It’s a common problem for technology departments, in all businesses, to be running in multiple directions, trying to manage multiple projects at once, and struggling to complete the myriad outcomes targeted. This is a natural development of modern business: we all face huge demands to be continually at the cutting edge of change.
Often, within organizations, when we struggle to deliver the changes we want to see, we simply throw more resources at the problems. This can provide a false sense of security that we are going faster – but while there is a lot of “busy-ness,” the individual outputs are often still taking too long to achieve, due to the team trying to deliver too much at once.
Change of approach
It is imperative for any forward-thinking business to move from an output-driven mentality to outcome-driven ways of working. Here at GfK, we’ve focused for some time on just such a transformation. In early 2018, we realized that our tech projects were taking too long to deliver finished results and were determined to solve this real source of frustration.
To drive the transformation we wanted, we followed the “don’t bite off more than you can chew” thinking. We began by choosing the highest priority processes to reassess, and tackled just those ones first. Following a rigorous examination among process leads and key tech people involved, we looked at what had been going wrong and where we could experiment. Applying the “scrum approach,” we encouraged teams to learn constantly, collaborate well, and drive ongoing improvement.
Our secrets to shifting gear
In every area, our focus has been on making a series of small, quickly achievable, and affordable changes. These add up over time to a raft of highly tangible results. We’ve looked at all sorts of areas, from software releases to customer deliverables, and from report layout changes to how we onboard our staff. Nothing has been off the table.
We found there were five key areas to unleash powerful outcome-driven advantages:
- We don’t only focus on hiring young talented colleagues. We additionally focus on, and re-access, having the right tools, infrastructure, and environments to automate certain tasks.
- When it comes to bringing in new recruits, we don’t throw them in at the deep end and see whether they can swim. We support them with a safe and guided onboarding process. We start with explaining and discussing our culture, our ways of working, and how our tools operate, and go on from there.
- We have embedded the mentality of “stop starting, start finishing.” Instead of beginning several projects at once and constantly switching back and forth between them, to try to keep them all moving, we prioritize. We make some difficult decisions about which projects the team will begin. This way, our top initiatives now have a defined aim and receive the necessary emphasis from the team.
- We focus on optimal batch size. Compared to large batch size, smaller batch size lets us provide faster and more frequent feedback loops. It’s allowed us to reduce variability and be more reliable in our team’s outcomes.
- Instead of holding stakeholder signoffs at the end of our projects, we brought them in as key partners throughout the job, to aid timely course correction, rather than major end-of-project changes.
The results and challenges
There have been big results to this approach. In simple terms, we’ve developed much better efficiency across our processes. But digging a bit deeper, we’ve also dramatically strengthened relationships within our teams, which has bolstered collaboration and established a more consistent sense of direction.
There have been challenges too, however, and there is no doubt that change can be difficult. We’ve seen the importance of ensuring buy-in at all stages. Getting that buy-in requires trust, transparency, and the confidence to flag vulnerability, while also having the willingness to make changes after mistakes are identified, and being able to support people throughout.
Looking ahead, we recognize that we are on a journey, and there are many processes we can still work on. I’m excited to see how continually driving these changes forward will allow us to unlock truly innovative and efficient team collaboration for outcome-driven processes across our business.
GfK is recruiting! We have various tech roles open and welcome applications from people with or without a tech background. Find out more at www.gfk.com/careers