An Approach to Organisation Change

When working with organisations and clients, this is my reasoning and a suggested approach for examining where and how organisational change should occur.

For the sake of brevity, I won’t dive into detail here. Neither am I suggesting this a one-size-fits-all approach; this is a generic approach that should be customised to the client.

  1. In order for an organisation to compete it needs to establish (or reaffirm) a clear market differentiator that appeals to their customers/clients.
  2. The market is changing rapidly. There’s plenty of emerging threats and opportunities, some are known, some are unknown(able).
  3. The organisation needs to identify the cash cow operations & services they need to be maintained and improved; these drive revenue. This creates one side of what’s termed the Ambidextrous Organisation.
  4. They also need to retire operations & services that no longer drive revenue or are no longer a strategic fit.
  5. Critically the organisation needs to seek new operations & services for new or existing customers/clients. This creates the other side of the ambidextrous organisation. In reality, only a few ideas are credible to scale to become the new cash cows.
  6. Points 3, 4 & 5 should establish a continuous balanced flow of initiatives. This enables the organisation to continuously sense & respond to ensure ongoing market fitness. This creates a Lean Enterprise
  7. Especially for Point 5, since there’s a huge amount of uncertainty, the ways of working, organisational structure, success criteria and leadership style is different to what’s needed for Point 3.
  8. To seek new viable operations and services, the organisation needs to be especially outcome driven, with flexible ways of working, an experimental approach supported by leaders, close co-discovery with stakeholders, close collaboration with customers/clients, where potentially many strategies and solutions are vetted.
  9. This ability for the organisation to sense and respond is in keeping with The Agile Business Consortium’s definition of Business Agility.
Agile Business Consortium’s definition of Business Agility

Where to start

To develop and carryout changes of such significance and depth requires the direct involvement of the leadership team. The following slides provides a high-level view of what such an engagement is likely to cover.

Further Reading

Thanks to Luca Minudel for helping me strengthen this article.

S.I.L.L.Y Organisations

S is for Structure

With its functional silos, the structure of our organisations is not effective in creating an environment for shared intent, cross-functional collaboration and synchronisation.

Create small, colocated, full-time, cross-disciplined, self-managing, long-lasting teams that continuously deliver value directly to our organisations’ customers and clients.

I is for Incentives

We often incentivise, reward and recognise individuals and departments with little regard to whether they’ve worked alongside others to ensure value is delivered end-to-end.

Instead, we should evaluate performance holistically and with peer feedback for learning and development. We should reward shared success against the competition.

L is for Leadership

As leaders, we are often schooled in, and then perpetuate ways of working that are a legacy of 19th-century manufacturing and 20th-century cost-driven centralisation. This may be appropriate for managing from a distance and at scale.

However, it’s not fit-for-purpose for most 21st-century business endeavours where organisations need to become value-driven and sense & respond to market conditions. As leaders, we should know teams need to be devolved, yet have a more involved leadership that coaches and aligns teams.

L is for Losing Time

Too often organisations lose 80% of their time trying to deliver what is in reality only 20% of the value.

Instead, our organisations should be spending, at most, 20% of their time determining whether there’s potential to realise 80% of the value. Test assumptions, challenge convictions, and course-correct before spending 20% of the time and budget.

If, despite best efforts, the value cannot be realised, pull the plug on the work without delay, regroup, reflect and set off in a new direction.

Embody the principles of Action before Perfection and Delivering Value Early and Often

Y is for Yesterday

In a fast-changing world, yesterday’s success is no guarantee for future success.

Check out Barry O’Reilly book Unlearn.

S, I, L, L and Y spells SILLY.

Each point represents the often unquestioned reality of many of our organisations. It hampers Business Agility – the ability of an organisation to continuously sense and respond to its environment in order to fulfil its mission.

We need to be bold, ask challenging questions and co-discover ways to create organisations that support our colleagues to deliver value to customers, clients and civil society.

Email or call me to discuss.
dean@latchana.co.uk
+447801 953 120

Measures for team effectiveness. And a caveat.

I suggest there are only three measures leaders should examine when considering a team’s effectiveness. However, read to the end to understand the dangers of measuring team effectiveness.

  1. The team’s track record of delivering outcomes that addresses user/client/stakeholder needs. This is the ultimate arbiter of team effectiveness. Emphasis: Building the right thing
  2. The typical time it takes for the team to start working towards an outcome, to the point the outcome has been achieved. In other words the cycle-time.  Emphasis: Building the thing fast
  3. Particularly if it’s a software team, their level of tech debt. This allows leaders to understand the team’s ability to maintain service and deliver further business outcomes. Emphasis: Building the thing right

Considering any more measurements will run the risk that leaders get blinded by proxy information, and risks them misjudging the team.

Of course, the team are at liberty to consider other information. However, this should just be for the team to interpret and make use of.

Even these three measures could lead to misjudgement. Therefore I suggest leaders spend time with the team to understand the insights and stories behind these measures, and be aware of how such measures can be misinterpreted.

Trading-off the emphasises

There’s a trade-off between the emphasises of building the right outcome, building it fast, and building the thing right. Leaders should work closely with the team to ensure these trade-offs are appropriately balanced.

The balance should reflect the current and future state of product/service/process development.

However…..

…..conversations and co-creation are better than managing by measurements

Consider what Einstein is attributed to have said:

Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted

If leaders only use measurements to judge a team’s effectiveness, there’s a temptation to manage the team indirectly. There’s also a dangerous possibility of misjudging the team.

Ideally, the managers should create a structure and set of processes which allows leaders to have meaningful conversations with the team. Leaders should involve themselves with the team to co-create and co-discover the best outcomes for their customers/clients/stakeholders.

Such an environment will outcompete any alternative where the leaders manage indirectly, provide little direct support and manage by measurements alone.

If measurements are being considered, leaders and the team should discuss and agree on the intention behind for measurements. It’s likely unintended behaviours and incentives will emerge, so with the team, measurements and its impact should be reviewed periodically.

When it an outcome achieved?

Agendashift’s Definitions of Done helps teams focus, and gain support from their leaders, to deliver genuine business outcomes.

An outcome is not achieved if it’s at a stage before users/clients/stakeholders are demonstrably benefiting from it.

Further reading and thanks

Feedback is welcome.

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

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