07 Sep 2021 - 1 min read

The Transformation Trigger

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Why We Undertook a Complete Business Overhaul During a Pandemic…

In March 2020, Yozu celebrated its 7th year in business. Those unavoidable start-up challenges were now thankfully a thing of the past; working on exciting projects with inspiring clients was quickly becoming the norm; and we had grown to a 50-strong team of incredibly talented developers, designers, marketers and more.

But business growth inevitably comes with its own set of challenges. While we’d successfully jumped the hurdles of the start-up stage, it was becoming increasingly clear to see that what had worked for us previously needed to be further cultivated to adapt to our new-found maturity and ever-growing team.

There was a need for greater formalisation of our processes; more defined career progression and development for our team; and a more uniform approach to delivering our client work. Never did we let these needs affect our output; our clients were as happy as ever, and our team enjoyed a varied and exciting schedule of work. But why only survive when you can thrive?

Though I knew that these were typical growing pains — perhaps even an indication of the strides that we were taking as a team and as a business — I wanted to make that transition process as manageable and pain-free as possible.

So, what happened next? Just before COVID hit us, we made the conscious decision to slow our growth to ensure we didn’t become victims of our own success. At that point, we didn’t have it all figured out; we simply knew that we needed to review our approach if we wanted to continue enjoying our growth and scaling the business, delivering the very best for our clients, and making Yozu a great place to work.

Then, in an unexpected series of events, the pandemic hit — and now it wasn’t just an important next step in our evolution, but essential that we reassessed our ways of working. We took this as an opportunity to double-down on that earlier decision to slow down and plan our growth more strategically. Though I would have never wished for the countless lockdowns or the sudden surge in available team resource (due to clients having to hit their own pause buttons), all of these things gave us the time and space to reflect, review and determine how we wanted the future of Yozu to look.

And so began the Yozu 12 Month Transformation.

Yozu 12 Month Transformation

Alongside our day-to-day work, the Yozu 12 Month Transformation would be a year-long process of reviewing each and every element of the business, and taking the necessary steps to improve them or, if required, transform them entirely.

What was working? What needed our attention? How did our clients feel? What needed to be prioritised? It was essential that this was a proactive and inclusive process with real, visible change that could be regularly evidenced, documented and actually felt within the business.

Though it was my job to lead the Transformation, I didn’t want to lose what made Yozu, Yozu, and that comes from the input of the whole team. From establishing our core values to determining our approach to Agile working, everyone who works at Yozu has always had the opportunity to voice their opinions, share their ideas and make real change within the business. It was more important than ever that this continued with the Transformation.

We needed to listen – really listen – to what our team had to say. Staff surveys, calls and an ever-growing folder in my inbox creatively named ‘Team Feedback’ contributed to the foundations of the Transformation, alongside lengthy discussions and strategy meetings with a group that would, over the course of the next year, become the Yozu Leadership Team; Paul Davies, Kirsty Cashen, Andrew Whittaker and Justyn Clark.

With extensive feedback in the bag and initial discussions held, the Transformation officially began on Wednesday 2nd September 2020 with an all-hands meeting to kick things off. The meeting was exactly what I’d hoped for and more; passionate, exciting and honest with a real sense that the next 12 months would make Yozu even better than before. Later, I sent an email to all staff, summarising the key points of the Transformation:

The Yozu client experience will be made even better, and in doing so…

“We will have exceptionally happy clients. Clients who know they can depend on our internal systems and processes, along with the exceptional talent within the team, to deliver on their visions for a different future for them, their business and their users.”

The Yozu employee experience will also be extensively reviewed, ensuring that each and every team member can confidently answer the following in the affirmative…

  • Do I have a clear picture of what my career looks like at Yozu and how far I can go?
  • Do I know what standards we’re working to as a team and as a business?
  • Do I know what’s expected of me on a day-by-day and year-by-year basis?
  • Do I know how I can perform an excellent job for the team and for our clients?
  • Do I have a deep understanding of what the objectives are for the business?
  • Do I have a good understanding of how I can earn more at Yozu, or receive more benefits?
  • Do I have much more free time to focus on the parts of my role that I enjoy?”

Yozu’s Strategic Objective – fully outlined in the email – will underpin everything that we do as a company…

“We will understand why we’re doing what we’re doing, and have that clear in our minds. Every decision we make or path we choose to take will take us further along the road to achieving Yozu’s Strategic Objective.”

 

Of course, these were just words. Important words – but words nonetheless. To ensure that practical changes were made, we needed more. First up was the development of a hefty (!) but much-loved Yozu Playbook (that defines our values, standards, key processes, extensive content on each department, and much more). Then came the introduction of Lattice, weekly progress updates and a highly detailed competency and progression framework for all roles within the business. It was official: work was well and truly underway for the Yozu 12 Month Transformation.

But that was just the start. In my next few articles, I want to share with you the details of the Transformation – the good, the tricky and the ‘wow, that escalated quickly’ (here’s looking at you, Yozu Weekly Magazine!)

I’m beyond proud of what we’ve achieved as we approach the 12 month mark, and I hope that by sharing the lessons and the wins we’ve experienced during this time, you too can reflect on your own progress in the past year – whether personal, professional or both.

2020 wasn’t the year that any of us were expecting, but we thankfully made it through and – if nothing else – that’s something to be proud of!

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