Tasktop Speakers at DOES Europe 2022

Debbie KonradPosted by

Attendees at the DevOps Enterprise Summit in Europe last week had the opportunity to hear from leaders at Tasktop as they delivered sessions around the shift from project to product.  CEO, Dr. Mik Kersten, gave a Plenary session entitled “How Flow Follows Form” and Naomi Lurie, VP Product Marketing, along with Carmen DeArdo, author and Senior Director of VSM Research revealed early findings from Tasktop’s Project to Product Maturity Assessment. 

How Flow Follows Form

In physical architecture, the expression “form follows function” indicates buildings whose design reflects their intended purpose. And just as a team’s creativity and well-being can be affected by the design of the physical spaces they inhabit, the design of their organization can have an even bigger impact on their day-to-day life. Therefore, leaders need to approach their organizational design with the same care and attention as they would a large expenditure like a headquarters building. If the flow and happiness of an organization’s employees are functions of that organization’s structure, it begs the question, how can we design a structure that creates better employee and customer experiences?

Dr. Kersten’s observations drew on his 15+ years of experience working with Fortune 100 organizations as they shift from project to product. Since this transition affects everything from processes to teams to budgets, it’s often a catalyst for meaningful change and an excellent time to reconsider their existing organizational design. 

Too often leaders try to implement a product-based organizational model on top of an existing, project-based structure, rather than intentionally designing something new that fits their needs. 

To avoid this disconnect, Kersten suggests an intentional process where leaders first design an organizational structure and then assess the design dynamically against the desired outcomes for customers, staff, and shareholders. He noted that each of these stages requires a toolkit; at the Design stage, common models are Team Topologies, SAFe®, or Scrum. Assessment requires a model like the Flow Framework® which reveals flow and customer value alongside quality and employee happiness. Without a measurement framework and a set of desired outcomes, how can you know if you’re improving or if you’re simply introducing a new set of bottlenecks? 

Leading by example

To shed light on the discussion, Dr. Kersten shared his personal experience measuring the outcomes of organizational design changes during his journey here at Tasktop. 

Tasktop has always been product-oriented, even when our development team was composed exclusively of engineers. About ten years ago, we added the Product Management function to bring us closer to customer and market needs. As we grew, we found that separating these functions had inadvertently created internal silos and decided to merge them, intending to accelerate flow. This redesign was meant to increase customer focus, push decision-making lower in the organization, and create a more collaborative culture. 

Operating this way for several years, we would continuously measure to assess the structure and whether it was serving our goals. At one point, problems began to emerge. Although business results—primarily revenue growth—were positive, Flow Velocity was flat when we had expected it to accelerate. More concerning, Flow Happiness—measured quarterly through an employee NPS—had started to decline. 

Faced with these results, Tasktop’s leaders moved to diagnose the problem and discovered that teams were too overloaded and that the increased customer focus had come at the expense of internal culture, cutting into time for code jams and events that developers cherish. Although the single hierarchy structure was compelling and successful for a few years, it now seemed to no longer be working as well. 

The fact that we could use Flow Metrics to constantly monitor the results we were getting from the org structure meant that we could be responsive and tweak it as needed. The goal of any organizational design is not to copy/paste the “flavor of the month”, but rather to create the feedback and assessment loop that lets you create the right model for your organization. 

For more ideas about how the Flow Framework® can contribute to organizational redesign, watch the session in its entirety here or listen to Dr. Kersten’s conversations with Jean-Michel Lemieux, Manuel Pais, and Geordie Henderson on the Project to Product podcast.

Find out where you are in your project to product journey

Naomi Lurie, Tasktop’s VP of Product Marketing, and Carmen DeArdo, Senior Director, VSM Research and Design, were also on the agenda, hosting a session discussing our recently published Project to Product Maturity Assessment. These seven easy multiple-choice questions give organizations a framework to assess their progress on this journey and get recommendations on how to advance. 

Naomi and Carmen revealed some early findings from the Assessment, most notably that 78% of respondents—a  significant majority— haven’t yet fully operationalized their transition to a product-based operating model. They report themselves to be in either Stage 1: Starting Out, Stage 2: Experimentation, or Stage 3: Expansion. 

Organizations that have begun to move from traditional project-based models to a product-centric approach may find themselves struggling to move past the Experimentation phase. To give the experiment a solid foundation for moving forward, Naomi and Carmen recommended that teams define success upfront, map and manage time from your customer’s perspective, and get a good understanding of your dependencies, including your shared internal and platform teams

Another common mistake teams make is to rush into Expansion without a good solid playbook for other product teams to use. It may seem counterintuitive, but make sure you have deep learnings and repeatable patterns before trying to put others through the same transition.

As with any large-scale change efforts, culture is the key. The paradox is that although people desire change, they resist it at the same time. A shift from project to product introduces risk and uncertainty, and how organizations manage the human element can make or break their efforts. 

Navigating the shift from project to product is a complex, multi-year journey, and it may take even longer than you thought.  The goal is to keep progress going across all the necessary dimensions of change and gradually advance from stage to stage. 

In addition to the session at DOES, you can take the assessment today or watch Naomi and Carmen’s recent webinar to understand the five stages of this transition and learn how you can keep your team moving toward a product-based approach.