Every executive is familiar with the hours long weekly meetings where senior leaders report to the CIO. When the world is rapidly changing and whole divisional silos and teams work remotely, comprehensive formal reports are good but outdated by the time they’re written. The cost of delay of only a few days can mean significant differences in realising valued outcomes.
Importantly, formal reporting lacks the specifics of what is impacted if we don’t pivot, what outcomes won’t we achieve, and what outcomes need to be delayed. Gantt charts might relate the activities occurring and their milestones, but they fall short in terms of providing this kind of transparency.
Whilst siloed reporting may give a comprehensive deep dive into initiatives, it doesn’t provide executives with the much needed transparency to help them see strategic view of the organisation’s key initiatives in order to make decisions on what is valuable and where they should invest and concentrate delivery efforts. How do you move from a traditional management reporting style to one where value and collaboration between executives is front and centre?
Transparency is key
Transparency of value is a key enabler in breaking down the siloed view of traditional reporting. Traditional reporting practices don’t provide a mechanism for executives to visualise all the initiatives they’re responsible for.
The CIO came to us with a problem – she needed greater transparency of work being done across the division and wanted to make sure that teams were focused on the highest value work rather than continuing to work only on one particular product in their branch silos. She wanted to implement a faster and easier way to be updated on what value was being delivered by the Division rather than just looking at the branches individually so that the Executive as a group could make informed decisions on business priorities from a whole of organisational value perspective.
Prioritise by value
A single backlog was needed to have a whole of division view of all the work being done across the branch. The General Managers formed an Executive Action team to develop the single prioritised backlog. It became apparent that one branch had a majority of the high priority value work in the ordered backlog and that some divisions were extremely busy but that their teams were working on lower value work. This gave the executive the ability for the first time to be able to discuss relative rank order and value and as a division, make decisions based on value to the organisation rather than just the individual branch.
We focused the group on the value that was being sought by the division and how this value required the combined efforts of multiple branches to truly be realised. With this in mind the focus was shifted from individual project and program level outputs to value delivered by the entire division. We also looked at how to cross skill people across the division so that teams in branches with lower priority initiatives could be diverted to work on high priority initiative across branch lines and functional silos.
Focus on outcomes not activity
Teams were busy but we needed to ensure that teams were working on the right things to deliver value and achieve the organisation’s outcomes rather than working on projects that whilst kept the teams busy, were of lower priority to achieve the strategic initiatives. The focus was shifted to outcomes based on value rather than activity based metrics. We utilised Evidence Based Management metrics to help guide the Executive Action team and what measures were applicable to assess outcomes and impacts of their strategic initiatives and how measure the value realised when the outcome was delivered.
We established an ‘outcome wall’ outside the CIO’s office to help keep the focus on strategic alignment and outcomes rather than outputs and activities. The executives would meet outside the CIO’s office to discuss the priorities and value rank into one combined divisional backlog. This was also a visible sign to the agile teams that their leadership was also working as an agile team and living the agile values and mindset.
Within 2 sprints the Executives were functioning well as an Executive team rather than working in silos. Conversations between the executive team are now more targeted and address the CIO’s concerns about what value is being delivered from the whole division. The focus is on value and outcomes rather than outputs – and is quickly highlighting issues they can be resolved from a whole-of-division perspective instead of just within their own branches.
This is the first time the organisation has transparency of all the work within the Division and this visibility is enabling executives to make strategic decisions on where effort, resources and people should be focused to deliver more value to the organisation. Testament to the success of these meetings, the COO is now also attending the meeting as a succinct and effective way of ensuring value is delivered by the Division.