If you can change the way that you behave, then you can start to experience the world in a different way. That then changes the way that you think. In this engaging talk from Mind the Product London 2017, Barry O’Reilly shows that this is almost always what needs to happen when we look to develop organisations. It’s rarely people that are the problem, but usually the systems that sit around them.
Currently, the management processes and systems we employ don’t match the speed and complexity of the market we operate within. Methods such as annual performance reviews, quarterly planning and budgeting just do not allow us to react with the speed that’s required to operate a business in an efficient way.
Big companies often think that they will avoid the fates of others that fail to progress through a mobile app or well-funded disruptive idea. At the heart, the issues usually are related to rewarding outputs and not outcomes.
Closing the Delivery Gap
80% of companies think they’re providing a superior proposition, according to Closing the Delivery Gap, the well-known 2005 survey from Bain and Co. Only 8% of their customers agreed. This is the gap that organisations have to close if they’re going to be successful. Customer experiences are not a nice to have, they have to be at the heart of the organisation’s strategy.
Some of Barry’s underlying findings from working with high-performing organisations that try to address this issue include:
- Technology is a strategic capability that allows you to innovate, test and learn more about your customers than ever before
- You need iterative, adaptive working processes and practices to allow experimentation
- By reducing learning anxiety across the organisation you can help people to try new things that will deliver you new value
- The ability to innovate at scale shouldn’t be dependent on a single team – it has to be embedded across and the responsibility of all teams. You have to listen and learn from the lessons of others and then apply them to your own domain.
The Myth of Command and Control
Despite common misconceptions, modern armies don’t actually use a command and control structure. They operate on a “principle of mission” approach that gives them insight into the reasons for their goals. They have truly bought into the outcomes not output philosophy that’s crucial for success.
Analysis doesn’t give you certainty. A two-year roadmap doesn’t give you certainty. An implementation plan doesn’t give you certainty either. Yet organisations continue to insist on all of them – despite them constantly being inaccurate and inefficient. So we need less process, less information and less instructions to create strong, resilient and successful organisations.
Rather than a full year’s plan, some people are moving towards a hypothesis-based method – incorporating something like “We believe that by doing X, then we will see Y, and we will know this is true when Z happens.” This is a great way for leadership teams to illustrate what they believe good looks like, and then letting their teams come up with the solution.
Even the Biggest Changes Need to Start Small
There are no bigger changes than the human behaviours which we are trying to engineer within our products. In order to change these we should look at BJ Fogg’s model. In this model there is an interaction between Motivation and Ability. Things that are easy to do and which feed into peoples’ motivations are much more likely to happen – that is, be triggered. So you want someone to do something for the first time, you need to remove the friction all together and make it very easy to do.
BJ Fogg’s “Tiny Habits” approach encourages people to take a small action following a particular event. In an organisation that has a wasteful meeting-heavy culture, you can get leaders to ask what outcomes people have achieved in the meeting. This will expose any problems you may have, and create a ripple effect that changes behaviour over time.
How to Become Truly Agile
Agility and iteration are not technology approaches, they’re a business strategy. You can apply a hypothesis approach to the mission of a whole business just as easily as you can to a sprint story.
However, you have to start the transformation of your business by looking at yourself, and not other people. Don’t focus on how others operate, look at what you do and how that can improve the organisation. A simple change is to become a better leader by asking better questions rather than trying to come up with better answers.