Most organisations are doing well in the sense that they are delivering products or services to clients that are willing to pay. They have teams that manage to get that product out of the door and an organization that supports them. Why would we uproot all of that to become something we are not?
We often sacrifice what is already good in the chase for “the best”. Looking at what works and building on top of it is often more cost-effective and leads to better results - because when it comes to processes, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all. Each organization is different, so what works for me and my team might not work for you and your team.
The tricky part is how we find out what works for us.
The Power of Incremental Change
First things first - any organisation should practice regular retrospectives regardless of size or maturity. Retrospectives build muscle for finding better ways of working and are a cornerstone of continuous improvement. Getting retrospectives right can be challenging, and many organizations struggle with this; it’s not uncommon for retrospectives to devolve into a joint therapy session for the team - while it might be needed at times, no real change comes from these sessions. There are many ways to improve retrospectives and make them effective. The number one recommendation for any retrospective is to focus on generating one measurable action with clear accountability. Doing this will help create focus and drive change without overwhelming the team or organization.
The Force of Deliberate Disruption
While continuous improvement is great and often sufficient, processes and ways of working tend to move towards order. In many large, stable organizations, regardless of the hustle and bustle of the world, this can lead to a feeling of stagnation. When we call for more innovation, we usually cry for change. If continuous improvement is the process of adapting ourselves to the context, deliberate disruption is the process of changing the context. We can force new, innovative working methods to emerge by changing the rules of the game rather than the playing style. For example, limiting resources can spark new creative ideas or trigger searches for more efficient tooling. Changing the context ever so slightly creates just enough discomfort for people to move - this disrupts the order and creates a new innovation cycle.
Measuring What Truly Matters
Lastly, change is never for change's sake. We always strive to get something from the change; we want to be better tomorrow than we are today. But how does better actually look, and are we measuring it? Running effective continuous improvement or controlled disruption experiments requires us to select the right metrics for tracking progress. We will always "get what we measure," if our teams are measured on story points or features built, they will deliver that exact thing when actually we are more concerned about customer retention, profits, or revenue - but those are rarely the metrics we give to our teams.
The choice of faulty metrics drives the story that our digital organization is somehow detached from the business - but we’ve created a situation where alignment is simply not possible for them.
Adopting a tailored approach to digitization that emphasizes continuous improvement, effective measurement, and controlled disruption can guide organizations in crafting a path best suited to their unique context. It’s a way to continuously transform towards a better tomorrow rather than betting heavily on silver bullets that oftentimes don’t work.