Blog : agile

Introducing ‘Rapid Strategy’

Introducing ‘Rapid Strategy’

Strategic planning has a problem.

Digital has changed the way we do business, and the traditional approach of lengthy deliberation and maximum information is broken. Your strategy risks being obsolete before it’s finished.

Yet, the companies who succeed in this new digital environment continue to put strategy and insight at the heart of their business.

How, in the words of Tim Leberecht, do we run fast and go deep at the same time?

Over the last 12 months, we’ve been exploring methods for ‘speeding up’ the strategic planning and delivery process for digital.

Rapid Strategy is the result.

This process takes principles from agile, design thinking and innovation methodologies, and combines them with best practice strategic planning, where hard choices are made to achieve business goals.

Our approach understands what the architects of the Agile Manifesto talked about; to quote Jim Highsmith, “we plan, but recognise the limits of planning in a turbulent environment.”

The outcome is a faster, more responsive approach to developing and implementing digital programmes, without sacrificing insight or quality.

Here’s how Rapid Strategy works:

Rapid Strategy model

Rapid Strategy is effective for three primary reasons:

1. The minimum to get you moving

Strategic planning often begins with a lengthy discovery process. Here,  key facts and information are uncovered via in-depth audits or exhaustive periods of research.

Given the rapid evolution of customer behaviours and digital technologies, the first issue we wanted to address was: how do you get the industry, business and customer information you need, without taking months to get it?

The answer is: you don’t. You don’t try to get the full picture. Instead, decide “what is the minimum you need to know to move forward?”

This gets to the heart of good strategy – the ability to make hard choices and prioritise one area of focus over another.

If your organisation is stuck in a digital rut, or suffering paralysis by analysis, then by learning to work with incomplete information, you will be compelled to get out of the blocks and begin making progress.


“An organisation’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage”

— Jack Welch


2. Useful information, quickly

Imagine you’re a commander on a battlefield. You’ve prepared a strategy, and a set of tactics, that you believe have the best chance of defeating the enemy. You have one shot to get it right – success or failure, glory or defeat.

Now, imagine if you could test multiple different strategic ideas against the enemy, before committing your troops to the battlefield. Imagine if you could mount a series of guerilla raids that glean a mountain of useful insight, without great cost or sacrifice, and without revealing your position. What advantages might that provide when the time comes to say ‘Charge!’?

With Rapid Strategy, you can.

At the heart of our approach, is the use of quick, cheap and discreet experiments to test business assumptions.

Used this way, assumptions become powerful tools for business learning. When we ask the question, ‘what is the minimum we need to know to move forward?’, an assumption is often the starting point. Using this as our minimum, we can test and challenge it, to ensure we move forward with reliable information.


“Invest in experiments to quickly, cheaply and easily gain insight into solving problems and exploiting opportunities.”

– Michael Schrage, The Innovator’s Hypothesis

From these results, serious strategic decisions, and tactical refinements, can be made more quickly, and oftentimes with greater certainty, than using traditional methods.

3. Agile execution, bespoke teams

A strategy is not a strategy without a plan of action. Execution has always been critical to success, but as the line between strategy and tactics becomes increasingly blurred, this becomes even more true.

It is always more helpful to see a strategy in action, than to see it as a theory on the page. If agile talks about ‘working software’, we talk about ‘working strategy’.

Rapid Strategy advocates for this approach; short, rapid phases of execution, building on the stages before it, and accumulating to deliver a larger piece of work.

We deliver this via a partnership model, assembling and managing bespoke teams of trusted experts around your project. This ensures the appropriate fit and capability, in turn delivering optimal value.

We strongly believe that Rapid Strategy will deliver greater digital clarity, value and performance to your business. If these sound like results you would be interested in, please do contact us.

Notes On Innovation

Notes On Innovation

Innovation is one of those buzzwords that gets bandied around a lot – too much if you ask me – and is far more easily said than done.

This week, I was fortunate to spend half an hour talking innovation with Tim Kastelle, Associate Professor of Innovation and Evolutionary Economics at the University of Queensland.

Since graduating from Princeton, Tim has become recognised as one of Australasia’s foremost thinkers in innovation. If you’re interested in the area, I’d highly recommend taking a look at his blog at http://timkastelle.org.

Here are a few key outtakes from our conversation:

  • Innovation can be defined as “executing new ideas to create value”. The key words here are ‘executing’ and ‘create value’. Innovation is not just the creation of ideas, they must be put into practice. Equally, these ideas need to provide a tangible benefit.
  • “Whoever tries the most stuff, wins” – innovation is an experimental approach to doing business. Failure is essential. If you’re not failing, you’re being too conservative.
  • Having said that, fail fast, but fail cheap.
  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a key part of the innovation process. Think of MVP as a means of learning.
  • When implementing innovation, C-level execs often recognise how innovation may lead to growth, and customers can see the problems innovation would resolve. The challenge is often convincing middle management of the value.
  • Innovation within a business is very much a cultural thing. You need 10% of employees to buy into a change to make it happen.
  • Startups: at about 20 employees, innovation breaks as the company becomes systematized. A culture of innovation is required to maintain momentum.

Plenty to think about and plenty more to read on Tim’s blog.

What are your biggest challenges around innovation?

5 Digital Essentials For Your Business

5 Digital Essentials For Your Business

As digital matures, organisations must redefine how digital is incorporated, or even referred to, within the business.  With this in mind, here are five digital essentials to help your business make the most of digital in 2016:

    1. It’s not digital strategy. It’s business strategy for the digital age.
      The point has been reached where the ‘digital’ tag is essentially irrelevant e.g. ‘digital marketing’. Every business unit now has a digital component, every senior manager should have an understanding of digital and the role it plays. Now, that understanding is not present in all organisations, so the ‘digital’ tag persists. But your business strategy should reflect a world and an audience that is inherently digital – even if your business is not.
    2. Customer experience is a priority
      Regardless of whether you’re B2B or B2C-focussed, customer experience should be a priority, if not the priority, for your business in 2016. It’s the basis on which many companies plan to compete, but more importantly, it’s the primary means by which customers will judge your business. Their demands are exacting and the challenges they present are many, but the rewards are more than worth it.
    3. Know thine audience
      Your customers leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs wherever they go. As such, it’s easier than ever to understand their needs, motivators and behaviours. Investing in this understanding is one of the keys to delivering a successful experience. It doesn’t have to mean granular persona development – even your website analytics will provide a raft of clues. But the best results are achieved through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research – talking to your audience then using broad data trends to confirm or negate the findings.
    4. Integration
      Further to point 1, digital silos should start to be dismantled. ‘Digital’ is not a standalone thing to be developed in isolation. In fact, better results are achieved when digital planning and execution are integrated with ‘traditional’ activities, each working in sync. This applies both to how departments are structured and how programmes are implemented.
    5. You don’t have to be right the first time
      The words ‘agile’ and ‘iterative’ are bandied around far too much these days, but what they essentially mean is that it’s ok to test and fail in the real world. You don’t have to attain perfection at the first go, you don’t have to be afraid of negative feedback (you do have to manage it though). As long as the process is transparent and responsive, you can learn a huge amount by simply testing and observing behaviour. Use the results to adjust your offering quickly and in small steps, eliminating the need for considerable upfront investment and a few sleepless nights.

What are your thoughts on the key digital issues that will affect business this year?

 

5 lessons from a strategy sprint

5 lessons from a strategy sprint

Digital strategy must become more agile. So taking a cue from the Google Ventures sprint model, I recently ran a strategy sprint with a key client.

The goal was to create a Minimum Viable Strategy, after which the UX team would prototype a Minimum Viable Product. Over a week, we held four workshops, breaking down the key elements of digital strategy into bite-sized chunks. By Day 5, we had a finished blueprint to guide the UX/dev team as they began their own sprint week.

These were the lessons learned:

1. Collaboration = decisions
Our client was fully committed to the collaborative process. This was crucial – being able to lay out the big business issues, and openly discuss them, meant decisions were made quickly and we could move on.

2. Have key stakeholders (literally) at the table
All key stakeholders were present at every workshop. They made a significant contribution, and their participation ensured agreement on the final approach.

3. Limits are good
There’s a lot to be said for a time limit. It forced us to focus, with no room for diversions or fluff. The resulting strategy was tight and on point.

4. Turn thinking in to doing
They say a strategy never survives contact with reality. So why not test it asap? A few days after the sprint, the strategy had been tested by real users with UX prototypes. It held up well, and though we’ll make some refinements, it was a great start.

5. Involve UX
There’s now so much overlap between strategy and UX, it’s vital to have them in the room, particularly for the audience and content pieces. Plus it meant our UX team were familiar with the strategic approach as they began brainstorming how it could be realised.