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Making business sense of progress

Keeping pace in the digital economy is hard. Demand is increasing. Competition is fierce, both for customers and for talent. Everyone’s looking for that edge. And everyone’s busy, really busy, working on this idea or that. Chances are your teams are collaborating across multiple departments, geographies and cultures. You’re busy solving problems, big and small.  You’ve realized the idea of a one-size-fits-all process might not work, recognizing that teams need autonomy and “space”. Your product lifecycle, software lifecycle, project lifecycle or application lifecycle aren’t really helping to create the consistency you require. You find you need to constantly respond to change: changing market needs, changing priorities, changing capabilities. Everyone is making progress – or so they say. It feels like chaos and you often wonder whether it actually is. The “big picture” is blurry and you question if you’ll be able to make sense of what’s going on ever again. You have no idea management model.

Making sense of progress is important. Making business sense of it even more so. How do you know if your investment in ideas is paying off or is likely to in the near future? Do you have the right mix? Given all these teams you have and the multitude of “processes”, how do you come up with a meaningful way of tracking progress across them? You know speed is critical but how do you measure it, let alone find what might be slowing you down so you can do something about it?

An end-to-end Idea Management Model

Although these and similar questions are never easy to answer, we believe you can adopt a model that makes answering them easier by considering things more end-to-end. In some cases, this model will make it possible for you to answer these questions for the very first time. We’re talking about ideas here, how they become real and how you can keep pace.

At any one time you have hundreds, maybe thousands of ideas in play. Do you need another kind of lifecycle to address this formidable management challenge? No, your lifecycles are probably just fine. Instead, you need a new perspective, one that allows you to bring the picture into focus, get clarity and make decisions that matter. You need an Idea Management Model.

A versatile new lens

The model isn’t a complex one. It is, however, very versatile. We’ve come up with many ways of applying it to projects, feature sets, stories, experiments, and to some others. It will take a few posts to cover them all, and we promise we will. First things first, though: what is the model?

The model started as a representation of an idea’s path to market. Here “idea” meant two things: a problem and its solution. We know that solutions rarely just pop into existence. They are derived through a path where the steps delineate critical amounts of knowledge necessary to proceed. What we noticed early on was that these steps reflect a general pattern.  It is this pattern that makes the Idea Management Model so versatile:

  • Why do we want/need to do something?
  • How might we go about doing it?
  • What are we actually going to do?
  • When will we be able to say it worked (or didn’t)?

We modelled this progression like so:

Idea Management Model - Flow

Focusing and investing in your best ideas

The pattern of why-how-what-when repeats itself and scales by adapting to the way that you break your work down. As it scales, it also takes on the appropriate meaning. To give you a glimpse of this, consider the top-most idea being a value proposition. A stylized view of how you would manage this kind of idea looks like this:

Idea Management Model - Flow

The model is essentially orchestrating your processes to achieve a standard set of objectives. In this case, technically, it is a meta-model of a Proposition-to-Market flow process. The goal is to ensure that the collaboration and coordination of resources across the flow are focused on incrementally creating the best solution that meets the demands of your customers and the market.

Now, one interesting and significant thing is that the model allows us to refer to points in time and identify meaningful intervals of time. These points and intervals allow us to capture key measures that begin to inform us regarding questions that every digital business ought to be able to answer.

Idea Management Model - Intervals of Time

And the really interesting thing? The model allows us to gain insight into progress that is independent of any specific value stream or set of processes. It defines a vocabulary and it provides us with a way to diagnose problems. Our subsequent posts will describe how looking at progress this way is possible and makes business sense.

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