How Fast Is Fast? Finding the Sweet Spot in Transformation Speed

  |  March 1, 2017

When designing and implementing an organizational change, we all want to transform as fast as possible. Why waste time doing business the old way when we have identified a better path forward? Despite our wish for speed, the reality is that transformation can be difficult, it takes time to get the whole organization on board, and communicating the change internally and to customers does not happen overnight. So, how do we know if we are in the sweet spot of moving fast enough (yet, not too fast)?

Too Fast

When organizations are moving too fast, they struggle to explain how something will be done differently in the future. They might try to explain the entire change in an organization-wide email announcement, an organization chart, or a town hall. Sure, all of those things are important tools for communicating the change, but alone they are insufficient to explain how an organization will be different in the future and how the work will change to support the new direction.

In essence, moving too fast means that you may not have enough substance (or haven’t communicated the substance) behind the story and/or announcement. An organization and customers need time to process the changes, ask questions, and actually behave or perform their work differently. If there is not enough information or time to actually change the work, the change may occur in name only and the hoped-for organization transformation benefits may be for naught.

So, moving too fast can mean that the work will never change (even if the org chart is different, process steps are revised, names change, etc.), but how can we speed up the time for transformation success and realization as much as possible?

Move Faster

We have found that one of the best ways to move faster is through design sessions or design sprints. Design sessions utilize a small number of people (like a scrum team in Agile) usually comprised of key stakeholders, customers, and organization members. These teams develop practical solutions that focus on specific problems that will solve a customer challenge or exploit a marketplace opportunity.

There are two major benefits to using small work teams in design session sprints:

  1. Cascade the message. To ensure organization alignment, the first design team usually involves C-suite level executives as they address strategic direction questions. From there, a variety of subsequent design teams can be engaged to address related, but more detailed, organization alignment questions closer to the “front line” where work actually happens. Involving a variety of individuals from throughout the organization ensures that the right expertise is in the room, but it also helps cascade the message throughout the organization explaining why an organization transformation is necessary and how it will help the organization improve.  Design teams help develop change champions as different people participate in and contribute to specific solutions.
  2. Fail fast, learn fast. Design teams can quickly develop beta solutions, pilot and implement them, and ask stakeholders and customers for feedback. This “fail fast” model allows the team to implement solutions faster by adjusting solutions and perfecting them for customer needs.

While design teams can be one key to change transformation speed, there are a few things to look out for when developing and implementing your teams:

  • Change is a journey. Each sprint is only a snapshot of a larger transformation journey and you can’t treat any one sprint as an end in and of itself. Without multiple sprints, your organization will struggle to move quickly overall, align organization choices, and adapt to customer needs.
  • Right people together. The best design teams have the right people. Ideally, team members come from different places in the organization, have content expertise, demonstrate change agility, have great communication skills, and work to achieve consensus.
  • Clear vision. Sprints are about solving specific problems. To be effective, you must guard against scope creep and not dilute the vision of what you want the team to accomplish.
  • Defined end and next steps. The clearer the vision of the desired output, the better the result. Once the end is clearly defined, you must develop and communicate the immediate next steps to get there.
  • Momentum. Adjusting to sprints can be a change for an organization. You must guard against losing momentum between sprints and slipping back into business as usual.

While increasing speed can be a market differentiator, companies must find a sweet spot in change transformation speed. Design session sprints can help accelerate and sustain overall speed, but an organization needs the time to explain how the work should be different as a result of the change.

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