In general, those of us in the corporate environment remain reluctant to discuss things that don’t quite go to plan (at least not openly). Far too often, we only base success around project launches or delivery, i.e. the outcome, and fail to recognise the importance of learning along the way.

Removing fear of failure

So, how can we remove the embedded organisational ‘fear of failure’ if we only celebrate measured success and not the journey itself?

This question prompted me to look at the issue in relation to a programme of work I’ve been leading over the past year and to share some insights…

To give it some context, the programme I currently lead is a brilliant opportunity for our organisation (Fidelity International) to deliver something with the potential to truly differentiate us from our competitors.

Without going into too much technical detail, our aim is to deliver a new market-leading service across global channels and regions over the next few years. As a largely greenfield initiative, this has also created a platform against which we can accelerate our organisational-wide ambition of adopting new ways of working (new delivery practises and technologies) to create lean and agile solutions that are highly responsive to business change.

Sharing the journey

Over the last 12 months, the programme has made significant progress, achieving many of its stated aims; both in terms of product and our change methods. In the wider business, we are often held up as a shining example for our modern office design, our approach to collaboration and design thinking, and our early customer engagement (with a view to sharing our journey). Importantly, we also need to recognise where we have failed and the challenges we continue to face; after all, we only learn from our scars.

Learning from our scars

About the programme

Without doubt, this is unlike any other programme I’ve worked on. Fundamentally, we are aiming to build a brand new business from the ground up to complement existing Fidelity channels (as mentioned, almost in a ‘greenfield’ fashion).

If we look back to a year ago, we had a high-level concept agreed on PowerPoint and a team of five people. We had little in the way of a defined proposition or existing technology to reuse, which left us wondering where and how to begin. The only possible way we could start was to simply get moving and course correct where needed. By May 2017, we had begun to build the team, bringing in staff from across Fidelity and the external market; we commenced early proposition design, started to plan our customer testing and spun-up our first cloud environment.

Moving forward as a team

Fast forward a year and we are rapidly approaching our first market launch. However, to get to this stage we need to acknowledge that, as a programme team, we have at times failed along the way. We have stumbled and fallen (metaphorically) and simply gotten things wrong more often than we may care to admit. At times, we have tried to run and then discovered that we first need to learn how to walk. I have spent many a night staring at the ceiling, wondering if we have bitten off more than we can chew.

Even with support from external consultants, this wasn’t the journey we had planned but a key point in us getting to where we are today is that, despite multiple setbacks, we kept moving forward – as a team.

Through great people, great things are achieved

I heard a quote recently that stated “culture is the way we do things around here” and I have long held the view that it’s through great people that great things are achieved.

When faced with adversity, it’s how the team responds that matters, and the culture we have formed within our programme has allowed us to overcome any setbacks and find a way forward.

Creating a team by merging talented individuals from Fidelity with talented individuals from the open market was, in theory, a great way to accelerate delivery. Lesson one: Tuckman’s model of group development (storming, forming, norming, performing) exists for a reason; getting a new team to come together and agree what the proposition should be, determine new delivery models, agree on a common language and, finally, an ethos and culture on which to build, takes time. Quite simply, every great individual has a view on how things get done and – dare I say it – not all views align. At times, our interpretation of ‘Scrum’ seemed confused between an agile methodology and a pack mentality in rugby – with groups of people sometimes pushing in opposite directions.

However, this ‘storming’ phase has proved to be vital in allowing the team to determine the right way forward for us as a group. It’s allowed us to create an approach that fits the challenge that wealth management presents and, importantly, an approach that’s owned and continually enhanced by the team. If we had simply dictated a textbook methodology, in no way we would see the ownership, accountability and culture we see in the team today.

Challenging the individual

In terms of overcoming obstacles, the same can be said at an individual level. As we look to build a future capability, we have asked people to move out of roles and disciplines they have held for many years and take new positions with a new focus – a great example being Business Analysis to Product Ownership. This has been tough for those involved, with a lot of pitfalls along the way. One individual recently spoke about the difficulties and frustrations faced when trying to unlearn much of what she has done before, whilst trialing and adopting new techniques and methodologies as part of her new role. We often overlook how hard change can be and the impact on the individual, but it’s only through our people that we can influence change.

The journey is often as important as the destination

We talk about an approach of ‘build, measure, learn’ when it comes to the creation of new products or digital and technology delivery, but it’s a key concept we must take into all forms of change – be that in the creation of ‘widgets’ or of teams. More often than not, we don’t get it right first time around; we need to allow room to adapt and overcome.

We still have a few weeks to go before the programme can claim success in delivering the desired market differentiation and success for our clients but, in terms of daring to challenge, driving innovation, overcoming obstacles, and learning enough to lay the foundations for future organisational success, we have proven that the journey is often as important as the destination.