For organisations to compete in the disruptive digital age everyone understands time to market is essential. Despite this, within large organisations (in my opinion and experience) there is still too much focus on traditional delivery techniques and the all too common analysis paralysis - as projects strive for perfection and zero risk remains a priority.
As a result, we see that organisations are often left delaying not only the commencement or release of the product, but even the critical pilot stage, which in itself would give the confidence required to gain vital knowledge.
Speed matters because it helps us build confidence, momentum and places a more customer focussed approach at the centre of every project. Delaying often dilutes the very purpose a project was initiated in the first place. This is an argument for doing stuff and getting going now.
Imagine the value the business would gain by simply starting and then iterating towards an outcome?
The business gets to see what the outcome might look like much earlier - ensuring satisfaction. The ability to find risks or more often remove technical challenges is placed front and centre. The most important benefit is arguably in being able to start to obtain the essential customer (internal or otherwise) feedback to enhance the overall success and quality of the product realised. In the past I, have seen this pilot approach work well within the Retail environment where as an industry time to market is at its most critical.
So what is it that prevents us from delivering with a focus on value? Here are my thoughts….
- Firstly, the fear of failure can stop us from moving forward and achieving our goals. Organisations place huge pressure on themselves and their suppliers to produce something which is perfect first time around. Penalties are so severe that time taken to reach scope and deliverables is excessive and very costly. Fear of failure is frequently driven by hierarchical organisation structures focused on dates and cost rather than value and customer satisfaction. I believe this requires consideration into incentives and objectives of the management team to ensure that the team are driven to the right outcome.
- Secondly the financial forecasting processes and capitalisation rules of organisations do not allow for iteration and continued adjustments to direction. A change in processes to limit commercial barriers is required to allow an iterative flexible way of working whilst having appropriate checks and balances in place. In some cases, I have seen it take years to commission a piece of work - having a more flexible process to allow iterative approval would allow commencement of work and discovery of issues early.
- Thirdly I believe empowerment of the team is the single most important factor to succeeding. Problems will always occur - it is inevitable in any project. Enabling the team to take control and plan for failure is critical. Rather than manage the project - a shift to leading the project is required. Leadership must remove unnecessary concerns and enable the team members to play to their strengths. Innovation and challenging the norm must be rewarded.
My view on how to achieve a common-sense approach ….
- Use your leadership skills to review and assess the positives and negatives from transitional and agile delivery techniques.
- To ensure customer satisfaction set up the project to allow for customer review and engagement as early in the process as possible.
- Challenge who your customer really is. Think as a start-up would with a minimal viable product release approach and then manage customer expectation.
Whatever method you decide to take - empower yourself and the team, feel the fear but start anyway. The benefits of starting in an iterative manner far outweigh the paralysis that stifles too many projects.