What you do is transformative.

“With senior leaders, initially I don’t try to explain how Elevate has helped us work differently. It’s much more powerful to just say ‘we’re working agile’ and share the clearly different results. Our EVPs can see exactly where and how we are delivering on critical programs and integrations, what we’re learning, what needs to change quickly – and importantly, where we are not delivering and need to pivot. We have the confidence that we are delivering and the data we need to make the hard decisions.”  – Executive Director, F50 Health Company

As promised in part one of describing what it is we do here at Elevate (What you do is magic!), here is the “Transformation Advisory” part of what we do.

So you say you want a transformation…
If your business is not delivering value well enough or fast enough, of course you will look at what you can do to change that. These days, you’ll likely consider transforming your delivery capability leveraging one of the methods you’ve read about that has created success for others: Agile or Business Agility or DevOps or Customer-Centric or Cultural or Digital Transformation. The reported results are impressive: improved time to market, quality, customer satisfaction, transparency, alignment, employee engagement, business outcomes.

Regardless of what you call it, these business transformations are designed to improve the flow of value through your organization. They all leverage what we’ve learned in the past couple of decades about how business value flows through and is created by business and software systems.  Why talk about software? Because businesses today depend on software for both their back office / run the business systems and for their systems of differentiation. Put more simply, delivering value to your customers depends on delivering great software. 

However, it’s more than that. The software is just one of the pieces of a great overall customer experience, each created, delivered and assembled by complex-thinking knowledge workers – ideally with all the “parts” coming together to create a complete product your users will value. Unfortunately, each part of every product has invisible value creation flow that hampers ability to see, understand and improve our value delivery to remain competitive.

Elevate helps customers create successful large-scale transformation, making value more visible as it is created. Here’s how we do that:

Getting started: Quantify the cost of your issue
First, look at the cost of your issue. What is it costing you to miss market opportunities? Deliver late? Deliver with lower quality? Have treasured employees leave? If you can’t put an ROI on transforming, you probably shouldn’t do it. Business transformation puts duress on your business system and causes it to slow down before it can speed up. You need to see clearly the reason to go through that pain.

Next:  Visualize the places where value is getting stuck
Note: To effectively map how value is currently flowing through your business system, we need some common language, so we include that here. 

Your Business is a system that is trying to make money by providing some sets of portfolios/products/solutions. How do you describe the primary ways the business makes money, and the primary portfolios or products it provides? Let’s call these your Business Portfolios or Business Products.

If you don’t already have them, Elevate helps you create maps of Business Portfolios / Business Products, including the people, processes, technology, and products it takes to deliver each. These are maps of your Operational Value Streams, specifically your Business Portfolio/Product/Solution-specific Operational Value Streams.

Businesses constantly invest to improve their Operational Value Streams. A map of one of these investments–all the people, processes, technology it takes to deliver an improvement–is a map of one of your Development Value Streams.

We include cycle time metrics in the development value stream maps, an approximation of how long it takes you to come up with an improvement idea, fund it, create it… all the way to your business system or customer recognizing value from the improvement. Cycle time helps us further refine the cost of the issues you’re looking to fix.

Then: Look for the primary constraint keeping you from getting results 
Local optimization doesn’t win the day, and understanding the primary enablers to and the primary constraints of your business system delivering better value is critical. Those enablers and constraints might reside within one or more Development Value streams, or they might cut across multiple Operational Value Streams.

Once you’ve identified those whole-company and portfolio/solution/product-specific systemic bottlenecks, we must, as a leadership team,  prioritize them, and only tackle the most important couple of constraints — so as to not slow down the system too much.

For the past couple of decades, the finger has often been pointed at software systems and products, and that is indeed the first bottleneck in many cases. 

However, in partnering with senior leaders to drive change, we’ve seen that there are three primary areas of breakdown in delivering results; three most common primary constraint contenders: 

1.  Strategy deployment is broken within a senior leadership team.
In this case, the senior leadership team is not a team that is working towards common outcomes, it’s not aligned on priorities, and it’s not making the hard tradeoff decisions together. 

Elevate’s first suggested step towards resolving this constraint: Bring your leadership team together and hash out areas of misalignment. Elevate provides strategic facilitation for these difficult business value prioritization discussions, complete with conflict engagement facilitation to resolve pocket vetoes.

2.  Strategy deployment is broken just below the senior leadership team.
The senior leadership team is aligned on priorities, and acting as a team, but they have either: 

  • created too many priorities within their lines of business, departments, and programs. Too many projects in the system ensure none get done well or quickly. or 
  • not created enough clarity around strategies and prioritized initiatives

Elevate’s first suggested step towards resolving this constraint:  Leadership team members need to be telling the same shared story of prioritized strategies and initiatives, clearly stating and showing what the next priorities are, what work is happening now, what should be stopped, and what should not be started yet. 

Elevate-facilitated working sessions guide and train leadership teams to collectively refine and deliver clarity on strategies and initiatives such that they best resonate, are memorable, and create organizational alignment: Include story form along with with clarity around investment, people, time, and desired leading and lagging indicators.  

3.  Strategy deployment is broken in the development value streams, including software systems
The technology organization is commonly where businesses start transformation as poor results are clearly visible – often to thousands – when a product release or IT project is late (and over budget), when it’s poor quality, when it’s not delivering the needed functionality. 

Elevate’s first suggested step towards resolving this constraint: Make sure the ROI is sufficient to undergo transformation of the development value stream. Delivery will need to slow down for training and planning. Training and planning of the work by the humans who will be doing the work creates the ability of the whole system to speed up and deliver with higher transparency and quality. Elevate’s team of renowned agility experts partner with transformation leaders to advise and co-deliver on large Scaled Agile (SAFe) and DevOps transformations.

So… you say you want a transformation. 
You want improved delivery, improved business results, higher quality products, higher quality solutions from IT. You want to be able to respond to your customers faster. You will need courage to change the system and address the primary constraints causing the results you’re seeing now.  You’ve got this: Isn’t that what you’re paid for as a leader? 

It is. And knowing when to pull in an experienced, expert partner when you need one is part of that, too. Contact Elevate if you’re ready to change your business world and results through successful transformation.