Dean’s areas of experience

Here are some of the areas of experience where I’ve help clients’ organisations increase their effectiveness through better business alignment and outcomes. Contact me (dean@latchana.co.uk) explore how these experiences could help you, your team and organisation.

Read more about how I can help, my approach and check out my CV.

Executive Coaching

Dean Latchana’s executive coaching experience has helped leaders transform their organisation to deliver better business outcomes, create high-performing teams and increase business agility.

For example, for a global insurer, Dean coached executives to adopt an approach to better align their vision with their organisation’s strategies and activities. For a UK telecom company, he worked with the CTO to design an executive training workshop.

For a financial services firm, he provided comprehensive support for their leaders to adopt a continuous improvement mindset to kick-start their organisation’s transformation.

Portfolio Coaching

Dean Latchana has extensive experience supporting clients create a high-level portfolio of their organisation’s strategies, goals and activities.

For example, for a multinational engineering company, Dean created a unified view of initiatives, which allows their teams to increase their awareness of the impact of their project choices.

Using a lean portfolio management framework, he helped leaders of a global consultancy better articulate their strategic choices and understand where gaps may exist. For a financial services company, he helped product owners & managers create a nested portfolio for product innovation and strategic improvements.

Team Coaching

For many clients, across a range of sectors, Dean Latchana has provided context-specific team coaching, which has allowed teams to continuously improve their ways of working and tie their activities to customer need.

For example, for a financial services client, Dean helped set up, train and guide the maturity of several teams so that they become business outcome-focused and learn through frequent stakeholder feedback.

For a British luxury fashion house, he worked with teams and leaders to understand where pain-points exist and help teams gain greater autonomy resulting in rapid decision-making and lighter-weight governance.

Client-specific outcomes measures

Dean Latchana has helped several clients create a means to judge and prioritise decisions based on client-specific outcome measures. This has allowed teams to determine whether to persevere, pivot or discontinue initiatives based on their value towards strategic objectives.

For a financial services client, Dean helped product owners use client-specific measures to prioritise and balance backlog outcomes; this enabled teams to better articulate the worthiness of their output.

For a multi-national engineering company, he helped individuals map the spread of their activities using client-specific measures thus enabling them to gain an improved understanding of their team’s value creation.

OKR shaping experiences

The OKR support Dean Latchana has provided clients has enabled them to better tie once disparate and poorly understood initiatives to a wider body of strategic need, thus allowing individuals to better articulate their contributions.

For example, using OKRs, for a financial services client, Dean helped a security champion reframe his approach to expressing security concerns, thus enabling him to present a more coherent business case to his leaders.

Using OKRs, Dean has helped a global insurer start their journey to test the strategic credibility of their portfolio items. This was built on an OKR framework that would improve the link between output, outcome and business impact, and make use of leading and lagging indicators of success.

Change management (ways of working culture-shaping)

Through team coaching, leadership support and rapid test-and-learn principles, Dean Latchana has helped organisations modernise their approach to change management. This has helped leaders create an environment where teams can co-create ways of working which promotes collaboration, alignment and synchronisation.

Dean has helped leaders and teams co-create change principles such as action before perfection and invite don’t impose to help create a healthier culture that will drive greater business outcomes and satisfaction.

For example, starting with training, then with embedded coaching within a department, he helped a financial services client create change that has attracted other departments and leaders to modernise their change management approach.

Organisation design (value stream) experience

Many clients have turned to Dean Latchana to help them adapt to external market changes and address internal organisation challenges. The change Dean has helped clients create range from continuous improvement of existing operations to a radical shift in mindset, expectations and customer focus. To achieve either, organisation design is an essential aspect, as is the guidance he provides to improve their value streams.

He has used value stream mapping to help a multinational engineering company recognise the interconnected relationships of upstream and downstream activities; this enabled teams to understand where delays exist and re-organise their ways of working to meet customer need more rapidly.

Reflections on The Art of Business Value

The Situation

Often teams and leaders don’t work from a common understanding of business value. Without aligning to what is valuable, individuals will have an impaired ability to make trade-off decisions such as “Where should we focus our finite resources and attention”, and “What does good look like? And for whom?”.

Too often we don’t think in business value terms. We’re simply here to get the job done and move onto the next assignment or project. There’s a keenness to show output – the busy work which demonstrates effort and speed.

However, it’s important to pause and ask “Why is this project more important than these other projects? Who is it for? What’s the source of our confidence that it’ll benefit them?”

Business Value is elusive

The Art of Business Value. A 2016 book by Mark Schwartz

The Art of Business Value, by Mark Schwartz, helps overcome the lack of understanding of what business value is. With refreshing wit and insight, Schwartz challenges the assumptions of many, such as those in leadership, financial accounting and within the agile community. He offers sound guidance that’ll help many determine the elusive meaning of business value that’s contextual to their organisation.

The book explains that when we consider business value we often turn to financial accounting measures such as Return On Investment or Net Present Value. Schwartz states such measures tie poorly to strategies and don’t sufficiently factor-in risk and uncertainty. Neither do these short-term measures do well at accounting for the inherent value locked-up in enterprise infrastructure and the business agility that such assets should enable.

Schwartz says that business value can be hidden in an organisation’s rules and processes. So rather than disregard bureaucracy, we should examine it to discover the values held within an organisation. If we consider bureaucracy as a product of institutional memory, its rules and processes can become a rich source to discover what an organisation values.

If we consider bureaucracy as a product of institutional memory, its rules and processes can become a rich source to discover what an organisation values.

The book also unpicks the thorny issue of who should be charged with establishing business value versus those who execute and deliver that value.

What is Business Value

Schwartz defines business value as a hypothesis held by the organization’s leadership as to what will best accomplish the organization’s ultimate goals or desired outcomes.

This definition recognises firstly that business value is not the same for all organisations, secondly that it cannot be boiled down to one measure, and thirdly determining business value necessitates a journey of discovery, dialogue and collaboration across many business areas.

Introducing Business Value thinking

With my support, many of my clients have taken such a journey. This has often started with a leadership envisioning workshop – an approach which sets out the organisation’s vision and which creates an open debate about the worthiness of strategic initiatives.

With such approaches leaders create a mindset and process which shifts the conversation away from endless horse-trading and towards organisational learning through iterative execution and review.

In a dynamic and uncertain world, the approaches I’ve shared and the thinking conveyed in The Art of Business Value will create a common understanding of business value. Doing so enables teams and leaders to align on what’s valuable and create a responsive organisation.

Conclusion

With The Art of Business Value, in a little over a hundred pages, Mark Schwartz has done a fantastic job to help challenge convention and offer guidance that’ll help our organisations and clients define what it values and achieve success.

Thoughts on Team Topologies

Team Topologies is a 2019 book written by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais

I include myself amongst those who have longed for a way to better articulate how firms can enable more outcome-focused teams.

So it’s been rewarding to have Team Topologies help me order my thinking to enable organisations to better support customer-facing teams. Such thinking will help those teams better serve their customers and deliver their organisation’s mission.

What Team Topologies says

Pardon the lockdown hair style!

We need to design our organisation around team-first principles. Chiefly we should design around teams’ cognitive load. Cognitive load meaning the mental effort being used at any one time.

Invariably the products & services an organisation creates is determined by its structure and its internal communication lines. This follows Conway’s Law. In a consultative manner, we should work with the law by altering team dynamics, structure and communication lines to create the desired products and services.

We should work with Conway’s Law by altering team dynamics, structure and communication lines to create the desired products and services.

Team Topologies offers a sophisticated mechanism to examine, design and improve team and organisation design.

There are four team topologies (i.e. types of team)

This is achieved through close attention to team topologies (i.e. types of team), team responsibilities and collaboration modes. Ultimately this is to orientate the organisation to support teams to deliver a continuous flow of value.

There are four team types. Two of which are stream-aligned teams (i.e customer-facing teams) and Platform teams whose raison d’être is to support stream-aligned teams with reusable services with minimal friction.

My Take-Aways

Counter-intuitively, where appropriate, we need to reduce collaboration. For example, a platform team needs to provide an easy-to-consume service for customer-facing teams; this shouldn’t necessitate in-depth collaboration. This will allow the customer-facing team to focus more on their customer mission.

To help organisations realise their mission, Team Topologies helps standardise the ingredients for team and organisation design. Metaphorically speaking, these ingredients are not for a standard meal plan, but more for a test kitchen. A test kitchen where organisations can continuously discover how customer-facing teams should be supported by other team types and the leadership team.

Metaphorically speaking, the ingredients described in Team Topologies are not for a standard meal plan, but more for a test kitchen. A test kitchen where organisations can continuously discover how to support customer-facing teams.

Dean Latchana

Closing thoughts

Team Topologies will help foster the right mindset and means to help organisations re-orientate to support customer-facing teams become more outcome-focused, better serve customers and deliver the organisation’s mission.

It’s given me the language, ingredients and confidence to better articulate my own experiences to help my clients achieve success.

Kudos to Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais (Team Topologies) for authoring Team Topologies.

Aporia Insights

These crowd-sourced thoughts and insights are from Aporia discussions I’ve run at a few events.

Meetup hosted by Digital Leadership – 2020-07-30

Man in Blue Denim Jacket Holding a Printing Paper

During this Digital Leadership meetup, a participant shared a situation where their organisation chose to complete a project which would mean a large investment to replace their office printers. This is despite the organisation not knowing whether, due to COVID, when and how many of their colleagues could return to the office.

We considered the decision to be one suffering from the sunk-cost fallacy. Since the project is nearing its end, and it has taken a lot of effort, they chose to complete the project despite it potentially resulting in insufficient value.

It would have been wiser if the decision-makers better acknowledged that there is incomplete information. They should have remained in Aporia and deferred the decision until they had learnt if, and to what degree, colleagues would be returning to the office.

Meetup hosted by Roy Marriott – 2020-06-22

Watch the recording and check out the slides.

Many thanks to everyone for coming to and contributing to the discussion hosted by Roy Marriott. Here are some notable insights that arose from the discussion.

Aporia, with Confused, has replaced Disorder as the name of Cynefin’s fifth domain
  • Aporia can provide teams with the chance to push against a leader’s decision to act. If the team believe the situation or context has changed, aporia can offer a place to oppose a leader’s decision. With hope, it provides an opportunity for respectful dissent.
  • It was suggested that the confused state is one where an individual doesn’t know they are confused; they mistakenly believe they have the right answer. Whereas aporia is when an individual knows they don’t know the right way forward; the individual is aware they are confused or are in a paradox.
  • Aporia is when one is not tense. Whereas in Confused is when one might say “what do you mean it’s not working?!”. Aporia is when we might say “ooohhh, what’s going on….? I don’t understand”.
  • Granularity needs to be considered. We might be holding one big decision in aporia, when in fact we should be breaking it down into several smaller granular decisions. These granular decisions could then be dealt with in other domains.
  • Can you positively stay in the state of not making a decision? Aporia can tell you when that’s okay; it legitimises it. It distinguishes it from mere analysis paralysis.
  • It is also true that deciding not to decide is also a decision.
  • “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.” – Niels Bohr

Agile Xpertise meetup – 2020-05-20

  • A useful metaphor for understanding aporia is to consider stacking a dishwasher. At the start of the day, when the dishwasher is empty, you won’t know what will need to be washed, so you’re in aporia. But aporia is different from having no idea, or doing nothing, or any of your choices being of equal value. Therefore when stacking the breakfast items, you’d be wise to space them in a way which keeps as many options open as possible, without having to re-stack later in the day. So being in aporia doesn’t mean to remain passive.
  • An approach to utilising aporia in relation to the other domains is to throw into the framework all issues, then work out where best to place each issue. You are likely to find that although many issues may start in aporia, the majority of them will have a home in other domains. This method is called Four Table Contextualisation
  • Aporia has relevance to how we naturally learn
  • In the early days of the COVID outbreak, many governments operated in the Chaotic domain; they chose to act first knowing that there’ll be collateral damage. For example, loosening the criteria for financial support would provide immediate stability for many people and businesses, and yet such a policy would also be open to greater inappropriate use and fraud.  
  • The handling of COVID occurs in many domains at the same time. Investigating the biology of the virus may be manageable in the Complex domain. At the same time in the early days of the outbreak, many nations did not know sufficiently its epidemiology, so they responded in the Chaotic domain by enforcing lockdown in an attempt to halt its distribution. The consequential slowing of infection gave many governments the leeway to operate in aporia.

Piano Berlin meetup – 2020-05-19

  • Aporia is the biggest opportunity for change
  • To ‘escape’ aporia, we need to know what information is needed before moving into a different domain
  • People and organisations need resilience (e.g. financial reserves, optionality, inventory) to stay in aporia for a long time, and not be tempted to make a decision earlier than necessary
  • Regarding COVID, since some Asian countries previously dealt with SARS, their populations know that a COVID vaccine cannot be discovered quickly. So, compared to some western countries, these Asian countries are wise to keep their populations in aporia by not speculating when a vaccine may be ready
  • It’s often said politicians can either be right, wrong or uncertain; to be uncertain is the weakest position. However to be uncertain, and not make a choice, can be a legitimate stance (i.e. remain in aporia)

The office layout needs rethinking

With the lockdown slowly easing, and organisations considering how to reshape their offices, is now the time to fundamentally reevaluate our assumptions of the office layout?

Consider the 2018 study which showed the negative impact of the ‘open’ workspace on collaboration.

People have a desire for privacy. The study showed the open-plan office can reduce privacy, resulting in less face-to-face communication and collaboration.

The open-plan office can overstimulate, thus decrease organisational productivity.

We need to create team-focused boundaries; semi-permeable team areas which support local decision-making and psychological safety. Teams need to control when to work privately and when to be open and allow greater serendipity.

As offices are being reshaped, let’s take the opportunity to consult with our teams to create a space designed around their needs to collaborate and solve problems.