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But first we need to step back and recognize one of the problems. I just spent a few days with a large organization with a great history, who like most of their peers is dealing with new and rapidly evolving external threats. However, their biggest obstacle is internal. What had previously been a strength — their great management processes — now holds back their ability to respond to new challenges.
Companies Run on Process Once upon a time every great organization was a scrappy startup willing to take risks — new ideas, new methods, new customers, targets, and mission. Over time as these organizations got large, they built process. By process I mean all the tools that allow companies and government to scale repeatable execution.
HR processes, legal processes, financial processes, acquisition and contracting processes, security processes, product development and management processes, and types of organizational forms etc. All of these are great strategies and tools that business schools build, and consulting firms help implement.
Process is great when you live in a world where both the problem and solution are known. Process helps ensure that you can deliver solutions that scale without breaking other parts of the organization. These processes reduce risk to an overall organization, but each layer of process reduces the ability to be agile and lean and — most importantly — responsive to new opportunities and threats. Product people are often messy, hate paperwork and prefer to spend their time creating stuff rather than documenting it.
Over time as organizations grow, they become risk averse. The process people dominate management, and the product people end up reporting to them. By then the company has lost the ability to compete as an innovator. In government agencies process versus product has gone further. Many agencies outsource product development to private contractors, leaving the government with mostly process people — who write requirements, and oversee acquisition, program management, and contracts.
However, when the government is faced with new adversaries, new threats, or new problems, both the internal process people as well as the external contractors are loath to obsolete their own systems and develop radically new solutions. For the contractors, anything new offers the real risk of losing a lucrative existing stream of revenue.
For the process people, the status quo is a known and comfortable space and failure and risk-taking is considered career retarding. Metrics are used to manage process rather than creation of new capabilities, outcomes and speed to deployment. And if the contract and contractor are large enough, they put their thumb on the scale and use the political process and lobbying to maintain the status quo.
The result is that legacy systems live on as an albatross and an impediment to making the country safer and more secure. Instead, most organizations look to create even more process. This typically plays out in three ways:. One can generously describe them as innovation dead ends. Between a Rock and A Hard Place Today, companies and government agencies are not able to access and mobilize the innovative talent and technology they need to meet these challenges.
The very processes that made them successful impede them. Organizational redesign, innovation activities, and process reform need to be part of an overall plan. In sum, large organizations lack shared beliefs, validated principles, tactics, techniques, procedures, organization, budget, etc. It dawned on us that with 10 years of Lessons Learned to explore, now would be a good time. It still seems like yesterday that Ann Miura-Ko and I were creating a new class — the Lean LaunchPad at Stanford to teach students an alternative to how to write a business plan.
I quickly did the math. We started Hacking for Defense and Diplomacy almost four years ago. Hacking for Defense is now supported by the National Security Innovation Network and has put hundreds of students in 24 universities through the program. Hacking for Cities and Hacking for Non-profits have followed at U. Hacking for Oceans is coming next. However, using the business model canvas inside the Dept of Defense was problematical.
Instead you mobilize resources and a budget to solve a particular problem and create value for a set of beneficiaries customers, support organizations, warfighters, Congress, the country, etc. The first step in building a canvas that worked for these organizations was to change the Revenue Stream box to one that would provide a way to measure success.
Read the full blog post on the development and use of the Mission Model Canvas here. You can find the entire video series collected here. The good news is that a few tweaks in process got us back on track. I just spent half a day with Henrich, the head of product of a Fortune 10 company. Henrich is smart, innovative and motivated. His company is facing disruption from new competitors. This product line has 15 project managers overseeing 60 projects.
All good Lean basics. Teams only checked in — wait for it — every three months in a formal schedule review.
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And he was unhappy with the quality of the reports because he felt most teams wrote the reports the night before the review. How, he asked, could he get even more measures of performance and timely reporting from the project managers? At first glance I thought, what could be bad about more data? It was the same reporting process used to measure projects that used linear, step-by-step Waterfall.
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To be fair to Henrich, his product team is a Lean island in a company where Waterfall still dominates. They just want to see the paperwork. Lean Project Management Philosophy So our discussion was fun. Pivoting the Process With not too much convincing, Henrich agreed that rather than quarterly reviews, the leadership team would to talk to project managers every week, looking at projects.
This meant the interaction cycle — while still long — would go from the current three months to at least once a month. More importantly we decided that he would focus these conversations on outcomes rather than reports.
There would be more verbal communication and a lot less paper. The reviews would be about frequent delivery, incremental development and how leadership could remove obstacles. In sum, the radical idea for Henrich was tha t his role was not to push the paperwork down. It was to push an outcome orientation down, and then translate its progress back up the chain. While this was great for the teams, it put the onus on Henrich to report progress back up to his leadership in a way they wanted to see it. I was honored to give the commencement speech at the University of California Santa Cruz, right down the road from the ranch.
I told four stories about the conflict between money and power versus the common good. I was invited to give the talk by Professor Sue Carter, now the provost of the college. Last year, she testified in front of Congress about the program. Bay Nature , the San Francisco regional nature magazine, did a great job in capturing the context of my commencement speech in this article.
Worth a read first , before you read below. Today while we celebrate your college degree, it represents just the end of one part of your life and the beginning of the next.