Consistently creating and delivering customer value in complex and ever-changing environments is inhibited by organizational inertia and teams working in siloes. In a traditional project approach, short-lived teams are assembled to complete a specific project. They focus on completing their task as quickly and efficiently as possible and then pass their work “over the wall” to the team working on the next phase of the project. Issues arise when teams focus on locally optimizing their specific task at the expense of the big picture business objectives. Multiplying that over all the siloed teams and phases in a project and you get a disjointed, inefficient effort with a momentum of its own that makes it difficult to adjust to new knowledge and changing conditions.
Organize Around Value Streams
To improve performance, optimize value delivery and be better positioned to adjust to rapidly changing conditions, organizations are adopting a Value Stream approach, where teams and work are organized around Value Streams instead of projects. Think of a Value Stream as the flow of work activities, information and communication through the people and processes involved in delivering value from the initial idea to ultimate delivery to the customer.
Mapping a Value Stream provides end-to-end visibility of the entire ecosystem of complex value flows. Bottlenecks become apparent and can be addressed from a big-picture, customer-focused, value perspective in contrast to siloed teams identifying and fixing localized problems in a vacuum. You can use Value Streams to align your teams, tools and processes with customer-focused, value delivery allowing for better collaboration and providing the ability to quickly pivot to take advantage of opportunities to drive more value as they arise.
Break Down Silos with Long-Lived, Cross Functional Teams
A key step in organizing around Value Streams is changing the nature of teams and how they work. You want to move from short-lived teams working on projects in siloes to long-lived, cross-functional, Agile teams entirely focused on delivering value to customers. Your cross-functional teams in the Value Stream work iteratively, learning and improving continuously in full alignment with delivering value to customers and business value to the organization.
While organizing around Value Streams with long-lived, cross-functional teams is a winner in concept, it can be a challenge to implement. A survey of participants at XP 2019, the 20th International Conference on Agile Software Development, found that among the top three issues hindering efforts to transform to cross-functional, Agile teams are the inertia and stickiness of hierarchical management and organizational silos, and general resistance to change throughout organizations. People get used to their ways of working so any organization-wide change to a Value Stream approach requires an Organizational Change Management effort focused on the people and teams who are key to implementing and are highly impacted by changes.
Organizational Change Management to Gain Team Buy-in
Teams organized around Value Streams must shift their focus from executing clearly defined plans on-time and under budget to working in iterations with broader definitions and measures of success. They must embrace a willingness to experiment, test, fail, learn and innovate while maintaining full focus on responding to customer needs and value delivery. That’s a big mindset shift for your organization and the individuals within it. Without effective Change Management and an organizational embrace of change, you’ll struggle to realize the benefits of Value Stream Management.
How do you make the shift to new ways of thinking and working as smooth as possible and get your teams on board with the change? It doesn’t happen overnight and requires a well-thought-out implementation plan. Effective Organizational Change Management practices that can be part of your implementation plan include:
Leaders and managers must be champions for change and demonstrate a commitment to new ways of working and a thorough understanding of the purpose and expected benefits driving change.
Constantly communicate with teams. Understanding the vision and reasons behind the change, what it means to them, the safety nets and organizational commitment goes a long way to gaining buy-in. By nature, teams will regress to their old ways of working. Keeping the change effort front of mind helps them leave the old behind and press forward to the new.
Celebrate Early Wins
Early wins provide opportunities to demonstrate the benefits of new ways of working and organizational commitment to change. Identify the teams embracing and succeeding with the new ways of working and use their success as a model for others.
Organizing around Value Streams allows for the Agility required to optimally deliver value to meet ever-changing customer needs. But it is a new way of working for many organizations and teams and can be difficult to implement due to organizational inertia and resistance to change. A thoughtful Organizational Change Management strategy is a must to get buy-in from teams and successfully realize the benefits of organizing your work around Value Streams.