potential to benefit from the new process and their capacity for change, will participate in the Planning and Design session in Phase 3.
Finally, collect baseline measurement data, if available. This data is used in later phases to measure success of the new initiative.
Phase 3 - Adoption Planning and Design
During a multi-day workshop, the team selected in Phase 2 designs the different processes, measures, data repositors, interdependence, training plans, and communication plans for the the pase 1 pilot.
It is important to get the right people involved in adoption planning and design. The workshop should have representatives from all stakeholders: knowledge workers, management, and any additional collaboration groups. So, if knowledge workers collaborate with the Product team, Engineering, or Sales, then people from those teams should be in the design session. Preferably, those participants should have a level of influence on their own team to be able to “sell” the new process.
From our experiences, the workshop to get started is 4-5 days.
During the first part of the workshop (1 day), participants should gain a baseline understanding of Intelligent Swarming. 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 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 you start simple and update 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 you add other measures to the framework, collect baseline data for these new measures before the start of the pilot in 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 rolling 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, align the new reputation and recognition system. If there is no such system, the discussion will be how to recognize collaboration. The team manager or team lead owns 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, development would participate in the pilot as well. However, that 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 trained in the new way of working, especially if they didn’t participate in the Planning and Design workshop. Also, all pilot participants need to have their People Profile built, using the template 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 sufficiently test the process and the People Profiles. Good exit criteria for the pilot includes setting a 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. After enough experience with enough people involved, the design team should conduct a review or retrospective process to identify improvements to the processes and the People Profiles. This is also the time to capture functionality and tool integration requirements.
In reality, the pilot doesn't "end" because 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 Rollout and Ongoing Support
After a successful pilot phase, you can roll out Intelligent Swarming 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 designated Waves (adopting by geo, for instance) still make sense?
Organizations that have more experience with Intelligent Swarming typically feel the need to extend 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 silo 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 through automation, there needs to be a procedure in place to keep the profiles current. Annual performance reviews could be a moment to review the profile and update it, with input from peers.
Organizational success. Intelligent Swarming and collaboration extend 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 become coaches