I think it was the hottest day Edinburgh had ever seen when I arrived at the Headquarters of Sky. I had been invited to run a day for the Telephony management team to explore and build the story of their department and how it fitted into the business as a whole.

There were a number of reasons for inviting me in:-

  • The department had been set up originally to meet an urgent need, and had subsequently lost the drive and identity it had enjoyed in those ‘start up’ days’.
  • The Heads within the department felt more, (or as) connected to the wider business departments they each were aligned to
  • The department was quite isolated within the wider business because they were so specialist, their role wasn’t fully understood

The whole day we sweated it out, (even with air-con full blast) to get to the root of what the department really was, what it did well and where it was heading.

We looked at the ‘different world’ of working with this department. We talked about how within one room an idea could move from idea, through design, through to implementation and revision. It was very unusual to have all the expertise represented in one room but Telephony had it. This was fantastic for picking up problems early, as even at the ‘idea’ stage someone from implementation could walk two desks down and point out a ‘tweak’ they would need to make the software work when it finally got to them. We also established what a tight sociable team they were.

We were looking for a new ‘story driver’ for the telephony team

something they could all be driving towards to give them the common goal they were looking for. Their original story driver i.e. what kicked their whole story off, was the almost overnight requirement for a platform to support the call handling at BskyB. Telephony very quickly transformed from a customer ringing in and waiting until they reached the front of the queue, to option selection, call re-routing and self-service selection. This team came together to create that platform with other partners, and then discovered that to service it, a permanent department would be required. So with the platform up and revision and maintenance in hand, what was the target now for the team?

The ‘capsule’ team had a lot to offer; they had all the expertise in the room to progress a technical project from start to end, and they had a track record of solving problems, innovating and delivering practical working solutions. The attendees could see they had a lot to offer the rest of the business but it became clear that their isolation was getting in the way of getting the conversation started.

The flip side of having the expertise in the room was that no-one needed to leave the room! The flip side of being a tight and sociable team was that they never met anyone else.

The first thought was to create reasons for other members of the business to visit their room in order to meet them, and to discuss their technical challenges, but this was still creating the idea of ‘entering the room’. The team agreed that conversations needed to start outside the room, and long before ‘challenges’ had even been identified.

It is not easy to rethink what you are closest to – your work, your place in the business, and ultimately your value. It was really grueling and at times frustrating but because of that, ultimately it was a very fruitful day. The outcomes from this session were:

  • A change of name was agreed upon to make the department’s development credentials more obvious.
  • A strategy of out-reach to engage heads of department and partner them in future-thinking rather than just problem solving
  • An agreement that all the attendees belonged to a department that could become the go-to technical problem solver for other departments. A goal they would all work towards

Congratulations to the Telephony team for pushing on to build a new articulation of their story.