Quint helps The Ocean Cleanup professionalise its agile approach

29 October 2021 Consultancy.eu 3 min. read

From the early beginnings in 2013, The Ocean Cleanup has embraced the agile methodology, leveraging the philosophy to continuously adapt its innovation (a giant ‘plastics hoover’) and organisation. With the help of Quint, the Dutch scale-up took an agile approach to becoming even more agile.

Every day, The Ocean Cleanup’s team of 120 engineers, consultants, researchers, scientists and staff work towards the company’s simple but important mission: removing plastic from oceans (there is now 5.2 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic in our ocean). Two goals underpin its vision: removing and recycling millions of kilos of plastic from the oceans, and down the line preventing new plastic from entering the oceans via rivers.

Facing a rapidly changing climate, technology and stakeholder environment, agility and flexibility are key pillars of The Ocean Cleanup’s response to market needs. From its early start-up days, The Ocean Cleanup embraced the agile way of working, and has over the years rolled out the methodology across new products, functions and teams. 

The Ocean Cleanup has embraced an agile way of working

But with growth comes new activities and challenges, and potentially bureaucracy. Some eight years after its launch (The Ocean Cleanup was concepted by Dutch founder Boyan Slat at the age of 18), The Ocean Cleanup’s management team was interested in understanding the state of agile working within the organisation, and in its slipstream, where potential improvements could be achieved. 

Quint, an external consulting firm that specialises in agile, was sailed in to conduct an independent assessment. Following interviews with leaders and employees from three different departments (Ocean, Rivers and Valorization), the consultants mapped out the current ways of working and how agile activities were. 

These insights led to a number of recommendations, aimed at improving both the efficiency and effectiveness of ways of working within and across departments – all within the context of the agile realm. 

One of the recommendations focused on professionalising the Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) tool – a tool that The Ocean Cleanup uses to uncover potential risks of its Ocean products. Quint helped The Ocean Cleanup with improving the way how risks are gathered and assessed. The consultancy also helped close the gap between business and IT teams, improving the way the tool is developed, updated and maintained. 

Other recommendations related to ensuring a closer connection between long- and short-term planning cycles, leveraging value stream mapping as the basis for process improvement initiatives, and tightening quality assurance.

System 002

In July this year, The Ocean Cleanup released System 002, the latest iteration of its ocean cleanup system. This system is much larger (a span of 1,800 metres) and effective (more effective in capturing plastics) than its initial system (System 001). System 002 completed its test in the Great Pacific and the team is currently using the learning to develop the next version of its solution: System 003.

The Ocean Cleanup is supported financially and knowledge wise by a long list of major companies, including A.P. Moller - Maersk, Deloitte, Latham & Watkins, Macquarie Group and Microsoft.