Adaptive Space and Business Agility

Description

When organisations are often too ponderous to innovate, what proven approaches exist to bridge the internal divide between the opposing needs of entrepreneurism and operationalism?

We’ll explore emerging approaches that utilise the internal tensions between innovators and conservative communities. These techniques create an adaptive space that can enable greater agility and market competitiveness.

Talk or workshop

As a talk: 45 to 60 minutes

As a talk and workshop: 60 to 90 minutes

Themes

  • Organisation Design
  • Leadership, incentives, structure, culture
  • Larman’s Laws
  • Leading with complexity and the work of Mary Uhl-Bien
  • Intersection between Strategy, Org design and Lean-Agile

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Workshop: Wardley Mapping

This workshop introduces Wardley Mapping as a technique to understand the chain of components an organisation needs to serve user needs. It creates situational awareness by mapping the maturity of each component, and the visibility of the component to the user. It allowing organisations to better strategise and improve their effectiveness and competitiveness.

The workshop can be delivered in 60 to 120 minutes. It’s team-based and can be run for any number of teams.

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photos from workshops

Thank you

Thank you to Philippe Guenet for working with me in developing the workshop.

Wardley Mapping is conceived by and is kindly shared by Simon Wardley.

Envisioning workshop: Co-create shared Vision and Strategies

The envisioning workshop is a group facilitation activity which:

  • Co-creates a shared business vision to unite behind
  • Identifies and prioritises strategies which are faithful to the vision
  • Generates the momentum to test and execute the strategic objectives

It helps ensure the co-created vision, strategic alignment and execution are in keeping with the elements described in Starting an Engagement.

Setup and Agenda

Participants should be the leadership team, stakeholders and key representatives from the execution team (aka delivery team). Ideally, there should be between five and nine participants, plus the workshop facilitator(s).

Duration: Typically 3-4 hours

Agenda

  1. Co-creation of the vision statement
  2. Identify measures of success
  3. Brainstorm strategies which will help deliver the vision
  4. Prioritise strategies
  5. Setup cadence and move into execution

Co-creation of the vision statement

To gain alignment it’s important that all participants co-create the vision. The vision describes an ambitious and motivational future-state for the business. This vision is written as a vision statement, which has the following qualities:

  • Succinct – one or two sentences
  • Visionary – Drives motivation to create a beneficial future-state
  • Works on the team’s behalf – Help to communicate and gain alignment across the business
  • Aligns the team with their stakeholders
  • Easy for everyone in the business to understand
  • Scoped – removes any erroneous activities such as pet projects

To move with velocity to drive profitable growth and become an even better McDonald’s serving more customers delicious food each day around the world.

McDonald’s Vision Statement

We’ll save money by eliminating impediments to deliver a frictionless customer experience, which empowers our front-of-house colleagues.

A Vision Statement created by a team in a FTSE 100 company

Identify measures of success

Brainstorm and agree on three or four measures of success. These ensure the right benefits, behavioural changes and consequences will be achieved which will support the vision.

Some examples of measures of success:

  • Reduce the cost to serve
  • Increase customer retention
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Increase incremental sales
  • Reduce carbon emissions across the vehicle fleet

Measures of success should be found within the vision statement. The following measures of success are implied in the McDonald’s vision statement:

  • Profit growth
  • Customer growth
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Global scope

Brainstorm strategies which will help deliver the vision

Now facilitate the participants to brainstorm a number of strategies which will meet some or all of the measures of success, which they believe will help to fulfil the vision.

If the vision is transformational, encourage the creation of strategies which will test long-held assumptions.

Participants can write their strategies individually or in pairs. Each strategy idea should be written on post-it notes. Once participants have written a few each, remove any which the participants agree are duplicates.

A strategy is something which gives consistency over time and contains the essence of how you’re going to be different

Gary Hamel’s definition of strategy

Prioritise strategies

These strategies should now be ordered relative to each other. They should be ordered by their degree of perceived value towards achieving the vision, and by the perceived complexity of achieving the strategy.

There are a number of ways to understand and measure complexity. For example, consider Liz Keogh’s Estimating Complexity and my RUDE technique.

This stage of the workshop creates a spread of strategies where the following can be identified and discussed:

  1. High-value strategies which are likely to have little complexity to deliver
  2. High-value strategies which are complex to deliver
  3. Low-value strategies which have little complexity to deliver
  4. Low-value strategies which are complex to deliver

Participants should then reflect on the distribution of strategies, and be encouraged to debate, modify, reposition, and possibly remove strategies. This helps the participants create an ordered backlog of strategies.

Setup cadence and move into execution

Since each strategy has a degree of uncertainty, each strategy should be treated as a hypothesis to be proven or disproven through rapid experiments. Therefore, following the workshop, with close support of their leaders and stakeholders, execution teams should test and learn whether the strategies can be achieved.

These strategies should be tested through the innovations, products and services built by the execution teams. A Lean Startup approach should be employed utilising concepts such as the Minimum Viable Product. In partnership with the workshop participants, teams should be disciplined and ruthless in discontinuing ideas which don’t meet the strategic objectives.

A possible set of evaluation criteria can be the one described by the Ash Maurya:

  • Desirability: The innovation, product or service solves a problem for the beneficiaries of the product or service
  • Viability: The innovation, product or service fulfils its strategic objective
  • Feasible: The innovation, product or service can be built and sustained
Ash Maurya (leanstack.com)

Another set of criteria could be testing for problem-solution fit and product-market fit.

A final stage of the workshop is for the participants to agree on how to brief and support execution teams to address two or three strategies from the top of the strategy backlog.

The continuation of existing strategies, innovations, products and services should be judged against their alignment to the vision and its measures of success.

A pivot is a change in strategy without a change in vision

Eric Ries

A cadence structure should be agreed and set-up for the participants to regularly meet, review and adjust the strategic fit to the vision. This should be done in union with the execution teams.

To ensure on-going alignment and support for execution teams, execution teams should be encouraged to make use of visual management techniques which demonstrates how their current and future work is testing the agreed strategies. The Cone-shaped Backlog is one such visual management technique.

The cone-shaped backlog ensures alignment to the vision, strategies and measures of success

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

Cynefin A&E game workshop

The Cynefin framework

Cynefin is a sense-making framework created by Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge. The framework allows people to make sense of a situation, to understand its context, and determine the appropriate course of action.

Its application is vast and profound. It offers teams, leaders and policy-makers a tool to determine the nature of a situation with guiding decision-making models.

The Cynefin A&E game

To help teams understand the Cynefin framework and consider how it can relate to their environment, Dean Latchana has created the Cynefin A&E game workshop.

The workshop’s game is based on a fictitious Accident & Emergency ward (aka Medical Emergency Room). The players are presented with different scenarios where patients arrive in different medical conditions.

The players use the Cynefin framework to decide how best to manage each situation; this is challenging because of the limited time and resources. Complexity emerges from their decisions and from an interaction of events. Therefore players need to use the dynamics of the Cynefin framework to handle emerging scenarios.

Learning outcomes

Players work together and use the Cynefin framework to manage various scenarios in an unpredictable environment. The game is designed to show how the framework can help teams understand the nature of complexity so they can better handle known or unknown situations.

The game scenarios are designed to relate to situations common to the players’ reality. The workshop introduces complexity theory, practice and application to help individuals gain better situational awareness and make more prudent decisions.

Some practical applications

  • Competitive awareness and response
  • Appropriate leadership & management styles
  • Understand the nature of today’s management challenges
  • Governance, policy and practice creation
  • Planning, risk management & product development
  • When to, and when not to, provide estimates
  • Refining the backlog and testing assumptions
  • Avoiding groupthink
  • Incident response

How to run the workshop

The workshop material is available in the Creative Commons, so you can run the workshop yourself. I’d ask that you acknowledge Dave Snowden, who developed the Cynefin framework, and give recognition to me (Dean Latchana) who created the workshop.

It’s advisable that you contact me to take you through the workshop and material, and consider whether you’d like me to facilitate the workshop and teach the theory. Here are the slides from a workshop run in 2019.

Importantly to run the workshop for commercial purposes, you need to become a premium member of Cognitive Edge, the consultancy which owns the rights. I am a premium member of Cognitive Edge, so I have the rights to use their tools commercially.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
Cynefin A&E game workshop by Dean Latchana is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Photos from previous workshops