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The Sooner Safer Happier Approach for Radical Organisation Change 

Values and Principles, Outcomes and purpose, Intent-Based Leadership*, Coaching and Support, Experimentation

Is culture change hard?

When introducing cultural and business agility behaviours, we find marginal gains a helpful lens—the theory that small yet significant improvements can lead to monumental results.

For those seeking to improve outcomes and enhance agility in their organization, we have identified five interrelated elements that enable business agility improvements and create more impactful, lasting change.

  1. Values and principles

  2. Outcomes and purpose

  3. Intent-Based Leadership*

  4. Coaching and Support

  5. Experimentation

For organisations seeking to improve outcomes given the complexity involved in human endeavour and different contexts. These 5 elements (VOICE) provide a practical approach to creating lasting change, focusing on the unique skills and cultural norms of your organisation rather than imposing one-size-fits-all prescriptive practices. 

VOICE makes for effective leadership by promoting a culture of alignment, empowerment, continuous learning, and adaptability. Embracing this approach can help leaders guide their organisations towards sustained success in an ever-changing landscape. Consider how you might use VOICE when improving how you do things in your organization.







Values & Principles

Values and principles act as behavioural guardrails specific to your organisation, such as “Focus on Outcomes” or “Invite over Inflict.” They should inform every decision and be communicated consistently.

Principles are universal across contexts, while practices are adapted to fit specific contexts. Encourage autonomy by allowing teams to develop their own practices within these guardrails.


Organisation-wide values are sometimes articulated at a high level in single words such as  'Respect' and 'Innovative', in these cases there may be a need to complement them with values and principles specific to ways of working. A team or team of teams should be in control of how their processes evolve, guided by the values and principles. 


  • Communicate values and principles consistently and frequently.

  • Encourage teams to hold each other accountable and align their practices with these values.

Outcomes & Purpose

There is a need to ensure the outcome hypothesis, mission, North Star, and purpose are clearly understood. This provides high alignment toward a common goal. 


Clearly define why improvement is necessary and what outcomes are desired. Outcomes like "Better Value Sooner Safer Happier" should have measurable indicators. Make data transparent and timely to understand cause and effect, and use this information to guide improvements. Avoid rigid targets; instead, use outcomes and purpose to align teams and empower them to innovate. Targets should be avoided when inviting teams to change their ways of working.


Outcomes and Purpose provide the Why and What for improving ways of working. They provide high alignment, which enables empowered teams, with support, to inspect and adapt in their context in order to improve. The goal is not Agile for Agile’s sake. It’s to enable agility to improve outcomes


  • Clearly define and measure desired outcomes. Try the outcome canvas!

  • Use data to drive decisions and fast feedback loops to respond to the impact of changes.

Intent-Based Leadership*

Embrace an emergent mindset with servant leadership. Foster an environment where outcomes are highly aligned, but teams have high autonomy.


Empower teams to make decisions by moving authority to those with the information. Leaders should act as gardeners nurturing the culture, not as micro-managers.


Promote a pull approach within guardrails, enhancing autonomy, engagement, and intrinsic motivation. *Intent-based leadership by IBL is a useful leadership technique to help foster autonomy. 


  • Invite over inflict. Decentralize decision-making and empower teams.

  • Provide minimal viable guardrails to guide but        not constrain.

Coaching & Support:

​Leadership behaviour is a cultural amplifier. Leaders must be proactive in coaching teams and fostering an environment of continuous learning.

The focus should be on enabling teams to improve their own practices, leveraging coaching and support mechanisms.

As a leader, you seek first to understand, then be understood practising proactive listening.


  • Develop coaching capabilities within the organization.

  • Explore the use of powerful questions in your day-to-day conversations. 



With high alignment and autonomy, encourage small, safe-to-learn experiments. 

An experiment is the testing of a hypothesis whose outcome is unknown, as it has not been done before either at all or in this exact context.

Use fast feedback to adapt and make progress, recognising that you are working in a unique, complex adaptive system.

You will need to probe, sense, and respond effectively to changing conditions and improve the system of work in order to deliver better outcomes.


  • Promote a culture of safe-to-learn experiments, by recognising and celebrating both successful experiments and the lessons learned from failed ones

  • Use feedback to refine practices and adapt to changing contexts.

  • Implement a reward system that values learning, innovation, and continuous improvement.


Example: Patagonia


Patagonia integrates strong values and principles into every aspect of its business. 

​You can see a strong link between Patagonia's values and the products and innovations it produces. 

Values: Build the best product, provide the best service, and constantly improve everything we do. 
Principles: The best product is useful, versatile, long-lasting, repairable and recyclable. 
Product: Patagonia launched Worn Wear, a service that keeps gear in action longer 
Measurement: "We repaired 83,794 garments at our Reno Nevada, repair centre from May 2022 to May 2023"

Patagonia promotes transparency and accountability at all levels of the organisation. Leaders and teams are encouraged to hold each other accountable for upholding the company's values and aligning their practices with its principles.

This includes open discussions, sharing, and addressing any discrepancies or challenges that arise.

Example: 7-Eleven Australia

7-Eleven Australia operates over 750 stores, employing more than 9,000 Australians. In 2021, they became the first Australian retailer to implement agile methodologies enterprise-wide, focusing on their purpose: making everyday life easier for Australians. They aim to achieve a billion customer moments by 2030.

Their strategy includes being adaptable, innovative, and productive, with a strong human-based culture.


Key goals are delighting customers, enhancing employee experience, boosting productivity, and increasing speed to market.

Progress is measured through

  1. Customer (NPS and 1st choice consideration)

  2. Empowerment (ENPS and turnover)

  3. Business Agility (Team health checks with Better Value Sooner Safer Happier metrics to drive team-led continuous improvement).

Example: General Motors

One of the first things Mary Barra GM CEO actioned was to simplify GM's dress code to a directive of "dress appropriately." Barra explained this basic form of empowerment—if managers and their teams “cannot handle ‘dress appropriately,’ what other decisions can they handle?”

Barra encourages teams to take ownership of their decisions and actions by fostering a culture of accountability and trust. Rather than micromanaging every aspect of their work, she trusts teams to make informed decisions and take appropriate risks.

“To make an organisation like GM run it needs everybody - my job is to enable you to do your job, what can I do to help?” - Mary Barra

Example: Allen & Overy


David Morley, as senior partner at Allen & Overy, made coaching a core aspect of the firm's leadership, focusing on improving high-value conversations. He emphasized that leaders have around 100 pivotal conversations yearly that can significantly impact lives.


By equipping leaders with skills to maximize these interactions, Morley’s approach resonated deeply within the firm.


This strategy led to a 175% increase in profits and secured Morley three consecutive re-elections, showcasing its effectiveness.

Example: Amazon


Tolerance for Failure: Amazon’s culture embraces failure as a natural part of the innovation process.


The company understands that not all experiments will succeed, but each failure provides valuable insights and learning opportunities.

"As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time."

When looking to introduce new cultural and business agility behaviours, there are almost infinite contexts, and one set of practices cannot possibly best fit them all and optimise for outcomes.


To 'scale' these means different things depending on context. Organisational, people, product, process, technical, tools & data considerations all contribute to your unique context. ​A VOICE approach can help organisations create a dynamic, agile environment tailored to their contexts, leading to sustained improvement and better outcomes.


It can help teams find the 'how' for themselves, improving Better Value Sooner Safer Happier outcomes with in their own context and with in guardrails.

Learning resources:


If you found this article useful you might be interested in additional Sooner Safer Happier learning resources on this topic


Intent-Based Leadership - David Marquet -
Allen & Overy -

Mary Barra -

Further Learning resources:

If you found this article useful, you might be interested in additional Sooner Safer Happier learning resources on this topic


Want to experience the difference between siloed project teams and value steam aligned long-lived team?

Contact us for private organising for outcomes simulation workshop for you and your team.
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