Starting Your Journey from Project to Product: Find a Compelling Reason to Change

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Functioning in silos instead of cross-functional value streams, funding scope/projects instead of capacity, leadership collecting metrics on utilization instead of value delivered – many organizations are realizing that their current ways of organizing aren’t enough to stay competitive in a rapidly changing world. While they know they need to change, there’s not a lot of practical advice readily available that explains how to start that change from within. 

Here at Tasktop, we’ve been partnering with customers on their project to product journeys for years now. Recognizing that people may need a few tips and pointers to get them on the right track, we’ve distilled our key learnings into this five-part blog series to accelerate positive results in your organization.

Find the team that feels a compelling reason to change

Once you’ve decided to embark on a project to product journey, or any continuous improvement initiative for that matter, it’s only natural to wonder where you should start.

Leaders usually begin the conversation with something along the lines of “division X is pretty far along on their journey, they’ve been doing agile well and their leader has read the book, they might be a great place to start”. This line of thought makes sense; after all, if you’re heading toward a particular destination you might want to start with a division that’s closer to that destination. However, I’ve found taking this approach typically dooms the journey before it even starts.

Often the leaders in this more mature area know they are further along their journey than other areas in the company and have a reputation to uphold. As a result, there is a general resistance to acknowledging the need to improve. It’s almost like admitting an issue undermines their position in the company. Consequently, the leaders tend to vet every decision and every change for long periods of time, which makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to show rapid gains.

Instead of that approach, we’ve found much better success in working with the exact opposite group.

Find the “pull”

By starting with a group that is challenged, with the one that everyone knows is struggling, much of the internal resistance goes away. Instead of pushing change, we find these situations actually create a compelling pull for improvements. There is generally a lot of low-hanging fruit in these parts of the organization. These quick wins generate rapid improvements that can turn into lasting momentum that extends into the rest of the organization. As one part quantifies improvements and celebrates these early wins, the rest of the organization quickly wants to see wins in their area as well. The benefits of organizing around the flow of value across product value streams quickly become tangible and achievable.

A large fortune 500 company I was working with explored pilots for new tools as well as new processes with the same high performing group. This group had to deal with a constant state of “new” coming their way. After dealing with several of these pilots in a row, this group was just burned out on change. As a result every new tool and new process met with increasing opposition and the company began to become stagnant.

Run experiments

When we shifted and started to run experiments with a broader group in parts of the organization with known delivery issues, we immediately found incredible value and got momentum to scale leading practices throughout the organization. In the past where there was resistance to share information across the organization. Now, we suddenly found a pull to integrate disparate systems together and were able to provide true value stream transparency. This enabled the organization to highlight obstacles and get management support to unblock and empower teams, ultimately increasing flow velocity and reducing flow time. In the end, they provided more value for their customers. This was all possible because we were able to work with a team that knew they needed to improve and were hungry to adopt change.

As a general rule, whether you’re considering starting with the perceived “worst” or “best” part of the organization, success hinges on a compelling reason to change. A division that knows they have challenges and is feeling the pain those challenges bring, is fertile ground for rapid improvement and significant gains in reaching key business goals.

Next week’s blog examines another key factor in getting momentum on your Project to Product journey, starting small. 

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