Overview

Imagine the world’s largest tax preparation firm. Combine that with the complicated United States tax code. Add in a corporate culture that has been in place since 1955. Doesn’t sound like the kind of environment where Agile might take root, does it? That was the challenge for Braintrust Consulting Group.

In 2011, H&R Block signed Braintrust Consulting Group to a long-term coaching engagement. The goal was to bring Agile and Scrum methodologies to H&R Block. The pilot project for this effort was the implementation of the Block Live product. This product combines the online and in-person tax filing experience to create a live, in-home consultative approach to tax preparation.

Ultimately the project was a huge success. It was rolled out in time for the 2012 tax season and Agile has become a mainstay in H&R Block’s project space.

Challenges

Braintrust began with interviews and observation, formulated a plan that was right for H&R Block, trained the team on the solution, and coached the team through their adoption and implementation.

1.  Agile training and knowledge was inconsistent. The lack of common terms and working agreements was slowing team efforts and increasing technical debt.

2. The physical working environment at H&R Block was not conducive to Agile. The teams were all separated and siloed and had very little opportunity to collaborate. 

3. Due to seasonality of their industry, H&R Block faced dramatic up and and down cycles based on demand at tax season.

4. Teams had the technical training and knowledge of Scrum, but lacked the practical knowledge to overcome roadblocks when they encountered issues in the real world.

5. There was a clear need for improved communication and transparency. 

Solutions

Constructive feedback was provided to the team. Observing and coaching allowed Braintrust to provide immediate, usable feedback to the team. In many cases, that feedback shaped the next day’s activities. This adoption of Agile itself was done in an Agile manner.

Agile was adapted to fit what H&R Block does. Instead of dropping a predefined methodology onto H&R Block, Braintrust customized the framework to fit H&R Block’s needs. By listening to the client’s needs and observing their pain points, Braintrust made Agile fit H&R Block.

Braintrust recommended a different type of work environment.  The team was moved into an open, collaborative work space. This allowed the coaching process to flourish. The team not only learned from Braintrust but learned from one another as well.

A full year of customized, embedded Agile coaching ensured training benefits were implemented correctly and properly tailored to organizational needs.

Ultimately the project was a huge success. It was rolled out in time for the 2012 tax season and Agile has become a mainstay in H&R Block’s project space.

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