How to navigate the “Path to Value” without getting derailed by trivialities
I frequently use the phrase “Path to Value” to describe the approach organizations need to take in order to ensure they maximize the value they get from their transformational efforts. Large scale modernizations, enterprise architecture efforts, and enterprise projects all have a tendency to get derailed in the minutia and details of execution. Getting where you want to go means staying laser focused on the big picture while carefully navigating the line between responsible deviation and unreasonable scope creep. The Path to Value for me embodies an approach to project and organizational thinking that begins and ends with a focus on value. Methodologies are great, best practices are helpful, but the most important thing you can focus on is your own organizational value. One of the great things that has come from the proliferation and acceptance of best practices has been that there is a broad market of patterns and methodologies available for executing on almost any type of transformational effort. The down side is that none are tailored for your organization and while many have a host of highly competent, exceptionally intelligent, and dedicated folks maintaining them, they are often overly complete. By this I mean that most of these are developed over time to address broader and broader problem sets and subtract more and more detail away in an attempt to fit the broader pattern. I say all of this because while I believe in best practice and the judicious use of methodologies and standards, I also believe these are guides, templates, and starting points and that they should always be bound by a common sense approach that puts value first.
Following “The Path to Value” means always looking for the value of the intended activity for the organization. One of the reasons I’m such a big fan of organizations focusing on their Operating Model as a starting point for implementing a decisions support structure is that it enables organizations to significantly reduce the amount of unnecessary and duplicative governance they have in place, while enabling the same at the appropriate level for the organization. The same can be said for my belief in a “Thin Layer” of information that provides just enough to facilitate decision-making and reduces unnecessary burden and cost to maintain the information necessary to make decisions. All of these are born out of my belief that the “Path to Value” is about maintaining the simplest possible process and informational structure necessary to support your efforts. If you apply this approach to enterprise projects and transformation efforts I think that you can better stay on the Path to Value by following three simple rules:
- Think big, start small, and scale fast: This is General Meyerrose’s maxim for organizational value and I believe it is a core principle that will help you stay on the path to value. The idea of thinking on an enterprise scale but proving your point via proofs of concept that can then be scaled rapidly is a powerful one that draws on practical experience but also has roots in current research into organizational innovation.
- Move in Sprints, Measure in sprints: I am a big believer in managing performance via metrics and I think there is a place for high level performance metrics. However, transformation efforts need short term goals and objectives to stay on course. Setting goals farther than six months out creates targets that are perhaps too far away to be meaningful and often have to be abstracted to the point where attainment can be gamed. Metrics that are inside of 90 days provide real insight and make better targets for teams. I know that for myself as a semi-reformed procrastinator, that a goal that is six months away can often be put off until tomorrow.
- The Path to Value needs light: The more open to the outside world a project is, the more likely it is to succeed. Producing or attempting to produce value in shorter increments and exposing them to stakeholders outside the project team leads to higher quality finished products that are better received. Getting feedback as you move through a projects’s execution ensures that stakeholders are not surprised by the final delivery and enables them to shape it as it moves through the project life cycle. Obviously, this path can lead to scope creep if not properly managed, but I think the chance to engage and get buy-in along the way coupled with the chance to make minor course corrections in flight is well worth the risk to your scope.
Those are my three keys to staying on The Path to Value. How do you keep your teams working on the things that are really important? How have you tailored a methodology to meet your requirements?