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An agile enterprise success in the Vietnam online training industry.
This must be one of the fastest organisational improvements in Vietnam. Mostly over a period of just three months, with the guidance of Teal Unicorn’s Dr. Cherry Vu*, Amber Academy have advanced in a series of incremental steps:
- From a conventional business with a bulky management structure to a flat one, managed and paid according to skills, not roles (using the Agile version of the Shu-Ha-Ri model).
- From command-and-control leadership to servant leader: get out of the way, let the workers plan the work and decide how to do it, support with resources, and facilitate the teams to do the best they can.
- From giving top-down orders to making open decisions: everyone owns the problem, finds the solution, and solves it.
- From formal offices to a warm creative collaborative space
- From siloes to operating in agile teams: each team has enough people with all the skills to be able to do the job from start to finish, not handing over and waiting for approval. People flow into work instead of doing it by function.
- To open workflow and system-wide transparent information flow: Everyone knows what’s going on, what they have to do, what value they produce for the organisation, and.for the team. Wherever someone is in the world, if they want to know where each project is going, what each team in the company is doing, even what each person is doing, and the progress of the team’s work, they can see it on a single “obeya wall” on Miro.
- To a culture that continuously improves: every day the teams stand for fifteen minutes to exchange information and improve. “How can we be better?” is the question answered every day. Each week, there is an improvement session to discuss:
- What are you doing well?
- What needs to be improved? How to improve?
- What are we doing next?
- Who needs to learn more or improve their skills? Who are the coaches?
- To 100% of personnel as direct value creators including the CEO – producing products, marketing, making sales. Everyone is cross-skilled, able to handle multiple tasks.
- To pay according to skills not title or seniority, and pay according to organisational results not individual productivity. It encourages staff to collaborate not compete, and to improve not wait to get seniority.
- To total transparency of workflow, decision making, and finance. Everybody knows how much money is made and how much people are paid.
In this short time, Amber Academy has drastically changed not only in its operating model, but also the products – training courses – they provide:
- From providing training courses for the mass market to co-creating with customers according to their own needs.
- From traditional content to teaching about agile thinking and these new ways of working and managing.
- From hour-long courses to small modules in the form of creative, attractive mini-game learning. Learners no longer passively sit and watch theory videos for hours, but do interactive activities to better understand the theory. After each 15 minute training unit, students can learn an agile working method (for example kanban, lean coffee, standing up meeting… ) and can apply it to work.
One of Team Teal, Hang Huynh, brought them experience and expertise in better ways of working to support them through these changes.
Of course it hasn’t been smooth sailing. At Teal Unicorn, we jokingly refer to “England’s Law”: it takes at least three iterations to get any new way to function as well as the old. In other words, the J-Curve. This caused frustration amongst staff as they struggled through a series of changes. They learned a lot, but they also lost some staff. As it turned out, productivity increased enough that work continued with the reduced staff. Teal Unicorn also contributed a consulting COO, Hoa Dao, to help settle things down after all the change, and to help it continue. The CEO, Dr. The-Anh Nguyen, initiated the process, backed it all the way, and is now a good friend of ours and the patron of the company on its ongoing journey.
It took a little time to adjust to Shu-Ha-Ri skills assessment, and transparently pay accordingly. Most people got paid more, but a couple got less, and – encouragingly – others spoke up for them. Staff were quickly reassured, and they adjusted to an honest open financial system.
There’s a lot to be said about this super-agile business. All of the above was achieved because they have:
- A leader who understands and desires to build a Teal organisation, a place of unification of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
- An executive who can achieve the above.
- Enthusiastic staff – about 40 – who know what they want, and believe in the path they are advancing on. “This is the right way to do it, we never want to go back to the old way.”
From the CEO, Dr. The-Anh Nguyen
Meeting Teal Unicorn’s Dr. Cherry Vu and Rob England opened up a whole new perspective for me on operating a business. The new ways of working help me break free from the “busy trap” and recall what motivated me to embark on my business journey.
Are Freedom, Happiness and Prosperity the reasons why you started your business? If so, don’t be afraid to adapt to new ways of working. There are things you need to give up, such as absolute power, but at the same time, your business will become a living organism in which all members are happy because of being motivated to be authentic.
With the guidance of Teal Unicorn, in just a blink of an eye, we have become better versions of ourselves, happy with all the progress we make and value we create each day.
Our journey has only just begun, and we remain steadfast in the new ways of working because we know this is the right path to take to survive and thrive in a VUCA world.
From the COO, Hoa Dao
Believing that effective personnel training makes a more sustainable and happier society, Amber Academy builds a new kind of work and management environment in which every member is a boss and has great happiness working in customer service. We seek prosperity by bringing delight to our customers: always striving to deliver the highest value to them, accompany and meet their constantly changing needs with our expertise
We are a completely flat business, with no management, no rank and completely self-organised. This helps us go further together, contributing more positive benefits to our clients.
Find out more about Amber Academy at amber.edu.vn
* This article is intended for foreign readers, so I’ve used Western alphabet and name order: firstname-lastname.