In this E-Book we will give you some usefull tips and models for building the right foundations for change. With some simple tools you can start building a cohering foundational strategy and set the base for future investments.
There are many books and videos on how to ensure your transformations work. There are many best practises you can apply when exploring new visions, innovations and directions. Shifting your direction to current and future needs is not easy. Especially finding a company wide alignment on the direction you need to take. In my experience a top down approach is fine, but nevertheless the down up approach often leads to misalignment on what improvements the company implements. When I ask a worker what the strategy of the company is, I seldom hear them talk about the Mission, Vision and strategy of the company, but moreover their frustrations about top level not understanding what’s happening on the work-floor. Having worked for quite some large corporates, change was often (not exclusively) led by:
- (New) competitors in the market
- Lost (deals) which we could not fulfil due to missing functionalities
- An operational improvement
- Led by financial benefits (ShareHolder Value, Operational Excellence, etc)
Seldom have I experience real new use cases which were Dynamic, Agile and driven from a customers lens. And this is logical as people have a hard time thinking out of the box. You are confronted with your day to day and seek solutions to solve them. Often the concepts proposed are led by people who have been doing the work and are the expert in their area. However a specific expertise and growth in one area, may not be of any interest for another area of your business. Changing the dynamics of your organisation and how you go to market makes this a challenge as breaking behaviours and rebuilding the new requires all competence centres facing their noses in the same direction. As in a lot of (most) companies initiatives on top level are not part of the focus on the operational level.
In this E-Book I want to talk more about building the right foundations for change. With some simple tools you can start building a cohering foundational strategy and set the base for future investments.
Creating a Focus Pyramid
Applying the right focus for your group, requires a clear view on where to go. A solid idea on your purpose and a clear vision. But what if this view is still a bit blurred? What if you need to come up with a short term plan to ensure continuity? How do you make you company ready for the next step? All valid questions where the focus pyramid can help you with.
The left side of the focus pyramid are the 3 levels of transformation you will need to develop/imporve, and on the right you add the imperatives which you want to develop in your program/portfolio of initiatives. Think about ensuring your service levels improve, digitalise, and measurements. We will talk more about this later.
I’m glad to have been introduced to this method a few years ago, working for company which needed to canalise all the new idea’s. A company who needed to come up with a plan for the future (digitisation) and new use cases for growth. A company with great idea’s and Smart people, but a lack of focus on which ideas the pursue. Does this sound familiar to you? Then this may be a tool for you!
Fast paced market and continuous evolving needs to solve?
Focus on innovation and digitalisation is nowadays a priority. These went from Buzz words, to Must words. What was great yesterday, is old today. Your customers are now re-defining your purpose. They have new needs and new way’s of fulfilling those needs. Companies love the “start up mentality” approach. Which is dynamic, thinking out of the box, new use cases, etc. However when you are not a start up, Your business model is established. Before actually thinking of the new, you’d better make sure your organisation is ready for this start up mentality approach.
The Focus Pyramid supports your company, division or team to align the annual imperatives towards common goals. It helps you focussed on building strong foundations, great insights (Data Management) and a synchronised approach across functional area’s.
There are 3 main stages of execution which we will describe in more detail in this E-Book.
- Foundational (The Core of your company, People, Processes and Systems)
- Collaboration (Synchronise all change initiative to the common goal)
- Execution (Your day to day focus on growth and success of the company)
- It’s imperative that in the alignment process you make sure that the full leadership team is aligned to the investments and improvement area’s. The full team need to make sue they are on board and speak the same language.
- Build a story to your team. The exploration journey you will undertake, It’s a bit of building a story where you believe in, or not. Statistical analysis are fine, but not for the common worker and his/her day to day. Also your customers do not care about the statistics. They believe or not believe in the story. Define you overall purpose objective
- Gather all ideas and concepts from all teams, and align them to the overall purpose. If they do not compliment the purpose, why should you invest.Making sure this alignment is cross the board was key in our transition, branded well and frequent with progression updates.
- Ensure that you deliver in an agile manor and deliver quick wins to gain trust in the new direction. What we missed was having someone managing the portfolio of initiatives. And that resulted in some awkward discussions and miss-alignment. Also the story was not always explained well. Finally what we saw was that although we were progressing, there were limited results which we could communicate. The believe in the direction thus had it’s ups and downs.
Personally I’m thankful that how we engaged resulted in a not so flawless execution. It thought us a hell of a lot and helped us improve as we commenced on our journey. The story was a big motivation, but not enough. The deliverables were implemented at a slow rate, which on itself resulted in other challenges. The most important lessons learned was that we did not implement the right organisation to manage this change. We had one key driver of the change, and a lot of followers. But no one really keeping progression tracked and focussed on bringing it all together.
I will talk more about the organisation you need to build around the focus pyramid later in this E-Book. So let’s take a look at the first component of the focus pyramid and the the alignment on the Foundational Strategy.
Start with your Foundational strategy
The stronger the foundations you build, the stronger the execution of your strategy will be. Foundational strategy should from a portfolio management (1) perspective be driven by People, Process and Technology (you may want to read in to “Get Aligned by Alexander Tuff”).
People are your most valuable asset. Having the right people on the right place, retaining them and understanding the gaps is just as important as assessing if the
Processes you have in place are their to support your business, our force your teams to do things in a certain way. I compare this a bit between financial control processes which are more then often not appreciated from a commercial perspective.
Technology can be an enabler for simplifying and automating repetitive stuff e.g. Chat Bots, Self Service, Online Stores, etc.
From this starting point you should start defining the foundational improvements you need to bring in to play to make your company ready to innovate and excel. It’s important to understand your operational readiness for the new and market requirements you face as a company. Your HR, Finance, operations, Sales & Marketing business partners should be part of this exploration and analysis.
Make sure that you seek continuous Agile improvements throughout the journey. Limit waterfall approach type of projects as they will take too long to actually validate the benefits of the improvements. An Agile approach is important and makes you flexible to amend the target. The data and feedback cycles will help you be more resilient against scope creeps, and agile to amend the direction whenever new data insights are gathered.
Build the right dash-boards and measure based on the success criteria you want to achieve. If that is for instance a better user experience, use feedback and simple rating systems your customers can use to asses and give feedback. If it’s improvement in service or even self service, measure not just the amount of customers using the self service, but focus on the repetitiveness of use. One login does not mean it’s a success. Tangible and intangible feedback is required to under-stand the logic of the data you are gathering. Understanding the success criteria of the projects, and how they fuel the programs and ultimately the portfolio’s, is key in the agile approach.
Do not build dashboards for the purpose of pleasing your superior, build dashboards to understand where you need to go and measure the impact of the imperatives you set to achieve.. it’s not about a happy report, it’s about gaining insights in improvements to be made.
Data is the Oil of today, and the gold of the future…
Knowing the improvement area’s is one thing, measuring success is another. It’s the difference between a high return and a low return. Within the core strategy improvements continuous feedback and measurement of people, processes and systems is key. This foundational agile program is there to make sure continuous improvements are made and synergies and operational excellence is achieved. Freeing up time, resources and budget for your new innovations and solutions. When you do this right, you will be ready to move on to the collaboration stage (Note: the collaboration stage can and probably will start simultaneously, just be wary of focus creep. Deliver small portions and test and measure them well. Update direction or approach when required. And also be wary that your foundations are not being broken by people getting distracted. People like to do new things, and forget that the old need improvements too).
An important note. I have seen many programs and projects using dirty and inconsistent data. A clear outline of how you want to capture data (for instance survey, #social or the data you already have) is advised to be sure you can detract the right information. Defining a strong “Master Data Strategy” is key to separate emotional choices and results, from actual results. The more creative the team, the more results are based on Emotion! This is fine for creative and motivation thinking, but the risk is your throwing away time and money on initiatives which are not leading to growth or stability (e.g. whatever you are looking for).
The principles of a Collaboration strategy
Now the fun starts. You have achieved a stage of readiness to start executing on the program. Understanding your organisation, your processes and the people you have, combined with the correct analytics will make clear where the improvements and enhancements will benefit your organisation, your (potential) customers, and future new explorations. Before I elaborate more on the collaboration strategy, I want to take a side step towards the organisational part of running an Agile portfolio/Program.
Make sure your structure is set to monitor and deliver the imperatives, and monitor scope creeps along the way.
It’s important that you build up the portfolio, programs and projects with a cross functional approach by defining the attributes of the programs you would like to explore. Focus on the different levels of governance you need to put in place to make sure top down and bottom up the Portfolio’s (Mission, vision, Strategy), Related Programs (focus area’s), and the Projects (Execution) are continuously placed back in sync. It’s a bit of a side step, but important that the structure you put in place are a synchronised effort of activities and team involvement on all levels of the organisation.
A top down strategy almost never works. On all levels people need to understand to “what’s in it for me?”. A collaborative strategy is cross functional and involves the key contributors in an early stage. The goal is to create a common synchronised approach where all levels of the organisation contribute to. This requires strong management of deliverables and a coherent end to end strategy across teams and divisions.
Time to start using the data you have gathered..
Having taken the time to measure the experiences you give your customers through gathering data via internal sources and external sources set’s the basis for your future new use cases. Disruptive thinking (buzzword nowadays as many say that, but just a few do) and Design Thinking (you may want to read DesingThinking by Thomas Lockwood) principles (Designing the UX towers solving a problem/need) are now in play.
It will be valuable to start brining fun in to the game and challenging your organisation to come up with new use cases for your products, or even define new use cases. How will you elevate the experiences your customers seek. What are the new trends and solutions which are trending, etc. etc. Your foundational strategy has defined how you can make your foundations stronger, giving you time to focus on the new.
There are quite cool and not too expensive ways to apply gamification in to the journey. Gamification helps create a winning culture behind the change. It supports onboarding team members and the organisation in to the new.
A tool I personally often use during training and working sessions is Kahoot. It’s a simple online quiz tool which drives engagement. I mainly use this after training sessions. Try it. It’s free for testing. You will see more engagement from the people joining the journey.
What to Analyse?
A common approach is to look at the lost deals and figure out how you could have won them by changing or amending existing solutions. Another one which from my perspective is more valuable, is looking at your customers and understanding their needs. Your competitors are all over the existing use cases. So why should you. Do you want to keep competing on existing grounds, or are there new use cases your can find based on existing components? Are you a follower, or do you aspire to be the Industry leader?
As customer experience focussed consultant I tend to focus on understanding new use cases which elevate customers experiences. Often they do not know which pain they have and finding new ones for them to resolve result in to an elevation of their experience. When identifying new use cases we should always look at what we are solving for them.
Understand your purpose?
Without company wide involvement, the challenge will be that you will be ending up with the What and the How, not predominantly the Why. If you are interested in learning more about the Golden Circle approach, I would recom-mend reading “Why” written by the best selling author Simon Sinek who has been a great inspiration to the work we have been doing. Even better, you should read the sequence of the book which helps you pragmatically implement the methodology across teams and organisation. An interesting book which explain that customers buy experiences, not products.
Seek the right collaboration between teams. I’ve seen many examples where innovations where driven from one single team. And later other teams were added to the scope as they are needed for the marketing, the sales, etc etc. The problem there is that the objective may not be theirs. And getting them involved and enthusiastic can take too much time. Early collaboration between the different teams within your organisation is required as they all have a role to play. A strong Portfolio-management approach is advised for the success of the imperatives.
Agile is not just a technical development approach, use it in any change project.
Invest in an Agile proof of concept delivery. And where possible bring this to market to a selected group of key users. You will have bugs and it will not be perfect, but by doing so your ultimate agile development program will lead in to quickly enhancing the functions and marketability of the solutions you are creating. Do not be scared to make mistakes as mistakes elevate the success. I’ve personally made making mistakes an art. It teaches me how to improve and excel in my quest to deliver. The more you learn in this exploration phase, the faster you will achieve a state of production.
Trust and focus are key to the success and team spirit. New solutions for existing problems, and even better, newer solutions for new problems will be found. Finding new concepts and bringing them to market for new pains can deliver a large amount of success and dynamic. Important note is that with every new idea, success motivation is gathered from the quick wins you are able to demonstrate. Do not wait until it’s perfect, but move to bringing it faster in to market and use your customers to make the design perfect.
(As) Seamless (as possible) Execution strategy
I have seen many innovations die in vain. Even if the concept was very good. The challenge with any new innovation or solution, is that you need to find the market for them. In the collaboration stage teams like Marketing and Sales play a key role in defining the launch plan and the target group. But also your operations teams who are the ones delivering the content and solutions, building and maintaining. They play a key role in the total execution strategy. I mentioned this already in the Collaboration Strategy section, but cannot articulate this enough. Engage all teams at an early stage to make sure your flower grows and flourishes, and imperfections are found at an early stage. If one of the teams are not on board, you probably know what the result will be. Also make sure you celebrate successes and keep learning from the things which do not work. Do not be afraid to fail once in while as failure leads to success.
Create the right environment for quick and agile improvements
As with any innovation or new solution you bring in to market, it’s important that the execution is flawless. Some guiding principles to take in account:
- Bigfixing, Make sure you have a good set up for quick fixes
- Enhancements, Ensure you have a separate team for this
- Deliver quick and usable updates every 2 weeks
- Have your next 3-4 sprints already defined, and adapt them based in previous learnings
.The frequent new releases to solution stimulate evolution, drive innovation, and give trust to the end users that issues will be fixed, and new functions will be developed. No release planning means the solution will not evolve. So why should you buy it? It’s going to be old tomorrow. So effectively you are throwing money in the bin.
Strong release management is a must.. A roadmap is a necessity..
How often have you not had a new supplier, without a clear roadmap. My advise is. Do not do business with them!
You will be stuck with something new today, but old tomorrow. Any technology you use should have vision behind them. If not, do not even bother buying it. The more visionary they are, the more visionary you can be. So when executing on new business models, make sure that your suppliers are as visionary as you, or even better. Even more visionary. You on the counter side of things also know that the solution will not be perfect from day one. But at least that vision of your supplier, can elevate your companies vision to new and untouched grounds.
Transformation of a company, a division or a team requires to make sure your foundations are strong. Understanding the gaps within your organisation and deciding what to fix, and what not. Purposeful change comes with a clear statement of “Why”, and followed by a synchronised approach across teams and competences. Important is that you build up a structure which consist out of a portfolio of change initiatives, clear programs which guide these initiatives, and strong project delivery of the sub deliverables. The structure combined with the correct data points, talent and insights, help support an agile approach and flexible design of your imperatives.
A small thank you!
I have learned a lot over this period in time and want to thank one of my old leaders Mr. Tebbitt for bringing this approach to us. Since then I’ve applied to this on different occasions and supported others in this process.It’s no wizard science, but these budgeting processes are the base for everything you do in the next year. And hand holdings like this help drive a focussed team and deliverables.
About d-n-a consulting
D-N-A is a passionate management consulting networking team focussed on purposeful and agile change and program support. We offer a wide range of program and portfolio management support, tailored to the needs of your company. With a strong network and knowledge in/of Customer Experience, Digital, Technical and Organisational change management, we are here to support you during your transformational journey.
Visit our website via www.duchainassociates.com to learn more about us.