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    Use a model-office approach to roll-in a new way of working

    There is no shortage of stats around the high percentage of transformations that fail, be that the roll-out of a new technology platform, integration of an acquisition or shift to/from a functional structure.

    If we are honest, we’ve all been part of one or more.

    At Structured Creative, we have accumulated several learnings from being part of successful and failed transformations. One common element of all the successful transformations that I’ve been part of and that was missing from the failed transformations, was the use of a two-phase approach of a model office and then a roll-in process to move from the current state to the New Way Of Working.

    One common element of all the successful transformations […] was the use of a two-phase approach of a model office and then a roll-in process to move from the current state to the New Way Of Working.

    This Structured Creative INSIGHT explains what a model office is and how to roll-in new ways of working, and gives a real world example of a successful application of the approach.


    Why: To prove out, tune-up, refine and iterate the new end-to-end operating model in a safe environment with real employees and end customers prior to full scale transformation.

    What: A fully functioning and end-to-end small scale version of the designed future operating model. This is a not a ‘conference room pilot’, this is not a test, this is for real. Where possible this should include new roles and reporting lines, workflows and processes, digital enablers, incentive structures and the start of a new culture – critically it is also scalable.

    How: When we have used these successfully, a model office has been created to service a specific geography, customer segment or product, or client/contract. This allows for the changes to be easily ring-fenced and for the model office to be within a single managers area of accountability, and therefore not necessitate broader organisation structure changes.


    Why: Human nature. Think about the last time you started a new job, walked into a meeting with people you didn’t know, joined a Zoom/Teams conference call – what did you do?

    I bet you didn’t rebel against them, or reject their established processes, and you didn’t try to do things your own way. I’m pretty sure you assimilated and adopted their way of doing things and experienced it before trying to change anything.

    The reason you did that is because that’s what us humans do, we instinctively assimilate to those around us.

    For those of us who have been fortunate enough to have worked in the UK and US or immigrated to Australia, I know you’ve had that moment when you realise that you sound English, American or all of a sudden have an Aussie twang. Maybe like in my case, you are on a London bus and your visiting sister, who is sitting behind you, is talking about you to her friend and says ‘he sounds so English’. It’s a blend of shock and pride that you are met with. That’s why a roll-in approach works and a roll-out approach doesn’t, it’s human nature.

    What: With a model office being a scalable version of the future way of working, the intent is to grow this new way organically (roll-in) rather plant this new seed in questionable soil (roll-out). The model office has already tuned the future way of working to a point where it is ready to scale.

    The next step is to scale the model office with more work volume and the required resource (people and other enablers including technology). The new culture has been established by the model office team and it is this team that trains and indoctrinates new people joining the new way of working. Once this new group have adopted the new way of working then the new way of working is ready for the next stage of organic growth.

    How: Once the model office has been established and tuned, the first step of roll-in is to adopt an approach of hands-on and hands-off operators.

    Think of it as learning to drive with a driving instructor – first you watch and learn, then you take the wheel and use the peddles with the instructor able to correct mistakes and finally, it’s over to you to drive on your own.

    The hands-on operators are experienced in the new way of working while the hands-off operators watch and learn on the job. Hands-on operators teach their hands-off counterparts while they do the job as well as in classroom sessions. As part of this learning, hands-off operators will take hold of the controls throughout the on-boarding process so that they learn the new process first-hand.

    Once they are ready, more volume is fed into this expanded team and all resources are consumed by the available work. This process is repeated until the new way of working is the only way of working.

    Once they are ready, more volume is fed into this expanded team and all resources are consumed by the available work. This process is repeated until the new way of working is the only way of working.

    Critically, it is important that the number of people who are in the model office hands-on group must not be out numbered by the hands-off group. Otherwise, the roll-in approach will be jeopardised and it likely to fail. I experienced this first hand where we moved too fast and tried to roll-in too many people at once, which not only compromised customer delivery it also meant we had to stop, reset to avoid a complete failure and then re-start the roll-in.


    To help bring it to life, I’ll give you a real and successful example that I lead first-hand at a national utility business. They are responsible for managing the national customer facing field workforce as well as call centre covering both planned installation work and reactive repair.

    Through implementing the new way of working we were able to increase the output of the field workforce by 60% per person per day and increase Net Promotor Score (NPS) by +10 from 50 to 60. All of this without a single new headcount in the workforce planning, work management, call centre or field supervision areas of the business – a truly transformational change.

    Here’s how we accomplished a sustainable outcome.

    Phase 1: The model office:

    • Selected a geographic patch and enrolled the existing workforce managers, planners and field supervisors to form a partnership to create success in their area
    • Worked with this team and subject matter experts to co-design a future way of working
    • Implemented system improvement changes behind the scenes to drastically increase automated work allocation
    • Completed a series of conference room pilots to test the new way of working and tweak it prior to using it in the real world
    • Generated a buzz around the initiative by creating a differentiated physical model office within the existing location using signage, construction site signs and tape, badges and t-shirts
    • Launched the model office and ran it for one month, making tweaks and tuning up processes and working aides throughout the process until a final version was reached 2.5 weeks in with no further changes made
    • The outcome from the model office was a near doubling of output per field tech

    Phase 2: Roll-in (not roll-out):

    • The model office team trained their colleagues on the new way of working, we supported where they needed help
    • The new roll-in participants shadowed the model office team for a week to get the hang of the new way of working
    • The roll-in team started to use the new way of working with coaching from us and their model office colleagues
    • Some tweaks were made to processes and working aids
    • Results were on par with the model office team
    • The roll-in team joined the model office, growing the new culture and way of working

    From here on out we repeated the roll-in process every 2 weeks with the roll-in group getting bigger each time with a total roll out time of 3 months.

    First published on Structured Creative.