Decide Fast, Learn Fast, Win Fast


Ready to Unleash Your Transformation? Focus on Decision Making.

How many time has this happened to you? Its Monday morning, and you just logged into your weekly staff meeting when you get an urgent call from senior management. They want you to call them immediately, join their conference call or maybe even come to their office to discuss why your company cannot move faster with your projects, change, strategy execution, technology, process improvements, etc.? At least 3 times this month? It happens everyday, and it happened again today. The pace of your change needs to be faster. It will happen again tomorrow! So, what do you do? For starters, I propose you start with your decision making.

A company can only move as fast as they make decisions. The effectiveness of decision making is like the speedometer for your project, change initiative, strategic endeavor, etc. If decisions are slow, your transformation will be slow. If decisions are fast, your company will be able to move forward faster. Decisions create actions that translate into tasks for people in the company to complete. No decisions, no actions, no tasks, no completion.

DecideFastLearnFastWinFastIn Leading Successful Change, authors Shea & Solomon propose to change an organization you need to change behavior. They elaborate further to describe 8 levers of change, one of which they describe as decision allocation. Simply put, think of this as “who decides what, and where?” There are models available to help you structure the decision making process. I personally prefer the DACI model: Driver, Approvers, Contributors, Informed because it is simple and emphasizes accountability in the role of Driver to make the decision happen.

Before we go rushing off to “just make more decisions, faster”, lets consider some drivers behind slower decision making. When companies lack action, they are indecisive. Indecision can be caused for may reasons including but not limited to: not enough information, too much information, and unclear roles and responsibilities. Said another way, people hesitate to make decisions because they fear the decision will not have the required quality demanded by the company.

This balance of speed vs quality can be challenging. Consider the classic 2×2 above to assist with guiding actions to improve your decision making. If you find yourself with fast decision making, but low quality, focus on learning faster from your low quality decisions. If you find yourself with high quality decisions but too much time to make them, focus on deciding faster by embracing more risk.

Make no mistake, if you make decisions faster you improve your company’s ability to move forward faster. Have you heard the old saying “Win Fast, Fail Fast“? While it is very applicable in this context, I prefer “Decide Fast, Learn Fast, Win Fast”. If you make decisions faster, and they truly lack the quality you desire, engage your learning capability and dial your learnings back into a new decision to ultimately win faster.

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Organizational Capability for Transformation


Navy File Photo - President of the U.S. Naval ...
Image via Wikipedia

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” – Admiral John Stockdale, USN.

How do you align the business with IT? How do you confront the reality of a business strategy when it represents a threat to the status quo? How do you align that direction with a portfolio of projects that incrementally deliver on the desired change? In order to transformation a business, company, division, or team, you need to assemble many disciplines and techniques including but not limited to: business strategy, enterprise architecture, project management, personal development, communication, and training.

There are many books, white papers, and commentary on business strategy, project management, change management, IT governance, and organizational design. However, I rarely see any transformational thought leadership that describes these concepts as organizational capabilities, or services that work together in unison. When teams have raised their capability to deliver multiple skills like this, they position themselves better for success.

In order to transform an organization, the organization needs to position itself for success by building the capability to change, or transform. Too frequently, leaders assemble only one or maybe two of the disciplines listed above to deliver significant change. Calling on Admiral Stockdale’s profound leadership, transformational leaders should have confidence in the 1 or 2 skills they have brought together to drive change, but they should also confront the reality that most transformations fail. Have you assembled all the skills and capabilities you need to be successful with your change? What additional capabilities does your team need to better position you for success? Confront your reality and adjust  your team to bring more transformational capabilities to the table.

Integrating an Enterprise Strategy and “The Agile PMO”


Blue Heron Bridge - Singer Island, Florida

The Agile PMO Role

So how do you integrate enterprise strategy and corporate performance into an agile delivery model? On one hand, the enterprise strategy and corporate performance require stability, predictability, and a high degree of structure, much like the Blue Heron Bridge in Singer Island, Florida. On the other hand, agile techniques are extremely useful with adjusting and reacting to uncertainty by creating highly collaborative environment and pushing decision making into daily scrum meeting / calls between project stakeholders. In my experience and discussions with companies and teams in this space, many view this as a holy grail. The article linked above by Tamara Sulaiman at Gantthead does a fine job of positioning a classic organizational capability, an Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) within an agile construct, and offers several ideas on how to make it work.

In particular, what I like most about this article is the clarity around specific activities and capabilities that could be put into place to make an Agile PMO live within a company. The most interesting capability in the Agile PMO is the meta-scrum. The article go on to say “the Meta Scrum is focused on the strategic planning and decisions guiding the program or programs as a whole. Establishing a Meta Scrum with the PMO representative acting as ScrumMaster to plan and facilitate meetings (as well as reporting and tracking decisions and action items) can add significant value in having a program able to rapidly respond to change while staying true to the corporate strategy and objectives.”

If you are leading a business transformation, implementing a corporate strategy, delivering a large program, or managing a project with multiple sprints, I see the following critical success factors for integrating agile within an enterprise strategy:

  • Articulate your strategy in a manner that is culturally acceptable for your company.
  • Decompose the strategy into a series of initiatives / programs / projects / sprints that can be understood by your company with traceability from the top of the company down to the first line employee.
  • Establish enough of a management system that embraces agile concepts at the daily execution level while gathering the basic information that will allow you to answer the hardest strategic level questions from your CEO. Basic elements that I propose include but are not limited to: corporate goals, programs / projects / sprints / tasks, employee hours worked on a weekly basis, & capital vs expense delineations.
  • Define and allocate executive level ownership of the corporate goals, programs, projects, sprints, tasks and associated budgets to move decision making as close to the source as possible.
  • Tooling to implement your management system so that you are not running your business in Excel spreadsheets.

In the end, you want to create a corporate ecosysem, think of this as a culture and management system,  that mimics the structure and stability of the Blue Heron Bridge (aka the enterprise) while allowing the daily variability and agility of the underlying ocean of change to ebb and flow (the people, programs, & projects).