Your agile and adaptive business transformation and strategy framework
Strategile is a framework that targets to evolve your company into an ever-learning firm by applying an agile strategy process. Every strategy iteration will bring you one step closer to a true agile company. This asks for a change in mindset, which is the hardest part of it. An agile mindset can’t be obtained by learning, but by unlearning the layers of command and control.
Strategile is designed as a quarterly strategy retrospection iteration with clear adaptions to the changed eco-system of the company. We call this iteration the strategy sprint. The strategy sprint consists of strategic initiatives, that were agreed in the target analysis. A strategic initiative is divided in themes which state the features of the expected solution. Each strategic initiative must deliver a fully working solution version after each sprint. A theme consists of one to many user stories that are delivered by the teams in weekly sprints and daily scrum meetings. The work burn down of the initiatives is expected to be reviewed in a bi-weekly standup.
A quarterly strategy review cycle is necessary to remain versatile as sensing, anticipating and responding to changes in market conditions, trends, customer behavior/needs or even supply chain shifts becomes the key discipline of strategy adoption. Having shorter strategy cycles does not mean that the right strategy is taken, but in case of a wrong strategy it will allow to fail fast and to fail cheap.
We need to prepare our eco-system the same way it will form ourselves. The aim is to develop fast and verifiable results or at least partial results. This asks not only for short planning cycles but even more for consequent priorisation and quick decisions. Deciding means to relinquish. There must not be any trade-offs. You can’t be innovative and stay traditional for instance.
Our approach consists of four key elements:
01 The Strategy Team
The member selection of the strategy team is a crucial process. Should every employee have the chance to participate and if, how? Before the team is selected a few fundamental rules, like: “Will employees be selected top-down or do we expect voluntary participation?” or “Is this the strategy time allowed to impact the normal work time?”, must be established. Once these basics are agreed we believe that every core section of a company needs to be represented in the strategy team. The diversity of the strategy team itself will integrate different points of view from the whole eco-system in a close to market and innovative way.
A sound check of the strategy team is needed before the real work can start. A team sound check is part of the framework and will ensure that we have
- Balanced team (with an appointed owner)
- Given basics (in a 1-pager)
- Shared understanding
- Specified agile delivery process (with incremental results)
- Defined strategy score card (KPIs and values)
- Managed dependencies
- Defined method of tracking and sharing progress with the eco-system
02 Status & Target Analysis
The origin of any strategy development is the compilation of the current situation. The target of this phase is to build a fair pareto picture of the status quo. This ground work is needed to clearly identify the future challenges of the company.
The intention is to challenge the changing eco-system as well as the current business model. To do so we will moderate a strategy workshop with you using the following approaches:
- PEST Analysis
- SWOT Analysis
- Business Model Canvas
- Priority Poker
With the PEST analysis, we aim to understand the big picture forces of change. PEST is suited to spot business opportunities but also avoid initiatives that are likely to fail because they will be driven by external factors you can’t influence. It forms the basics for an objective view of a new eco-system.
The classic SWOT analysis complements the PEST analysis on a lower level and helps to explore these factors on a business, product-line or product level.
Osterwald’s Business Model Canvas helps to position the existing, but also future, business model in a competitive market and to describe new models and its dynamics. It enables the strategy team to understand innovation techniques and how to execute the new business model.
Through a «Gambling» approach, Priority Poker will resolve the issue of diverging interests and influences among the strategy team members.
A concluded status analysis will end up in the definition of the strategic targets of the company. To achieve one or more of these strategic targets a strategic initiative has to be setup and executed.
03 Strategic Initiatives
The strategic initiatives are what connects the strategy to the execution. In other words, it connects the business units to the strategy team. Given the earlier mentioned fast changing business priorities it is crucial to sense, respectively derive, the opportunities out of the target analysis. The important point is to maintain the structural flexibility while not losing the focus on the core competences.
The aim is to seize the opportunities into optimized highest-value initiatives and deliver them fast. The rule that you want to fail fast and cheap if you fail remains applicable. We all know these monstrous programs which failed after they have already consumed double digit millions of dollars. The agile strategy process helps to adapt changes fast. The bi-weekly stand-ups communicate the progress of the initiatives and ask all employees to participate in giving feedback. There shall not be any difference between the communication to the strategy team or to all employees. It is crucial to ensure the full intelligence of a company flows into the respective initiative. Hosting the stand-up is the duty of the initiative owner. The initiative owner, a member of the strategy team, is a crucial role that drives the priorities, approves the solution versions and ensures participation of the whole eco-system.
Given the importance of this role, an initiative change office (ICO) is needed to coach, train and organizationally support the initiative owners. The ICO will have to establish and enforce the principles (i.e. the incremental delivery) and guidelines of how an initiative is expected to work.
Only the effective next initiative sprint will really be planned. I have seen projects, managed in a waterfall methodology, which seemed like they were re-planned daily while the core milestones remained carved in stone. Eventually these milestones got postponed as no planning really worked out. The adaption of an agile strategy won’t let this happen. Retrospections after every sprint with real customer feedback, will ensure that each increment is focusing on the right priorities. The scope and plan are dynamically adjusted while each increment is separately funded and fully prioritized.
We have seen many so-called communication plans. Normally such a plan was reduced to a list of meetings where a project or program manager was expected to report on the progress. Our approach defines several meetings as well as their occurrence. We talked about quarterly strategy sprints and retrospections, bi-weekly stand-ups and a visualized strategy canvas updates. But communication needs to become much more, especially if you want to prosper an agile mindset. To get there we need to establish a continuous communication that fosters inclusiveness.
The whole eco-system from supplier to employee to customer needs to be involved to help, inspect and adapt. According to Luhmann it is communication only which builds a social system, neither people nor structures nor hierarchies. Given this we need to understand that trust, participation and codetermination and neither control nor hierarchies are the driving factors to reduce the complexity of every system. Organizations will have to follow the value chain and work, and not inflexible structures and workers. A light documentation that brings clarity on the strategic targets and initiatives and involved customers and suppliers combined in a clearly visualized initiative canvas will make the whole eco-system ecstatic about the way forward.
Nevertheless, clear KPIs and targets need to be established and the progress needs to be reported accordingly. But digital transformation asks for new performance indicators. A company using the same metrics before and after their business transformation hasn’t transformed materially.