Recently, I was asked the age-old question by a senior leader, "If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?"
My immediate response (a politically correct one) was that we all make decisions based on information that is available at that point in time. Regardless of the path you choose, what's more important is being able to adapt quickly when you see the signs.
More often than not, it's difficult to see the forest through the trees. We always start with good intentions -- the new kid on the block -- and sometimes we get caught up in the day-to-day delivery, that we lose sight of the bigger picture. This is where taking the time to step back, reflect and pivot, becomes of crucial value.
As the conversation continued, the notions of readiness and appetite became the topics of discussion.
Translating this into the ADKAR model of change, I would align these notions to that of the Awareness and Desire for change.
Establishing a state of readiness
For me, awareness must go deeper than simply building an understanding of the need to change. Senior leaders must acknowledge that a current condition exists, be able to relate to the problem and accept that there is potential for improvement. With acknowledgement and acceptance, comes a state of readiness.
Let's look at an example. For many Agile transformations, the reasons for the change are based on strategic objectives, such as, improving customer satisfaction or enabling faster delivery. Often these are articulated as short, high-level statements of intent. If a senior leader feels disconnected to those goals on a day-to-day basis, despite being able to understand the need for organisational change, they are less likely to truly accept the need for their own division to change.
To establish readiness, some questions to be asked of senior leaders might be:
- How do they personally relate to the transformation objectives?
- How might their area be able to help achieve the goals and to what extent?
- How does the stated problem impact their area of responsibility?
An appetite for change
Transformations can be challenging at the best of times. There are definitely some good days and days that don't feel as progressive. Motivation to change though, can be a crucial driving force when things don't quite go as planned. This is where a team's resilience is tested, how they rally together to keep going if things get a little tough.
For transformations to be successful, desire isn't just about the willingness to change though. There needs to be the right level of perceived benefit or possible consequences at all levels, in order to gain the commitment necessary for change. Put simply, there's got to be enough gold at the end of the rainbow.
Understanding a stakeholder's appetite for change, might require questions such as:
- How might their area benefit from the transformation?
- Putting constraints aside, how willing would they be to commit to the transformation?
- If they could, what alternative improvements would they rather invest in?
So, where to begin?
There are a number of ways you can prioritise which value stream to start working with. A common approach is finding the path of least resistance -- the quick win.
To do this, we can plot the individual streams on a value and complexity matrix. Those that are of high value and low complexity could be suggested as a good starting point.
Let's consider then, how value is defined. Quite often value is indicated by metrics such as customer satisfaction scores, revenue numbers or total cost of ownership.
It is less common to consider potential growth in this equation, due to the difficulty in quantifying the gap. The question then is, where do you invest?
Using the Product Owner's mindset, in order to maximize the value of transformations, an alternative view is to perhaps prioritize areas that have both a high level of current value and the greatest potential for future value (aka the Stars of a BCG Matrix). Complexity could be used as a third dimension. This would ensure that we are transforming value streams where the benefit far outweighs the effort needed.
By doing so, there's a greater opportunity to maintain momentum and maximize benefit realisation. This doesn't suggest that resistance will not be met. The flipside of an already performing value stream, comes with the complacency to critique one's own performance and the added perceived risk in changing the ways of working.