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June 13, 2024

Transforming Telenet’s Operating Model: Insights from a Multi-Year Journey

By Summary by IT Revolution

In a recent presentation at the 2024 Enterprise Technology Leadership Summit Virtual Europe, Barbara Arnst, transformation leader and organizational designer at Telenet, shared valuable insights from the company’s ongoing journey to rewire its operating model. Telenet, one of Belgium’s leading telecommunications providers, embarked on this multiyear transformation to enhance business agility and customer-centricity. This article explores the key takeaways from Telenet’s experience, providing executives with practical lessons for navigating their own organizational transformations

Starting Point: Agile 1.0 (Spotify Model)

Telenet’s transformation journey began in 2018 when the company recognized that its siloed, waterfall-based delivery model would not support its long-term success. In response, Telenet adopted the popular Spotify model, an out-of-the-box agile operating model. By early 2020, 1,500 people were shifted into squads, tribes, and chapters, and agile management practices were implemented.

Two years into the Spotify model, Telenet assessed its progress. While agile values had become part of the company’s DNA, structural frictions persisted. Business, digital, and tech remained in distinct silos, and interdependencies between teams led to conflicting priorities and frustration among employees. Telenet realized that it had underestimated the importance of a supportive system and had focused more on changing culture and instilling practices than on tackling harder aspects like org design and decision flows.

Agile 2.0: Refocusing on the Operating Model System

In 2023, Telenet launched Agile 2.0, refocusing on designing and building an operating model system aligned with its strategy of winning in the relationship economy. The goal was to put customer-centricity at the heart of everything and remove the friction encountered in Agile 1.0.

Telenet applied a systems lens to create a modular architecture built around generic building blocks called tribes. The three main types of tribes are:

  1. Customer Tribes: Own a clear set of customer outputs and are empowered with all the means to deliver them.
  2. Platform Tribes: Design, build, and manage common platforms or offer services that can be consumed by other tribes, focusing on scale and efficiency.
  3. Enterprise Tribes: Own the operating model architecture and drive alignment across the company, acting as the glue between the more autonomous and loosely coupled product and platform tribes.

This new model went live in early 2023, with significant changes like the federated technology function and the absence of a classical CIO role.

Leadership Mindset Shifts

A year into Agile 2.0, Telenet realized that the redesign alone was not enough. The organization and its leadership needed to develop a new way of seeing their business, roles, and collaboration. Four key mindset shifts emerged:

  1. Managing Teams to Owning Customer Outputs: Leaders had to shift from following a plan and being in control to embracing risk and balancing the full spectrum of the business.
  2. Pushing Requirements to Pulling Services: Business teams had to learn to consume what was offered by platform tribes and conform to standards rather than creating their own solutions.
  3. Managing Projects to Partnering: Success became about partnering with other tribes for the long run rather than realizing individual pet projects or securing tribal resources.
  4. Being Passive to Becoming Operating Model Architects: Leaders had to actively manage their ecosystem and understand constraints to help their teams succeed.

Enabling the Mindset Shift

Telenet’s transformation team actively steered the mindset shifts through several key approaches:

  1. Deliberate Slowification: Telenet deliberately slowed down the transformation, creating mind space for system one versus system two thinking. Each tribe went through its own transformation journey, acquiring new capabilities one base camp at a time, with time to pause, learn, and reflect.
  2. Budgeting Time for Operating Model Improvements: Transformation was viewed as an ongoing process rather than a project with an end date, with time structurally allocated for improvements.
  3. Anchoring and Amplifying the Why: Telenet’s CEO visibly supported the transformation journey, making it tangible through metrics and transparency. Patterns and colors were used relentlessly to imprint a mental model into everything.

Conclusion

Telenet’s multiyear journey to rewire its operating model offers valuable lessons for executives embarking on their own organizational transformations. By refocusing on the operating model system, enabling leadership mindset shifts, and deliberately slowing down the pace of change while amplifying the why, Telenet has positioned itself for long-term success in the relationship economy. As executives navigate their own transformations, they can draw inspiration from Telenet’s experience and apply these insights to their unique contexts.

Watch the full presentation in our video library here.

Sign up for the next Enterprise Technology Leadership Summit here.

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