But what is, in reality, changing mentality? In the first place, it means accepting that game rules have changed, simply because players are different, the board or playing field is also different and, because, in reality, we are playing a game different from the one we started years ago.
Nowadays, there are some criteria that shape this changing, dynamic and atomized environment. Speed is one of those principles that shape the new playing field, and on which organizations-large, small and medium-should make their proposals stand out. But, in addition to speed, we talk about transparency and simplicity and, above all, we talk about profitability. Watch out! bidirectional profitability. The supplier must boost the profitability of the business. But the client must also understand that investing in the purchase or use and enjoyment of a particular good or service, is profitable, if only in terms of personal satisfaction.
Changing mentality is, from my standpoint, to understand that there is no longer a single way to do, or a single model to be followed to be profitable, transparent or efficient. But, once that new reality is accepted, the next step is to dare to do things in a different way, without following other’s currents or copying patterns, processes or methodologies, even at the risk of being wrong.
In fact, throughout my professional career I have met with many organizations that take a part of something foreign, and try to make it their own, implanting it in their structure to obtain quick results, although to achieve it they have to bend processes, systems and roles. I have also seen other companies that embark on very expensive and very long transformation processes without even being clear on what they want to change, or how, or why. And, above all, without being very clear about what they want to convert.
It is simply fashionable to be a digital company, or to say that we are so and on that scheme, all sorts of theories are built on which processes are started which are doomed to failure, because, in reality, it is necessary to first understand that digitization is only a means, a bridge through which ideas circulate on which to compose a new reality. And, second, that the real transformation that must be addressed is that of the productive processes and the conception of current services.
In search of a quick reward
The modern and innovative production models of which so much is spoken in digital code, are no longer understood – or at least, should not be understood – as something static, stoic structures on which to pivot a set of processes, equally corseted, even more in these moments in which change seems to be the only constant. Therefore, more and more, bet on print flexibility and agility, in the hallmark of any organization. And therefore also transferring that agility in their methodologies for production, development or process management. That is to say, that both principles – flexibility and agility – are an essential part of a new work philosophy, more than a mere objective or goal to be achieved. And, it is here, where the change, the transformation, the digitization or whatever we want to call it really begins.
So, after accepting this change, assuming the challenge and started the process, what can be expected are results. Be good or bad, the important thing is start measuring and evaluating the effects as soon as possible. That is, find those points where the proposed system – the change – provides the maximum exponent of its value and, those others in which, either it is not perceived, or the transformation impact can be even negative.
With this I mean that we have to stop theorizing and practicing on the ground. Start walking, step by step, marking milestones, small goals that encourage the team to continue working and, above all, establish indicators that determine success or failure -in the short term- and along with that, the roadmap to follow. Or, to put it another way: move forward with a short-term philosophy to achieve the most established future objectives, in the long term. It is something similar to what in gamification techniques would be the quick reward models or the typical action-reaction concept, but that, in production we call it agile or SCRUM methodologies.
Now, as it seems that, in these moments, any idea that is put on the table must be accompanied by the digital qualification to endow it with that package that so many organizations are looking for, I will say that, in reality, this revolution towards the 4.0 economy is nothing new. In fact, James Watt and Matthew Boulton, manufacturing the first industrial steam machine already showed the first stages of a road that is assumed long-haul. Henry Ford and its production system in series, Bill Smith and the improvement of the Sig Sixma production processes or Taiichi Ohno, Eiji Toyoda and Shigeo Shingo with the Lean manufacturing culture, they are also examples that must be taken into account.
The agile methodologies which apply, and not at the same time
According to the article Why so many high-profile digital transformations fail from Thomas H. Davenport and George Westerman published in the Harvard Business Review, digitization involves risky changes that modify the business forever. And, yes, unfortunately, the number of companies that fail to implement their transformation process remains too high. Getting things wrong is not the worst thing. The worst thing is the spiral of regrets which they experience and that is very similar to the grieving process that is experienced after the loss of a loved one. A process of business grief can be summarized as follows:
Denial: in the committees and working groups you hear phrases like “we did everything they told us,” or “it was all performed by the book“.
Rage: those who are part of the organization experience the feeling of anger, frustration and resentment due to the lack of results, not knowing where they are, or where the business is going. In these cases, what is obtained versus what is provided is clearly decompensated.
Negotiation: or the fantasy of having controlled the situation and trying to reformat the reality to look for a glimpse of positive value. There is no awareness regarding the causes that led the organization to this point of NO progress.
Depression: no longer fantasize with a timid feeling of control and return to the harsh reality shaken by a deep sense of emptiness when facing what is thought as reality.
Acceptance: which forces us to actively reorganize the ideas that make up our mental scheme or our business architecture.
Of course, at this point, no matter how much the organizations have wanted to implement agile methodologies, which are supposed to be the best of the best in terms of modern, flexible, and efficient management tools, the truth is that we keep hearing devastating statements such as, this agility thing does not really work or after all, it’s the same thing as always, with less documentation and more English terminology. Which supposes, in itself, a resounding failure of conception, of understanding, of mentalization, of implementation, of measurement, etc., etc., etc.
I will not entangle myself towards defining and, much less, justifying the advantages provided by the agile methodology (improvement of customer satisfaction, optimization of team motivation and involvement, cost reduction, increase in speed and efficiency, improvement of the product, early identification of errors or areas of improvement, faster and safer return on investment…) but I cannot resist the temptation to insist that it is a work model that allows progressively resolving a need, obtaining results -functionally useful- that allow legitimizing, also gradually, the validity of a hypothesis of departure. That is, what we said at the beginning: stop theorizing and practice on site, step by step.
Therefore, why are projects still failing? Maybe because many start being “agile” and end up turning towards the conventional, at the very minimum they fail in the introduction of the agreed actions of a certain phase or, sprint, returning to establish themselves again in the conventional, Socratic, and hierarchical system of project management. Or maybe because there are projects that are not located in an adequate environment for the practice of agility or because there are too many restrictions for companies to exercise risk control in the face of problem resolution, so in the request for proposals, the normal thing is to find ourselves with closed projects.
SCRUM for closed projects? Yes, it’s possible
Still, understanding that the SCRUM model may be suitable for the successful management of closed business projects, what happens is that the risk control parameters must be different. And, although these parameters are more efficient, the truth is that we are already incorporating the change of mentality, diversion something that, as I said at the beginning, is one of the most difficult things to put into practice in the business ecosystem. New control parameters to review closed projects include:
Cost versus work force.
Execution of the work force in a determined and previously finite period.
Sizing and selection of the workforce to provide coverage/response to certain functionalities/problems duly organized and prioritized.
Periodic, partial, and incremental deliveries, fully functional for the correct validation of the coverage/response to the functionality/issue.
Correction and reorganization of the workload based on the results obtained.
Be that as it may, the truth is that this work culture allows responding in a more agile and more effective manner to the digitization demands of the companies. Knowing this, in Spain there are still very few suppliers who dare to innovate in this direction and prefer to continue letting themselves be led by standardized procedures that do not always provide what they promise.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, as an early adopter, It is worth highlighting the effort made by Vass, who just presented VassXtreme, their new methodology with which it is revolutionizing the market and that stands out for the creation of multidisciplinary and highly specialized work teams that provide resources and knowledge that the client needs and that responds to the expectations of the business and the time to market.
These teams are organized in tribes, councils, and guilds, in a non-hierarchical manner which encourages collaboration and continuous learning. An example of how people can drive change, not only through their knowledge and skills, but also through their attitude and commitment.
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