I recently spoke at the Digital Transformation (DX) Summit in Auckland, where a key message from many of the speakers was ‘Think Small, Move Fast’.
An Agile Mindset
Technology is an enabler of digital transformations, rather than the goal of them, as now it’s time to digitise or, more than likely, become irrelevant. A recent HBR article suggested that 1 in 3 S&P 500 companies will not be on the list by 2020. Digital experiences must meet your customers’ expectations, which is all about great user experience, listening to their feedback, and delivering things they want, when they want it.
This means that speed to market, quick and free-flowing feedback from real people, and a focus on a seamless experience become essential parts of your strategy. One way of focusing on these three parts is having an Agile Mindset across your organisation.
Agile practices and methodologies already operate with these in mind, but it’s now more important to take these lessons broader than just your delivery teams, into your leadership, your HR practices, your funding models, and everywhere else possible. I have written about this previously.
So what does this mean in practice? It’s all well and good to get a 50-page report from a consultancy firm, telling you all of the issues you currently have and your glorious future if you fix everything. But what really matters is how you begin delivering real changes. That is easier said than done.
7 questions to ask
I have tried to come up with some simple questions you may like to focus on, outside of your development teams using Agile methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban, to help kick off some real progress:
How digitally savvy are your employees? Do your staff have the skills to support any digital changes that may develop for new processes and products? If they don’t know how to use them and why they are important to your business, you may want to look at training on things like social media tools, devices like tablets or new mobiles, or communications tools like Slack, Skype, or Snapchat, which are being used more and more in a business context.
Do your HR policies and hiring criteria reflect your current state, or your future state? You may need people with an Agile mindset to join your company to make sure you get momentum, so are you advertising for those people? Do your reporting lines still work if your people create highly functioning teams with the skills they need to deliver an outcome end to end? A highly functioning team needs to be as self-managing as they can.
Outside of technology, are there any areas of your business that are ripe for change, that may be simpler to engage an Agile Mindset, or less risky? Often the innovation comes from areas you least expect, so challenging people broadly across your organisation to create new opportunities or efficiencies may surprise you with some fantastic new concepts. This may mean talking through some of the key principles of Agile thinking, such as creating small experiments to solve problems, and measuring them to learn what to do next.
Are your layers and layers of constraints stopping you from being fast? I recently asked a client that if the tables were turned, and every rule, process, constraint or mandate was removed explicitly, and then you would have to argue to have them reinstated, how many would actually make it back on the board? It’s an interesting mental exercise to go through, as it really does work out real constraints versus ones that ‘have always been done this way’.
For risk-averse organisations, do you need to apply the same risk profile across the board, or are there areas you could quickly remove some of the risk constraints to get things started? I know there are good reasons that these parameters exist, but sometimes there are innovations that could really push a company into new territory being held back by risk profiles that legitimately apply to sensitive parts of their systems. Rolling off new business units initially can be a good starting point, and giving them a clean remit to do what they need to do works very well in many circumstances.
Do your funding models support agility, or do you need low-level business cases written to gain funding for the financial year? In the latter case, it means many plans must be delivered within that year, regardless of their validity. You may need to consider breaking off ‘some’ portion of your budget for unknown projects that evolve out of customer feedback, and potentially fund small ‘experiments’ to prove their case. If successful, further funding could be allocated to extend functionality. I haven’t known many organisations who can change their funding model in one easy step, but moving towards a more flexible model will add immediate value in improving speed.
Are there any quick wins you can action as soon as possible, and make visible to your organisation? Showing movement, even if it’s small, can begin a new feeling of action, and give people perceived ‘permission’ to begin thinking differently. It creates curiosity, and gets others to begin asking ‘What’s going on here…?’ or ‘How can I do the same thing in my area..?’—Movement shows progress and is something real and tangible.
All in all, beginning is the key, so whatever your digital strategy is, ask yourself a few of these questions and see what you can begin today. You will be surprised how effective it is in creating a mindset that gets you to where you want to be!
Header photo by Beatnik Photos