What you do is magic!

(But I have no idea how to tell my colleagues what it is...)

  “There’s magic in what you do, here, but I don’t know how to describe what it is you do. I just tell them ‘it’s agile for the whole business.’ ”

  “Your team is magic. You have us working better together, as a leadership team. You’ve helped us each grow individually. We are delivering better than ever, with more transparency, alignment, collaboration. We’re having the difficult conversations earlier and creating realistic paths forward.”

  “You’re hands down the best facilitators I’ve ever worked with… but you’re not true facilitators. You masterfully guide us to structure our work differently, focusing on fewer, high-priority outcomes….”

What would you say you do here?
Can you tell what we do, yet? Nope, not many people can. Not from our website. They even have trouble describing it after working with us.

When people ask me what I do for a living, I try to take it to whatever context they’re in. Often it sounds something like:

  –  “I help businesses move to modern ways of operating. We’ve learned a lot in the past couple of decades about how value moves through businesses effectively, and it looks very different from how most businesses are structured and operate today.”
  –  “I facilitate large groups of leaders through difficult decision-making and priority-setting, around creating truly aligned desired outcomes – getting rid of pocket vetos.” I sometimes add, “it’s a lot like large-group counseling, with a goal of delivering the most value to purpose. It’s amazing and fun and sometimes messy.”
  –  “I help large groups of leaders use deliberate practice methods to come together and thoughtfully change their culture.” (OK, this one is typically for the academics.)

What’s the purpose of all this?
At Elevate, we believe in helping humans come together more effectively at work so that they can deliver higher-quality, higher-value solutions faster, and generate outcomes that truly serve their business’ purpose. We believe that healthier, more inspiring work systems create healthier, more inspired humans, and that this goodness is brought back home, into communities, and even used to solve the biggest challenges facing the world today.

So how do you do that?
We have extensive experience–some of the world’s foremost experts–in organizing technology organizations, portfolios, and businesses around value in this modern way. It’s often referred to as Business Agility, Agile Transformation, DevOps Transformation, and/or SAFe Transformation.

We leverage lean-agile principles, business agility principles, to do all the things we do.
We provide strategic, large-group facilitation.
We coach. We guide. We train.
We partner with organizations so that they can do this for themselves, at scale.
Right now we are a services organization, though we have so much love for products here that you shouldn’t hold us to that for very long.

I’m still confused. What does it look like to engage with you all?
We have three primary areas of services:
  1.  Agile Transformation
  2.  Agile Strategy Deployment
  3.  Leadership Coaching

Leadership Coaching often gets included with the others, and I think you can picture that. I’ll describe Agile Strategy Deployment here and Agile Transformation in a following post.

Agile Strategy Deployment
Who engages us for Agile Strategy Deployment?
  –  An executive or senior leader
  –  This leader often owns a line of business or owns delivering on a critical business strategy (which may involve culture change, technology change, promised benefits of M&A, or all three)

What outcomes are they seeking?
  –  Greater transparency into progress on critical initiatives and projects
  –  Confidence that the organization will actually be able to deliver the outcomes
  –  Improved relationships and collaboration across silos
  –  Improved innovation across different parts of the business

How do they know to engage with us?
  –  At the moment, it’s most often because they’ve partnered with us to do this before
  –  or they were a participant in one of our Quarterly Business Planning sessions
  –  or they were a participant in one of our facilitated Critical Initiative Deployment sessions 
  –  or they participated in an Elevate workshop at a conference (likely Agile related)

What does a typical engagement look like?
One of these amazing leaders who is ready for change (and ready to model the change) calls us here at Elevate.

We bring the core leadership team together in a facilitated in-person session to clearly hone the strategy with both story and OKRs. We decide not only on the business outcomes we are aligned on, but also how we want to behave in front of the other leaders we’re about to involve.

We plan an event with the core leadership team and the next couple of layers down. Usually 30-100 people, in person. We do empathy interviews (usually around 15) and meet with key stakeholders to help shape the agenda for our event. We help people prepare for the event, getting ready to make their work visible.

At the event, we do a bit of business agility training. We create working agreements around how we want to practice working differently together. All attendees collaboratively plan the most critical work for the quarter, raising risks and dependencies, identifying areas of duplication (painful!), confusion (painful!) and also areas of innovation and lift (exciting!). We come up with a plan for the quarter that we know is the best we can do at the time. We take these plans back to other parts of the organization to validate and begin executing.

After the event, initiative leads regularly demonstrate finished work to each other and other leaders, key stakeholders. They share what’s going as planned and what’s not, and share what they’re learning – especially from failure. They inspect and adapt the system; continuing to thoughtfully change it together. They practice this new way of flowing value through a business system, this new way of working, coaching each other to help make the change stick.

You mentioned Quarterly Business Planning and Critical Initiative Deployment, what’s the difference?
Both of these are facilitated large-group working sessions as just described above.
  –  Quarterly Business Planning is a facilitated large group meeting of the operational value stream leaders where we do forward planning of the most critical work for a company or line of business. It tends to happen every quarter with the same leadership team, and the work tends to generally land in the same teams and groups.
  –  Critical Initiative Deployment is similar to Quarterly Business Planning, only tied to crucial activities that span multiple portfolios or lines of business. The leaders involved in the critical initiative tend to evolve over time, the meetings may be more frequent for fast-moving initiatives, and the work tends to be more dynamically spread across the company.

Often Quarterly Business Planning at the executive level results in a focused set of strategies and initiatives that flow into Critical Initiative Deployment activities and Quarterly Business Planning for each of the lines of business.

So now you know (a bit better!) what we do
At Elevate, our experts facilitate this process, facilitate these events. We pair with leaders to help deliver on critical strategies and change their organizations for the better. It typically takes about three quarters for an organization to own the process themselves, and it feels GREAT when they do!

That was a lot of words.
And yet, please feel free to contact us if you want more. We love helping create happier, more effective businesses.