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Customer Success Story - Global Non-Profit

Leverage Tribal Leadership model to drive innovation in technology solutions for a large global relief and advocacy
non-profit organization.  

Child Learning Numbers at School

The Challenge.


Not-for-Profit organizations run technology and software development in the same way as any “for-profit” company, except they must do it in a much more constrained setup with reduced budget and team members. All this while innovating and meeting extremely high customer expectations.

The challenge was dealing with a significant cultural shift in IT from traditional, centralized, project centric approach to a LEAN, decentralized, value and outcome-centric approach. For this mindset shift to be successful, the organization leadership evolved with a strategic focus being customer-centric rather than solution-centric.

In an environment full of constant change due to ongoing and emergency campaigns such as humanitarian crises, natural disasters and conflict situations, the distributed IT team of this organization is constantly under pressure to enhance, build and deploy cross-platform product features which would enable them to successfully reach the right donors and disperse relief to the people in need.

The Solution.

Our Agile Coaches set three specific expectations and targets:

  • 30% reduction in “Time to Market”

  • 25% decrease in overall project cost

  • Deliver completed features with a 3 X higher project success rate vs our previous Waterfall approach.


Ultimately the intent was to ensure donation funds were allocated to initiatives and capabilities that were prioritized in greatest need.

This new organizational strategy required to deliver complex customer experiences across many systems, with limited foresight into real business requirements or best practices, and with the flexibility to adjust our approach and scope as we execute and release it to the public.

Tribal Leadership Model:  Our Agile Coaches needed to innovate in real time. We needed to be nimble. Traditional Waterfall / PMI / SDLC approaches were already failing in these conditions. Traditional Scrum did not suffice. We needed an agile framework that could scale and balance iterative work with a cadence of product planning. We applied Lean Agile principles and a Tribal Leadership model to achieve the desired expectations.

In ideal conditions, Lean Agile principles can be rolled out quickly and efficiently while controlling business integration components. The environment for this transformation was did not allow for this approach. We were introducing Lean Agile principles in the middle of significant organizational changes. In fact, we needed to roll out the Tribal Leadership model to enable the planned changes needed by the organization. We focused on minimizing disruptions to existing efforts, business targets, and organization changes.

Our team first looked at which foundational changes he could introduce immediately with minimal disruption. After Executive buy-in to implement a Lean Agile principles-based product development approach, we developed an incremental implementation roadmap. We replaced existing Waterfall projects with Agile. We introduced a clear prioritization of projects and established the first Pod based on Lean Agile principles. This first Pod would prove the positive impact of Lean Agile principles while allowing us to explore and test various changes (e.g., early rollout of Program Boards).

We started by focusing on people and culture. Through intentional executive messaging and several educational workshops, we gradually introduced and reinforced the principles. We evangelized a shift from project and deadline driven delivery to value-driven delivery.

The Results.

Through three 3-month phases we had sufficient information (e.g. sprint reports / burn down / burn up) to begin optimizing pods, squads and tribes. The organization increased productivity in iterations by minimizing injections and establishing better synchronicity between squads. We also optimized work sizes to reduce risks and increase value delivery.

Increased Team Engagement and Confidence:  An independent Agility Health assessment reported:

  • 84% of team members had higher level of engagement and enjoyment of work

  • 86% of teams reported excitement about their personal development, as their roles changed, and their skills emerged from “I” to “T”

  • 100% of team members reported Stakeholder confidence in ability to deliver quality work and value to the business.


Increased Team Productivity:  Teams increased their productivity by an average of 30% increasing throughput, featured delivered, and stories completed. The previous Waterfall / SDLC approach was not even able to provide accurate team productivity and velocity measures.


Lean Scopes of Work:  The value-centric approach resulted in a 90% decrease in Business Owner conflicts over priority. There was a cancellation of 20% of projects since value and ROI were not prioritized. There was a significant decrease in scope for another 20% of projects (reducing to MVP only). This of course resulted in more capacity to deliver higher value work.

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