How a Simple Change Can Bring Multiple Benefits

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I’m often designing change programmes for large organisations. I’m an external consultant, an outsider coming into the organisation that already exists.

There are already governance boards in place, whether for operational, financial or change governance. These boards happen on a regular basis, often on a set day of the month. As an outsider, I’m not going to be able to change those days. At most, I can influence the shifting of one or two on ad-hoc and in very rare occasions, the executive sponsor is senior enough to be able to change the day because it suits her as well. But remember that a lot of other activity is set around these events and most organisations will resist changing the day.

So why do we need to change the day?

If you think of a typical design sprint, then it’s a week long, starting on a Monday and finishing on a Friday. But we want approval to proceed from relevant sponsors before moving onto the next stage. Or we want guidance or steer or  budget to be able to continue.

Depending on the rate of change, the organisation may not wish to see the delivery delayed as one team finishes on a Friday, then has to wait until Wednesday or Thursday for approval (or rejection).

The solution

So the really simple trick I’ve employed is to build the executive boards into the design sprints by changing the starting day of the sprints.

Figure out your approval mechanism before you plan the sprint, find out what date it meets, gain agreement to present on a regular basis (even if it means extending that board by 30-60 minutes until they become used to the type of content), then plan the start day based on when you’ll be ready to present.

It is that simple.

Typically, for a Wednesday morning board, this will mean starting on Thursday the week before. This cascades back into the planning sessions for the sprint, these will typically have the same starting day once you’ve found your pattern.

This ensures a smoother design-approval-implement pipeline than we’d otherwise achieve.

Additional benefits

The additional advantage is that the weekend provides a break. Sprints can be intensive, should be intensive, and for attendees not used to that level of continued, deep thinking, there are often casualties in terms of attendees not wishing to continue, still trying to carry on with their day job, etc.

The weekend break gives you all chance to refresh, gives the facilitator change to revive spirits on the Monday as it’s only a few days left, not a whole week, and gives you all time to reflect on the positive work you conducted the previous week.

Potential issues

There are three issues that I’m aware of from having done this with numerous clients.

  1. As mentioned above, you need to engage with the board and modify the agenda before you attend for the first time requesting approval. Request additional time for the first round, or create a separate session immediately after the board but with the same membership.
  2. Talking about weeks can get a little confusing, but easy to clarify once you get more rigorous about your choice of words.
  3. You’re more likely to cross into someone’s unavailability due to annual leave.
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