“Transformation is never small, but there are two clichés you can’t ignore — time kills all deals and you can only eat the elephant one bite at a time.”
– Chris Havrilla
I am sure when people look at my resume, bio, or profile they probably think, what happened here? Is she technical or is she functional? Those with pessimistic eyes may think she can’t decide who she is, and those with more optimistic eyes may think there is someone who can successfully reinvent herself repeatedly, however the reality is, I am simply a problem-solver.
I have worn many hats in many scenarios and there are some simple truths when it comes to solving problems and getting results and I have continued to use processes and methodologies like design-thinking and agile throughout my whole career, because it is what I know and it works. This is not meant to be a primer, more to promote the idea of thinking differently and why.
The technology, tools and vendors keep changing and evolving as do the challenges that businesses face economically, politically, culturally and demographically. However, the conversations and challenges year after year continue to be the same in our space. And many are implored to chase the latest “solutions” trying to stay current while keeping the lights on and the fires out, yet the problems seemed to have remained the same no matter what gets implemented.
It is time to focus on the actual problems that the tools and the tech don’t solve so we can start getting the efficiencies, insights, and outcomes from them, as we expect. Our profession needs a different approach on how to get projects, programs, and initiatives over the finish line. This has to be achieved in a focused, designed, proven and well-funded approach that can be implemented, adopted, and drives results. It is not as simple as buying the latest and greatest tool. But you can employ things like design thinking and agile to discover the real problems and then design solutions, get them implemented and adopted along with the tools and technology that would drive real results.
“The technology, tools and vendors keep changing and evolving as do the challenges that businesses face economically, politically, culturally and demographically.”
There are many variations of these methodologies to help in discovering and validating new ideas. Prototypes can be created to gain buy-in and overcoming challenges and objections to deliver and scale, in the most complex organizations. Pick one and use the tools to work the process. Transformation is never small, but there are two clichés one can’t ignore, time kills all deals and one can only eat the elephant one bite at a time. Break your projects up into doable chunks to keep moving the needle forward.
How is it done?
The “A” Team:
You need a small, core team of 3-5 at most. Fight the urge to engage everyone, there will be plenty of time to validate with a wider audience later on. This can’t be done alone either. It requires different perspectives such as thinking about the business, the different functions that are a part of the problem and the solution, and most importantly the customers.
You need to make sure you are solving the right problem and not just a symptom, neither should you be starting with the solution in mind. 99% of the things people hire me to help them do or fix, are not the problems we end up needing to solve – i.e., system(s) broken, needs to be fixed or optimized, need new system(s), systems aren’t integrated (“don’t talk”), not getting the analytics or insights needed, not moving the needle on metrics that matter etc. Then, use tools to work the process. Take nothing for granted, question everything, ask “the 5 why’s” until you are blue in the face, wear people down until you get to the real heart of the matter.
“It is time to focus on the actual problems that the tools and the tech don’t solve – so we can start getting the efficiencies, insights, and outcomes from them we expect.”
Collect data like crazy. You have to look at everything holistically rarely are you on an island or where it is easy to stay solely in your lane, thus cross-functional teams are the reality. Immerse yourself, do not take things at face value and don’t rely simply on what people say. Collecting Information through watching, listening, paying attention, proving it, validating it and learning from it. Be curious, be empathetic, and focus “like a laser” on your customer, which requires a deep insight into who they are – all of them.
Be prepared to go beyond the answers you usually arrive on at first the easy ones, the ones tried before that don’t create waves. Communication, collaboration, curiosity, trust, and openness are all critical to this process. Strive to be different. Keep it simple. Again, use tools and/or a coach to work the process. I love mapping visuals are powerful. Don’t be afraid of “what if’s” they are fun to do in a small team, and in a “no rules or ramifications” design process.
Prototype & Test:
It’s all about being iterative in your approach such as using the concept of sprints, short periods of time to prototype, demonstrate, and test solutions. Fail fast, learn and adapt quickly. This is how you identify changing value propositions along the project life cycle, as well as minimize and mitigate risks, and get to a sound, successful pilot. This will also help answer all the devil’s advocates and road blockers from derailing you when you are presenting your business case for full change/implementation/transformation. Get rid of all the no’s in the process upfront to get to your YES.
Cut down on long meetings, they are troublesome to schedule and rarely get anything done. Opt for short, daily stand-ups or scrums at the same time every day with your core team, and required, so there is never a scheduling hassle. Report out what you did the day before for that iteration or sprint, what you’ll be doing that day, and any challenges in front of you. Accountability to the process and goal, and for what you are responsible, is key.
“Be curious, be empathetic, and focus “like a laser” on your customer, which requires a deep insight into who they are – all of them.”
It is a structured process that is right, I said structure and process. That may seem counter-intuitive to being “outside the box” however you need that to force people out of their comfort zones, to allow them to break free of the old ways, old ideas and old solutions. It will help you find the lines and boxes that comfort or bind them and push them out!
There are several methodologies and variations of steps to try. Don’t be afraid to get help when you first start out. I strongly advise that you do. There is learning, and then there is doing. Seek guidance from someone who has done this successfully before inside or outside of your organization to help you navigate through some of the challenges you’ll face, and pitfalls or shortcuts you may be tempted to take. Believe me, I have tried to test the boundaries too however once you have seen the results and learned from the boundary testing you will appreciate, respect, and work the process going forward on all your future initiatives, regardless of your job title.