A letter to a future client

Recently a potential client approached me about starting an engagement following some agile training I provided to their leadership team.

Although they’re very keen to get me on board, I wanted to check whether they were ready to work with me to uncover and deliver profound change to the organisation; change that is likely to make many leaders uncomfortable and sceptical.

Here’s what I wrote to them. I’ve anonymised identifying details.

From: Dean Latchana

Sent: 19 October 2018 11:26

To: xxx

Subject: Thoughts on joining [company]

Hi xxx,

Thank you for the offer for me to join [company].

In order for me to truly help the organisation, and know if I’d be a good fit, I’d like to understand the potential appetite for fairly profound organisational change.

It’s likely we’d need to review and change some fundamental expectations of how [company] is structured, how colleagues work together and how they’re led.

As we explored during the training, regardless of business ‘silos’, we need to consider creating more cross-functional small teams who sit together, potentially alongside their clients.

Regarding the clients, we may need to put more focus on collaboration, co-discover and joint experimentation to drive toward shared outcomes, and therefore put less emphasis on expected pre-defined deliverables.

We should also examine and change the traditional role of leaders. Changing them from defining pre-determined deliverables in a top-down manner. We probably need to coach leaders to embrace uncertainty in terms of how [company] competes, serves its clients and in terms of the natural uncertainty of innovation. Leadership probably need to switch to a governance structure which supports empowered delivery teams who continuously pivot or terminate initiatives as insight is gathered.

We need to consider how budgets are set. In a complex business environment, budgets probably shouldn’t be set on a 12-month cycle with pre-defined targets and resource allocations. To increase agility, innovation and competitiveness, we need to consider delivery teams having access to the “bank” where initiatives are frequently reviewed and financed on the strength of their latest insights and ROI.

We need to work with HR and Recruitment to ensure we have the right colleagues who have the right mindset to not only refine BAU operations, but also develop a mindset of exploration where there’s an appetite for ambiguity and delivering business outcomes at pace.

We probably need to visualise existing work at a portfolio level. An enterprise portfolio view will help us decide where to put emphasis, and quickly terminate any ongoing initiatives which aren’t delivering value now or in the future. At the portfolio level, we should consider creating a balanced scorecard that monitors existing ROI and potential ROI.

There’s plenty more we can explore and I’m saying all this without understanding [company] in great detail. However, what I’ve said gives a flavour of what we may need to change in order for [company] to operate effectively, serve its clients and compete.

Do you think my role will have the c-suite support for us to seriously consider these profound changes?

No doubt there’ll be hesitancy and some scepticism, however tactics are available for the leadership team to learn and adjust these new ways of working.

Best,
Dean

Talk: No longer distant cousins. Agile working with Finance

The following talk was given at Agile Tour London 2018

The talk will be given again in London on 22nd November: No longer distant cousins. Agile working with Finance

Contact me if you’d like to have this talk given at your organisation or event.


No longer distant cousins. Agile and Finance working together to ensure your organisation makes the right decisions with the right support.

The worlds of agile and finance often feel like distant cousins. Yet, considering the uncertainties of the business environment, they should be interlinked. Interlinked to enable organisations are making the right decisions, with the right people, at the right time, and with the right funds.

This talk will explore how to:

  • Start conversations that’ll create stronger links between agility and finance, and how to keep their shared journey on track.
  • Help create shorter funding cycles that’ll enable teams to strike the right balance between knowledge value and customer value
  • Ensure every discussion, choice and activity increases confidence that team goals will benefit the bottom-line and increase customer satisfaction
  • Help move your organisation from cost-based accounting to value-based outcome-driven accounting
  • Reduce centralised budgeting to allow greater freedom that enables the discovery of new value propositions
  • Help create a financial governance structure that support teams in adapting to change over following a plan

Up your game by supporting your organisation in making better investment choices that supports your teams, stakeholders and customers.

Starting an Engagement

In this article I’ll explain my current approach to starting an engagement or initiative with the leadership team.

This approach will ensure the initiative gets off and continues on the right footing. It’s been inspired by Collis’ and Rukstad’s approach to articulating a strategy.

Let’s start with establishing and agreeing the initiative’s intent, what outcomes it’s trying to achieve, and the rules of engagement. Created collectively during a kick-off workshop, each of the following should have a statement written in a few clear sentences; the balanced scorecard will need something a little more elaborate.

Mission

Why the initiative exists. What’s the underlying motivation of the initiative; what’s its contribution to the wider organisation and whom it’s ultimately serving.

Values

Establish what the engagement team will believe in, and how it will behave. This team is a partnership of the key stakeholders/leaders and the consultants/coaches.

The values govern how the team behave (“doing the right thing”), not necessarily what the team should do (“the right thing to do”).

Vision

What we want the initiative to deliver. It could be an indeterminate future goal.

Strategy

What’s our game plan. Identify a number of coherent approaches that the team have reasonable confidence in. From these create an ordered backlog.

Ensure they’re SMART objectives. Know that certain approaches may fail, so ensure a plurality of strategies, and a flexible mindset.

To ensure understanding and alignment, use tools such as Karl Scotland’s Backbriefing A3.

Balanced Scorecard

Monitor and judge which approaches are working against success criteria.

To help with visibility and alignment, ensure the statements and balanced scorecard are shared across the organisation and with the relevant suppliers & partners.

Throughout the engagement judge buy-in and motivation, especially their appetite for uncertainty and the need to potentially change some established expectations. Establish how much genuine leadership commitment exists, especially when it comes to making some tough trade-offs.

The kick-off should be the start of an ongoing review to see if the initiative is on track; to check whether to continue with the current set of approaches or pivot with another set.

Importantly, if despite best efforts, the initiative isn’t providing value, exercise the option to end it early. There’s no point spending time and money flogging a dead horse.

I’m available if you’d like someone experienced to facilitate this as part of an engagement’s kick-off and to periodically review progress.

References

Agile and Organisational Resilience – Part 2: Beyond Agile & Lean

This series of articles examines how organisations can create opportunity following a crisis. I will argue that as the world becomes more complex and undiscernable, how organisations prepare and deal with inevitable failure can give them a competitive advantage. So much so that intentional failure can provide more upside than the downside.

Many readers will be from the fields of Agile and Lean. Following on from my introduction to this series, this article will consider the maturity of these ways of working, but then put them to one-side until the end of this article series.

Why put them to one-side, especially considering I’m an Agile Coach? Well, to be frank, their current application is becoming commoditised. Their essence and original intent are being over-shadowed by large consultancies, large-scale change initiatives, sheep-dip training programmes and certification one-upmanship. Such organisations and initiatives often pay little more than lip-service to Agile’s and Lean’s simple yet powerful approach.

Using Geoffrey Moore’s Adoption Curve, there’s a lot to suggest Agile application is travelling across Early Majority. My opinion isn’t unique; Dave Snowden and many in the agile community recognise this trend.

Where would you place the maturity of agile and lean the adoption curve?

If we consider ourselves as change-agents, co-developing new emerging ways of working to help our clients and colleagues, we need to look beyond Agile and Lean – particularly in its current commodified application. This is my intent for this series of articles.

Another reason why I shan’t dwell on Agile and Lean is that I believe they have little application during an organisation’s crisis. However, later I will argue they play an important role once a crisis has been stabilised.

There’s a great deal of literature on how Agile and Lean deliver customer value at pace in a complex environment. I’m not going to repeat it here other than to say these approaches are particularly useful when dealing with known problems and opportunities. The challenge is that knowledge and understanding do not exist during shock events and crises that will inevitably engulf an organisation.

There’s a degree of overlap and complementarity between Scrum, Lean and Lean Startup, yet each has distinct emphasis.

Putting Agile and Lean to one-side, in my next article I’ll be returning to organisational resilience. I’ll be telling the story of Nokia, a company that has fallen out of favour yet has an impressive history of resilience.

This post was originally published on latchana.co.uk/resilience-2

 

Agile and Organisational Resilience – Part 1: Introduction

Only a crisis produces real change.
When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.

Milton Friedman

When last have you listened to Maurice Ravel’s Boléro? It’s a beautiful piece built on a steady crescendo which leads to a sudden finale of collapsing flutes, trumpets, cellos and violas. This crescendo and finale is a wonderful musical metaphor that is facing many organisations.

These are crescendos that lead to profound alterations in an organisation’s existence and direction. They end in a sudden cascade of chaos, disorientation and bewilderment. Often they lead to deep changes which cannot be anticipated or rehearsed.

Such cascades are unforeseen shock events. These events trigger a crisis. How organisations deal with these crises depend on their awareness, preparedness, experience and adaptability. These intangible factors cannot be directly engineered or copied from another organisation.

The management of a crisis, if done poorly, can lead to an organisation’s demise. If handled well they can lead to recovery and a return to normal.

However, if and when the situation has been stabilised, I believe these crises are opportunities to grow beyond normality. This is important because, in a fast-changing competitive market, returning to “business-as-usual” is likely to lead to more undesirable failure.

The Agile and Organisational Resilience article series

In this series of articles, I will examine how organisations can create opportunity following a crisis. I will argue that as the world becomes more complex and undiscernable, how organisations prepare and deal with inevitable failure can give them a competitive advantage. So much so that intentional failure can provide more upside than the downside from the moments of chaos and confusion.

This is an illustration which I’ll be returning to throughout this series of articles.

Many readers will be from the fields of Agile or Lean. For other readers, they may be new. In the next article, I will be explaining the current maturity of these concepts and then set them aside to return to the theme of organisational resilience. Towards the end of these series, I will explain how Agile and Lean can provide competitive advantage immediately following a crisis.

There will be about ten articles in this series. To help keep your attention, I will be keeping each article to no more than about 500 words.

Shares, comments and considered counter-arguments are always welcome.

Lastly, listen again to Ravel’s Boléro: