From project-based funding to value stream funding
‘Work moves towards the people’ instead of ‘People get organised around the work’
Traditional organisations are set up to get things done as projects. However, once the organisation starts building new services, businesses or products, they realise that in addition to establishing these services, businesses or products, they need to be continuously developed and optimised to create value for the customer and to react to market changes.
It’s costly and inefficient to reorganise teams every time a project starts, to allocate people, to get the project organisation operational, and so on, when in fact the customer remains the same, as does the underlying value stream. Once this is understood, the organisation starts moving into value stream-based funding rather than project based, and also begins moving work to the teams rather than moving teams and individuals to the work. Having said this, there are still a few occasions where projects make sense. It’s just important to acknowledge when that’s the case.
From project overload to demand management and WIP limits
When we take a look at the portfolios of traditional organisation, they are filled with projects which, on the portfolio level, seem to be ongoing forever. Digging deeper, we see that the organisation is filled with high over utilisation of people working in multiple projects at the same time, and even projects that only have a project manager, if anybody, struggling with resourcing.
It’s astonishing how a simple step to limit the work (the number of ongoing projects) in process can increase the throughput 2–10- fold in an organisation. It’s counter intuitive for many organisations to think that starting something later can actually help get it done faster. If you are curious about why, check out the This is Lean, Little’s law (yes, it’s scientifically proven).
From centralised control to decentralised control
We talked about empowerment, tools and practices to empower the teams. After doing all that, the following usually happens: decision making becomes less centralised, elevating the leaders to use more time on strategic thinking and giving them the detachment and clarity of distance. This means the ability to see situations more clearly when we are not close to them, in order to make better decisions.
From annual planning to rolling-wave planning
Many organisations are still working on annual planning cycles. These cycles are not necessarily unproductive, but if the organisation takes those plans as set in stone and neglects the possibility to embrace change in market conditions or deliverables, then these plans drive the behaviour, potentially leading to endless replanning. Single programs are requested to produce a plan that aligns itself to the target set in the beginning of the year – when everyone knew the least.
This is a wasteful process. Once the organisation realises that the annual cycle is purely an internal structure that needs to be validated by the shorter cycle execution and reflection on what is really happening, then the organisation starts to consider and implement rolling- wave planning elements: rolling-wave budgeting, forecasting, drip funding, retrospectives, plan/actual reviews, and iterative and incremental planning cycles.
From arbitrary milestones to evidence-based decision making
Milestones are not a bad practice – it’ s good to have clear objectives to reflect on continuously. However, milestones that are not informed by evidence are just schedule driven or purely conforming to some internal stage gate model. And those are pure waste. You should be reflecting your progress towards outcomes, not output. Towards impact rather than arbitrary process goals.
Validated learning is first-class citizen on your backlog
Uncertainty is your biggest enemy. How good are you de-risking your strategic decisions and validating if there’s a customer need for your thing, whether your solution is truly the preferred one, whether you can capture, create and change the market and find the optimal business model? And also adapt to any change that might occur in these? That’s essentially what you are trying to do.
Validated learning and the speed of learning becomes the main competitive advantage for any company. Your core process is not the business process you do today, but the process of how you identify, inspect and adapt your business to changes in the marketplace.
From project prioritisation to portfolio items with light weight business case, benefit analysis and prioritisation
Every organisation is working hard to prioritise their portfolio. One of the key activities is to do the validation as described earlier. That validation should be driven by the initial business analysis and reflected on the portfolio when making a decision to move forwards and allocate even bigger resources to the program. Prioritisation should be relative rather than absolute, as you can’t know how valuable something is until you have actually proven the value. Typical dimensions organisations use for prioritisation are: strategic fit, customer value, business value, complexity, and risk involved.