Ways of Working in an “Open Everything” World

Is your organization still trying to open up digital capabilities with a closed organization mentality and culture? If so, I feel your frustration!

Opening your business by transforming it through technology requires an approach that goes far beyond acquiring, building, and implementing new tech solutions.

For those digital champions, the hard work centers around your organization’s ability to change to open ways of working. In other words, to open everything and make your business consumable, individuals need to be truly “open to everything.”

Does it follow that the nature of work has changed in the digital age? Yes and no. Work has traditionally been thought of as all about getting things done. Lean, Six Sigma — these revolutionary approaches were all about reducing the amount of WIP — Work In Progress to increase the stability of workflow.

What really needs to change in most organizations is to stop focusing on rewarding ways of working that quantify inputs and start operating in a way that is based on metrics that measure business outcomes.

A world of open digital platforms presents the exciting prospect of people in businesses everywhere improving their ways of working. Platforms will make it possible for employees to work where they want and when they want. This is because the digital platform is where business and technology models converge.

For many of us, the platform is the place to show up every day, we log in instead of making a commute, checking into an office, and getting on with “the workday.”

Letting the Vision Guide Your Work

Working more effectively is much easier when there is a company vision that everyone not only can articulate but can get behind and feel part of. Vision defines the priority and the definition of value and success to everyone in the organization.

If any activity does not contribute to increased value that leads to the achievement of the vision, can it even be called productive? I work with so many companies that are just spinning their wheels when it comes to digital strategy because the vision is not driving what individuals do on a daily basis.

Without a vision, there can be no strategy. A sound strategy, supported by executive management, can make everyone in the organization feel like they are working toward a much bigger goal than just getting through a daily task list.

That’s why technologies like APIs that bridge the gap between business outcomes and innovative technology are being embraced at the center of digital strategy everywhere.

Interactions and the Co-Creation Mindset

Shifting mindsets in a large organization is a huge task. The temptation to mandate sets of prescriptive practices is undeniable but one size rarely fits all in our complex and distributed digital world. I had the pleasure of working in a large team headed by Jonathan Smart, an innovator in enterprise agility.

Jon espouses applying the VOICE pattern to show the way for more agile interaction and co-collaboration. VOICE involves the following elements:

  • Values & Principles
  • Outcomes
  • Intent-Based Leadership
  • Coaching
  • Experimentation

Ways of working that reduce or eliminate handoffs should be adopted. Just like running a relay — colleagues might be running together for a brief moment with the baton but it would be better altogether if that transfer could happen instantaneously and automatically with the same degree of consistency every time.

This is where athletic relay races are won and lost, sometimes in dramatic fashion as collaboration breaks down and the stick is disappointingly dropped.

It’s useful to think about “co-creation” as the next level of collaboration. All stakeholders can be involved in the product management process. Thinking about the reality of workflow in large enterprises, they truly operate as a “pipeline of pipelines.”

This means the drive for removing handoffs needs to happen both at a team level and an overall pipeline level from team to team.

We see one pipeline in which business operational decisions are made to use technology as an advantage against competitors are to launch innovative products. We see another pipeline in which product designs are specified and information is sourced to deliver those products.

We see a third pipeline in which those products are built and deployed or released to the marketplace and then monitored to ensure they perform as expected.

To remove handoffs within and across this pipeline of pipelines, steps should be taken to make sure that individuals don’t get tunnel vision and can gain an understanding of being part of a bigger effort. This is an agile mindset. Joydip Kanjilal outlines four ways to minimize hand-offs:

  • Build a better communication structure
  • Minimize the loss of knowledge
  • Be more transparent
  • Size teams appropriately

Notice that these are cultural in nature more than anything else.

Are We Getting Better?

As the organization adopts new ways of working, we come back at last to the notion of measuring if new ways of working are getting the desired business outcomes.

Look at defining and tracking KPIs beyond operational ones. Look to the product management world for inspiration. Go beyond measuring the amount of stuff getting checked off backlogs and task lists. Ways to do this include:

  • Take local measurements at the team pipeline level, as well as those that cut across the whole digital product delivery pipeline.
  • Make sure a common definition of the value proposition is developed jointly by business and technology teams and is understood by everyone in the value chain across the whole product life cycle from planning, design, building, and operating.
  • And don’t forget about important metrics like customer satisfaction (NPS) and employee engagement improvement.

These cultural indicators will really tell you if new ways of working are making you more open and an easy company to work with. Making the changes to new ways of working will improve the daily experiences of your customers and your colleagues and that is what will make the difference between being a follower or a leader in the digital race.

It’s time to Open Everything.

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