My colleagues Peter and James recently described the foundations of S4RB’s approach to enterprise software. In two separate blog posts, they explored how our combination of consultancy-led software and agile implementation enables us to deliver true solutions to private brand retail problems. I like to think that we deliver “Success Worth Sharing”.
Success - First and foremost, we make sure that our projects are a success.
Worth – Secondly, that success needs to deliver measurable value for our clients.
Sharing – Finally, we want to help our clients share their success, learnings and best practice throughout their business.
Since those blog posts have been published, several clients have asked to learn more. They want to learn how the S4RB approach could be applied to achieve results in other areas of their business. How can they too deliver “Success Worth Sharing”.
Over the past 10 years, we’ve developed a way of working that broadly fits into ten steps. They continue to work for us and I’m confident they can work for you too. We’ll cover half in this post (the preparation ones), and half in the next one (the doing ones):
We begin all projects by making sure that all project team members have a full understanding of what the desired outcome of the project is. Outcome, not output.
In my experience, many software companies set out with the sole target of implementing a piece of software. This output-orientated approach unfortunately fails to bridge the gap between sales-promised ROIs and the post-launch reality. If you’d like to learn more about the value of outcome-orientated projects, I highly recommend Wil Reynolds: The Hidden Danger of Confusing Outputs for Outcomes. This TED-esqe talk fundamentally changed how I thought I about success.
Once you’ve agreed and documented the desired outcome for your project, it’s time to assign a value (or worth) to that outcome. I personally like to think of value in three categories:
Efficiency – how will this outcome save me and my team time?
Effectiveness – how will this outcome make me and my team faster or more impactful?
Value Add – how will this outcome generate or help me generate more sales or revenue?
I’m normally found in front of a whiteboard at this point surrounded by the project team; post-its and pens in hand. Unfortunately, not all value you identify will be created equal. I typically rank the post-its into four groups:
Identifiable (You can write it down)
Measurable (You can put a measure to it)
Auditable (You can put a financial value to it)
Priceless (You can bet a promotion on it!)
For those unfamiliar with thinking in this way, this step can be tricky. However, it’s worth preserving as this step underpins all three pillars of “Success worth sharing”. After all, the whole point is to share the value of your success!
Next, it’s time to define the deliverables required to deliver your outcomes. At the very least, these deliverables need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Realistic, Time-bound). However, I’d encourage you to go further and make sure that they are SMARTER (Ethical, Recorded).
Ensuring goals are ethical boosts projects on two fronts. Firstly, it allows you to leverage the intrinsic motivator “Purpose” within your project team. Secondly, doing the right thing makes it significantly easier to influence key stakeholders.
For Recorded: I feel it’s imperative that these deliverables are documented, shared and maintained. Whether your team prefer to huddle around a whiteboard or collaborate online, make sure that these are the first and last thing your team see each day.
For each of our deliverables, there need to be clearly-defined owners. As our organisations become ever more complex, remote and cross-functional, it’s really easy for tasks to fall between the gaps. I personally find the RACI framework extremely helpful to bring structure when working with fluid teams. I define RACI as follows:
Responsible - who is going to do it?
Accountable - who ensures it’s done to the right standard?
Consulted – who is involved in decisions on how we do it?
Informed – who is told about our progress towards getting it done?
As a leader of a project, you will often find yourself balancing what you do versus what you delegate. I certainly do. It can be all too easy to fall into the trap of “doing it yourself” to save time in the short-term; only for it to come back to cost you time in the long term.
To overcome this, we pair RACI’s with the situational leadership framework. Situational leadership is about tailoring the support you provide to someone based on their confidence and competence. I find it a brilliant tool for walking the straight and narrow between micro-management and absentee leadership. The framework recommends four distinct types of support:
One of the key principles of situational leadership is that nobody is in the same quadrant for everything, and people can even move between quadrants for the same tasks over time.
I create my RACI on a spreadsheet. When I reach the support stage, I add four more columns to record what support the person responsible for the deliverable needs to deliver, to reach the standard defined by the person accountable:
Activity (Typically this could be coaching sessions, process or task shadowing or side-by-side desk training)
Support type (I like to add the situational leadership code here to remind me to reference the framework)
Frequency (How often is this going to happen and be reviewed – remember our confidence and competence will change over time)
Output (How will those involve demonstrate that this support activity has happened to the rest of the group. These activities need to happen to ensure success worth sharing – hold your fellow team members to account)
We’ve spent a long time preparing to implement our project by this point, but solid preparation is absolutely crucial for success. Next time, I’ll look at the other 5 steps to success which – I promise you – are all about execution.