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Meet our new leaders: Sky May, GM Agile Transformation

Meet our new leaders: Sky May, GM Agile Transformation

Sky May comes into a new role as a result of an organisational transformation -- one of five freshly-appointed General Managers leading ThinkPlace’s new generation of leadership under incoming CEO Dean Johnson. The challenge for her and her team? It’s more or less helping other organisations go through similar processes. We sat down with Sky to talk about agile, change-making and the high-stakes nature of the moment that all leaders suddenly find themselves in.

Hear from the rest of our leadership team: Sarah Patterson; Sarah Martin; Danny De Schutter; and Dane Galpin


TP: What does it mean to be a GM at ThinkPlace?

SM: It’s a great opportunity to develop and further the impact that ThinkPlace can have. I get to work with and lead an amazingly capable and passionate group of people who are excited about the new structure and want to drive agile organisational design.

TP: You are leading the Agile Transformation Team. What does that mean? 

SM: We’re delivering a unique service that combines the best of co-design, organisational design and agile methods. This powerful combination enables a human-centred whole-of-system view of the challenges and opportunities involved with any transformation. 

We are talking about change that works beyond the theoretical. Change that sticks - Sky May, GM Agile Transformation

TP: Agile is about digital design projects, though, isn’t it?

SM: Not any more. Agile is increasingly being applied to non-digital projects because working this way allows clients to see things develop iteratively and early, provides them with quick wins and gives them the opportunity to focus on the immediate priority and then to plan the next priority. An agile approach to complex transformations allows the ability to adapt the next piece of work based on what is discovered in the first priority. 

TP: What kind of transformations are we talking about?

SM: Agile and our team’s approach to it is ideally suited to quickly and dynamically transforming business and organisational strategies, structures, processes and cultures. We are talking about change that works beyond the theoretical. Change that sticks. We can not only help design the transformation but can work with you to assure it is delivered as intended and that the people, culture and organisation are actually transformed.

TP: Why is this offering important right now?

SM: It’s something of an understatement to observe that we are in a challenging moment! It’s challenging for organisations and businesses to realise that this is our new normal and that our operating environments need to adapt to this. 

When Covid happened every organisation changed but - rapid as it was - how sustainable and how well designed has that change been?

We all worked very quickly to move from sharing physical space to working virtually but most organisations haven’t invested in the broader change needed to support this going forward (many understandably assumed they would soon go back to normal). The reality is that we are not trapped in this moment forever, but the changes that have happened in it will influence what the future looks like.

TP: So we won’t be returning to a pre-Covid way of working that always prioritises face to face communication?

SM: We don’t think so. We’ve learned too much about the benefits of working smarter in digital space. But there is work to do to set up for the future. 

Now is the time to undertake organisational transformation to remove redundant processes and to harness the opportunities that have been created by working in a digital virtual space. There are innovative and new methods and systems for cross collaboration across regions, cities and the world. If you can set yourself up to work well in this way we can see benefits everywhere. It’s better for the budget, it saves time and it greatly reduces environmental impact.

TP: What kind of sectors out there do you think can benefit from working with your team?

SM: Really it’s anybody who is trying to transform their business or organisation to deliver better outcomes in a more efficient and smarter way. But I can see a clear need for this kind of assistance in some specific areas:

  • Service delivery organisations
  • PHNs and Community centred commissioning
  • Public and private organisations nationally and internationally
  • Large scale reform
  • Aged Care 
  • National security and law enforcement
  • Design and quality assurance

TP: Any specific areas where you personally want to make positive impact?

SM: I’m passionate about building a strong presence as a partner of choice in the indigenous sector helping to unlock the value of the Indigenous estate. We’ve already delivered and implemented this service for a number of Commonwealth agencies across the health and indigenous sector. But we can do so much more.

And we want to build on our work in public health systems and expanding our support of the Primary Health Networks. That’s the real coalface of delivering health services in Australia. There are so many opportunities to improve on how the system works if we work together.

TP: What do you bring to the position? 

SM: I have a passion for delivering change and creating impact but also for developing people along the way. This passion provides me with the energy and drive to work in complex and difficult spaces and to push through ambiguity to make sense and create solutions.

That’s what I love.

TP: Complete this sentence: Collaborating with ThinkPlace designers is different because… 

SM: We genuinely listen to the challenges and the environment and engage with people that represent the different areas of expertise, experience, and intent. We create an environment that is a safe place for these voices to create and design solutions that are better than any one voice would have created alone.

TP: Tell us a couple of surprising things about yourself. 

SM: I have been through two cyclones; one on a boat in the middle of the ocean, and the other was Tracey.

I refereed rugby league as a young girl including a game at the Sydney Football Stadium. If you can do that and keep your cool, transforming an organisation or two seems a little less scary!

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