“Full transparency, I am about to BLOW UP your meeting, in a really good way.
It’s going to be a big unexpected ask for the team and they are so ready for it…”
I sent this text to my client last week, right before we pushed everyone in the deep end of the pool – they swam!
I’d started working with them around 5 weeks ago, and I knew they were really frustrated with me – but also being super patient and going along for the ride. When I first start working with teams – particularly on a big change like this team is thinking about – I’ll pull everyone back to step one: capture customer demand.
And if feels like we grind to a halt.
Only 2 weeks earlier I’d had someone actually say (cheeky whiney voice and all) “but I don’t waaant to”.
We have a deadline
We want to go fast
We want to make progress
We can’t leave it all to the last minute
All that pressure we put on ourselves often culminates in jumping to solutions before we’ve actually done our due diligence about the problem we’re trying to solve.
“But isn’t it simple?” They’d asked… “the current system is no good and we need to replace it”
Yes and – they were further along the path than simply replacing an IT system. They had real reasons for change – reducing queue times for customers. We had seen that was a problem in some observation work they’d done in the prior 6 months.
But in an effort to make progress fast, they’d skipped to a solution based on an assumption that most of the people in the queues were new customers who wanted to buy.
I’d played hard ball and asked them to look at *why* customers were queuing – go back and do your demand capture to understand what is important to your customers, rather than assuming a new system that makes it easier to buy online will eliminate the queues at the gate…
“Wow. I’m so glad we did that exercise – it actually turned everything we thought we knew on it’s head.”
… they’d discovered that most of the customers queuing at the gate were already known to them (they’d visited before) and they had their ID cards. The opportunity was to get those customers straight to the gate without having to visit a desk and they’d reduce queue times by 50% or more.
You can’t plan this stuff.
Honestly when I’m pushing hard on a team to go back to the frontline – I often don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I don’t know if they’re going to come back and say “well that was a waste of 3 hours, we already knew that” and it’s my biggest fear every single time.
But so far it hasn’t happened. So far it’s worked out every time. We’ve learned something that we COULDN’T have known without going through that process.
And so here we were, having done that demand capture. We’d done some analysis and come up with 3 examples that were high frequency (I want to buy, I want to rent some equipment, I bought online and I have to come here because the gate won’t let me through).
And everyone had settled in for a comfortable meeting about designing the next set of requirements for the new system.
“Let’s ask our potential partners to prototype this software for us so that in 2-4 weeks we can see it working in our environment.”
Well that was awkward.
“But we don’t know about <insert the pet thing that’s bugging that individual most that they want to make sure makes it into the new system>
“What about <insert list of general functional stuff we know we need to get to eventually>
”They’ll never go for it! <on asking potential partners to prototype something for free or no cost>
Suddenly all that going slow, well we’d flipped and now it felt like it was all moving way too fast.
You see we’d already identified what was important to our customers – we’d done the demand capture (and we’d done enough of it to know that those 3 things we found, well they were predictable, they happened a lot).
So why not finish what we’d started rather than opening up a new set of loops about how we were going to do all the other things the new system needed to do?
It’s an extreme version of what I call “starting less to finish more”
And it’s one of the most powerful tools you’ve got if you’re trying to build true business agility.
This week’s video is not actually about this story – it’s about another way that starting lots can hold us back, spread us too thin, and destroy trust and collaboration.
These patterns of start start start (because then we must be making progress) crop up all over the place. And they can come up in unexpected ways – so I wanted to show you two different examples to help it really stick for you.
You’ve read one. Now for the other…