I’m often asked how to get executives on board with cultural and process change. It seems that product teams buy into the ideas of lean and agile relatively quickly but convincing management is an order of magnitude more difficult. We’ve discussed several reasons for this in previous newsletters. But let’s just assume that you’ve made your case to management. You were compelling. You collected evidence and proved the value of continuous improvement and customer centricity and management listened. Great, right? It is until the inevitable backlash occurs.
We’re watching this scenario play out in real time and in public with the teams at the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS). For years now, GDS has served as an inspiration to complex bureaucracies, in government and beyond, in the fields of digital transformation, agility, continuous learning and customer (constituent) centricity. If you don’t know the story of GDS, it’s worth digging into it. There’s no shortage of material but if you don’t have a lot of time, this recent summary by Bob Gower at Inc. magazine is a good start.
GDS has transformed how the citizens of the UK connect and interact with their government. In the process they’ve brought previously outsourced services in house giving large swathes of autonomy to dozens of product teams across the country. Sounds amazing, right? You can’t get more bureaucratic than government and if a country on the scale of the UK can change the way they do business, surely any organization can. Except, not everybody’s thrilled. In recent days, an effort has surfaced to dismantle GDS and return the work they’ve been doing back to the consulting companies who’ve been cut out of the loop thanks to GDS’s success.
Change is difficult. And with any change there are winners and losers. We expect the “losers” to take defeat gracefully, evolve and join us in the new reality. This is, unfortunately, an overly optimistic point of view. What then, can a fledgling transformation effort do to ensure its momentum continues and that those displaced by the change eventually join in the transition?
Here are 3 things:
Have you run into a situation where a nascent organizational transformation encountered severe backlash? Reply here and let me know.
Both Sense & Respond and the 2nd edition of Lean UX are now available for pre-order on Amazon. Josh Seiden and I have been busy this summer ensuring both of these books supply your teams with clear tactics and your managers with proven methods for building organizational responsiveness and agility.
The second half of 2016 will be a lot lighter on public events. Here’s where I’ll be for the rest of the year:
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA – August 23 – I’m super excited to visit David Hussman’s DevJam in MSP for a 1-day Lean UX in the Enterprise workshop. We’re halfway sold out with 3 weeks to go. Don’t miss out on my last 1-day event this year in the US.
New York City, New York, USA – Sep 15-16 – This 2-day class is a partnership with my friend Jeff Patton. Jeff is one of the most respected leaders in product discovery and agility and I couldn’t be happier to collaborate with him. You’ll receive your Certified Scrum Product Owner certification from Jeff in this class as well.
Graz, Austria – October 17 – 1-day Lean UX in the Enterprise workshop as part of the World Usability Congress.
Linkoping, Sweden – October 21 – 1-day Lean UX in the Enterprise workshop as part of DevLin conference.
Lean Startup Week, San Francisco, California, USA – Oct 31 – Nov 6 – after several years absence, I’m thrilled to be back at Eric Ries’ premiere Lean Startup event. I’ll be teaching a short workshop and giving a talk.
As always, if you want me to work directly with your company on training, coaching or workshops, don’t hesitate to reach out.
In recent months I’ve begun a new executive coaching engagement with a large financial institution. The work has been intense and fascinating and has taught me as much as I hope I’ve managed to convey to my clients so far. In thinking about the two biggest takeaways to date with that engagement, I keep coming back to the foundational principles in our new book, Sense and Respond.
I’ve witnessed first-hand when an organization truly “gets” this. It’s obvious in their team structures, management practices and most importantly how they charter work for their teams and determine their success. For those organizations not yet on board with these two principles, I urge you to consider them seriously. As Dr. Rita McGrath shared in her book, competitive advantage, barriers to entry and other obstacles that once kept startups out of “traditional industries” have disappeared. These smaller, more nimble competitors now have access to many of the same tools as incumbents. Change is the only way to survive.
Have you seen companies embrace these principles? How?
Last week at the inaugural The Lean Event in Brighton, England I gave a new talk called Scaling Lean: Project, Program, Portfolio. You can see the slides here. In the talk I discussed the challenges of scaling Lean Startup practices in large companies. Despite all the talk of wanting to act like startups and build/measure/learn when it comes time to plan work, disburse budgets and assign work most companies fall back on the command-and-control methods they’ve been using for years. Why is it so hard to scale Lean Startup in big orgs? Can it be done?
In my presentation, I argue that it is possible and frame scaling across 3 dimensions:
While there are many challenges to each one of those questions the root of successful scaling of Lean Startup is not scaling processes. Instead, it’s creating a series of principles for the way you’d like your teams to work and then allowing them to self-organize around those principles. In my presentation I discussed what I believe to be the 4 most important principles for scaling Lean (and Agile) in the enterprise:
The presentation includes many tactics for how to start living these principles. I encourage you to check it out.
What have you seen work in scaling Lean Startup in the Enterprise?
Recently, I did some work with a team, or more accurately a portfolio of teams owned by the same parent company. Each individual team provided similar services but in a different part of the world and, at times, in different verticals. One of the challenges they were facing was leveraging the collective knowledge and continuous learning of all the sub-teams for the benefit of the entire portfolio. While their audiences varied by size and culture (in some cases), their end goals were identical. Here are the top 3 things we discovered that made scaling a learning culture successful across countries, companies and management teams:
These three tactics are a good start to ensuring your distributed teams learn locally and share globally. They reduce duplicate effort and take advantage of the broad footprint your company has to continuously nudge your teams in a more accurate direction for your product or service.
What have you seen work with distributed teams when it comes to sharing knowledge and leveraging similar efforts?