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Strategies to Drive Enhanced Business Outcomes
Thyle Carroll, Director of Delivery Staff Experience, Financial Times
When a new delivery or project manager joins your organisation, one of their first questions will be “How do you do delivery around here?”. The answer to this question has broad implications for the speed & quality of the work teams do. It also impacts company culture and the attractiveness of your workplace to talent.
Do you encourage consistency by investing in a single suite of tools, processes & training to avoid reinventing the wheel for each project? Or do you accept that the way teams work together is best decided by them? Is a laissez-faire approach to tools & methodologies fine, as long as the outcomes are delivered?
At the Financial Times, the pendulum has moved between expecting consistency to allowing divergence of delivery method. We’ve settled into a balance where the “paved road” that allows a Delivery Manager, with minimal effort, to get a new product development team up & running, is optional but encouraged. Teams can diverge from the “golden path” if needs demand, however at the portfolio level we expect and apply consistency.
That is, the higher the hierarchy of the work, the more that consistent standards matter. When deciding which initiatives the board wishes to invest in, a clear assessment of the predicted benefits of one outcome versus another is needed. Should we
When deciding which initiatives the board wishes to invest in, a clear assessment of the predicted benefits of one outcome versus another is needed.
focus on a new product capability that will excite new customers, or deal with the technical debt that is upsetting our existing ones?
Identifying and providing these benefits is a product-centric conversation. Delivery has an important role to track & ensure that they actually happen. High performing teams can easily demonstrate that they are delivering the intended outcomes or benefits. If they can’t do that, then they should be able to demonstrate they are on track to complete the work.If they can’t do that, then they must demonstrate that there is a healthy process to get back on track. If they can’t do that, then we are driving blind and the team is in crisis.
Establishing this Golden Path has required a long-term investment in data-driven delivery. Long-lived teams that are durable and care about the long journey of the products they build matter, as does endorsement of a Lean-Agile approach from senior management down.
A signal that this is working is when your executive team no longer asks the question “Where do we go to see what the heck is going on?”
So our use of the Atlassian suite of tools has evolved to apply a well-patterned or templated approach to standardising things. Workflows, issue statuses, plug-ins, boards for scrum or kanban - all are cookie-cutter and available in the toolkit for everyone to use.
This helps with consistency, but we wanted to get even better at placing bigger bets. How could we drive agreed strategic outcomes at every level of the organisation? So, in the last two years we’ve adopted OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) to get even better at aligning people, processes & tools. OKRs are now key to connecting the FT’s business strategy directly with technical execution.
OKRs help drive three things. Firstly, they align everyone with the company’s strategy. Secondly, they help us prioritise important work, giving focus on the plan ahead.
Thirdly, they empower people in teams to decide how they can best contribute to achieving the bigger goals. The successful integration of OKRs into your delivery process is not a destination, more a journey. They are an effective forcing function which is driving change throughout the organization. All disciplines are now engaged into an ecosystem of tools that support each other, helping us to continually strive to improve delivery processes and ultimately speed to market.