As stated earlier, COVID-19 impacts are rightfully creating nervousness in many boardrooms. The step of visualizing and prioritizing the impact of new initiatives was already discussed in my previous blogs. Is that enough? Probably not; even with the quickest possible portfolio rebalancing, for some directors it will still feel like they are losing time: "Sure, we needed to prioritize, but bottom line we didn’t get started by now”. Only human.

So what’s next ? As stated in the HBR article “Roaring out of recession", a lot of focus should and will often be on projects in the area of Operational Excellence and Market Development. Both are on different sides of the P&L (less cost versus more revenue) but also share a lot of characteristics :

  • Value of each project should be crystal clear and measurable
  • Speed of value delivery is very important
  • In an uncertain world, sponsors know there is business risk and want to reduce that risk as soon as possible
  • These projects often need the best business experts of the company, dedicated

So how to get all of the above, more and better than you received it in the past ? By increasing the frequency of reporting (“I want a report every day !”)? Again, Dear Corporate PMO or Portfolio Manager, you better get prepared for questions on "what to do" ? And your answer better goes beyond “I told you more than a year ago that we should transform into a more lean-agile organization…”

The need itself to increase your agility won’t transform you into an agile organization in 3 months, so what can you do? Like many organizations since COVID-19 suddenly want to do a digital transformation in 3 months, you can’t do an agile transformation in 3 months neither (some Big Four firms might promise you that and even show a full script to do so but Threon won’t, sorry for that).

But never let a good crisis go to waste! Use this special times to test what lean-agile techniques you can bring into your organization on a smaller scale, potentially starting with only 1 strategic project or 1 team where the needs for agility is the highest. With the right people and the right guidance it can bring you the quick value you are expecting and before you know it you might be scaling it to a second or third strategic project.

Ready to give it the try? Let’s see which lean & agile principles we can apply very quickly!

5 Tips to boost project speed & effectiveness using lean-agile techniques

  1. Direction – Value expectations should be crystal clear
    Whatever you might have heard about agile, at least remember one thing : it does not mean “having more time to define what I want to achieve and being able to change my mind all the time”. Now more than ever it is key to start from sharp objectives, whether you call it a Lean business case, Preliminary Problem statement, Project Charter … the name nor the format matter. But avoid that the team itself has to find out and describe the objective!
  2. Step out of the stable organization & processes, even if you at first only do it for this 1 project or team
    John Kotter did a great job describing how to combine Stability & Speed in his must-read book “Creating the guiding coalition”. If you want to really test agile principles, than dare to take one strategic project (team) outside the standing organization :
    1. Reduce the organizational levels between those who defined the goals and those who execute.
    2. Remove all barriers that avoid the team from focusing on value creation (procedures, reporting, etc.)
    3. Don’t change your stable organization… change the organization for this single team
  3. Build and dedicate a Cross-Functional team
    If you selected a top priority for this pilot, than dare to put your best team on it, even if only for a well-defined period of time. Great results can be achieved on a short run if you put the right set of capabilities (business, process, IT, …) very closely together. Check the collaboration skills, adaptability & intrapreneurship of every team member and let them get organized! Towards the goals you have set !
  4. Create a sense of urgency and set your time horizon at maximum 3 months
    In order to quickly convince your organization to go for some of the prerequisites above (Separate structure, dedicate key people,…) it will be relevant to put your evaluation (& value) horizon short enough. Constant flow of value is anyway at the core of Lean & Agile principles and will put a clear focus within the team.
  5. Invest in your people, not in tools & techniques
    Don’t reinvent the wheel : lean & agile best practices are there and they are ready to use. So if you get any guidance on this, let your first team be coached by someone who knows the best practices and apply them immediately on a specific project. Don’t lose time discussing what techniques to use. Go with the flow and just do it !

The challenge on this one is in the mindset rather than in the techniques to be used. Convince your Senior Management to try this on one strategic project as an alternative for micro-management.

Problems convincing them or doubting yourself on how to get started? Contact us and let's discuss your challenges!

Tom Dedecker

Tom Dedecker
CEO Threon

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