Cam Crosbie, the Chief Information Officer of Equitable Life, asked BERTEIG to help with an Agile adoption. Equitable Life struggled with slow time to market, quality issues, and intense competition in the insurance industry. As a mid-size Canadian insurance company that had been around for decades, they also had problems due to extremely old IT systems. Equitable Life had no prior experience with Agile methods, and few of their leadership or staff had Agile experience from other organizations. Cam contacted BERTEIG and requested management consulting and Agile coaching help to solve these business problems.

Real Agility Assessment Track

The Real Agility Assessment Track provides baseline and ongoing measurement of both business-relevant and Agile-specific key performance indicators. Generally speaking, these KPIs fall into categories related to return on investment, time to market, customer satisfaction, quality, and employee happiness.

Cam supported our consultants with a rapid initial assessment that included interviews, group workshops, and artifact reviews. BERTEIG examined general business conditions and conditions specific to organizational and team agility. BERTEIG also helped Cam establish methods to continue the tracking of key metrics.

As CIO, Cam was able to bring the other executives at Equitable Life into several key workshops including a standard SWOT analysis and value stream mapping, and some specific workshops about organizational culture and policies that either hinder or support Real Agility. During the initial assessment, the executives were also briefed on their key responsibilities in supporting an Agile transformation.

The key findings of the assessment included:

  • Average lead time of 6 to 8 months for simple product changes (e.g. Term Re-Price)

  • 3 Years of accumulated approved work in the project portfolio for IT

  • 12 to 15 production quality issues discovered monthly

  • Extreme levels of bureaucracy given the size of the organization

At the end of the first month of the transformation process, BERTEIG delivered a detailed “playbook” based on the initial assessment and our expert analysis. Cam used this playbook and our further coaching and training support to successfully transform Equitable to a high-performance organization.

Real Agility Leadership Track

The Real Agility Leadership Track is a systematic program BERTEIG uses to support the executives and senior managers leading an Agile transformation. The program can last between six and eighteen months depending on the needs of the organization. Equitable had exceptionally strong and mature leadership and only needed our support for six month.

Two executives and several senior managers at Equitable were formed into an “Agile-Lean Transformation Team”. This leadership team was responsible for supporting the transformation at Equitable by removing obstacles, proactively implementing the playbook recommendations, and going through a process of coaching and team development themselves. BERTEIG worked with the leadership team over the course of six months, starting with the assessment work, continuing through the pilot projects, and ending with a handoff once key performance indicators were showing improvement.

Some examples of the work of the leadership team include:

  • coordinating between marketing, sales, legal, finance, agents, technology and operations to maximize response times to the Work Cell Teams (the project delivery teams – WCT)

  • creating the right environment for customers and agents to review the work of each WCT and provide feedback at the end of each work iteration

  • portfolio-level strategic decisions including which projects should go to which WCT, and when

  • supporting the people and dealing with communication issues that inevitably arise when everyone is going through transformational change

  • maintaining a strong sense of urgency among everyone about the reasons for the Agile transformation.

Agile Lean Transformation Team - Real Agility Program Leadership Track - Equitable Life

Real Agility Delivery Track

The Real Agility Delivery Track is a customizable program to help teams doing project, product or program work to achieve a high level of performance measured by lead time, productivity and quality. The Delivery Track usually lasts three to nine months depending on the amount of support each team needs. Again, in the case of Equitable, the executive support of the teams was exceptional which allowed all the delivery teams to achieve great results with relatively short-term external coaching support.

BERTEIG provided coaching at first to one pilot team and then to a few more teams as the transformation progressed. These delivery teams were IT-focused but with some business members as well to create cross-functional, multi-skilled teams. Each team received training and focused assistance in launching as an Agile team. Equitable called these teams Work Cell Teams to represent the idea that every team was able to do any type of project/product work.

The membership of each WCT was stable so when a team completed a project, they would get a new one from the portfolio. A key reason for the team stability was to enable teams to progress through stages of team development and get to a high-performance state. Every WCT was able to achieve this state.

After six months, all WCTs were showing measurable improvements. BERTEIG provided some follow-up coaching and training to individuals and teams for another year after the initial intensive six months.

Equitable Life - Stakeholders and Users - Real Agility Program - Delivery Track - Agile Coaching


Learn more about the Real Agility™ – Delivery Track.

Equitable achieved industry-leading results. They maintained a zero defect rate, accelerated to 3x faster time-to-market and high-performance teams. The dramatic improvements in speed were the direct result of the 18-month program.

“After 18 months of practicing with seven projects, we were able to do the Term Re-Price project again in just 37% of the time compared to our baseline. And defects don’t leave our development teams… we have zero defects in production.” – Cam Crosbie, Chief Information Officer

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